Investigators will begin search for two bodies suspected to be in burned home in Old Snowmass
Friends rally to support survivors of the fire
Investigators plan to begin a search Tuesday for two bodies that authorities believe are buried in the ruins of a house that burned Monday morning in Old Snowmass, and they will try to determine the cause of the blaze.
The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Roaring Fork Fire Rescue have requested mutual aid from outside fire experts to help with the investigation. Investigators were traveling to the Aspen area Monday, according to Pitkin County Undersheriff Alex Burchetta. Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Chief Scott Thompson said the ruins of the house and an adjacent barn that burned were cooling Monday and should be approachable by Tuesday.
The sheriff’s office said in a statement it is coordinating with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control for investigative resources. Thompson said he has also called in a fire expert from the Denver metro area whom he has worked with previously.
Meanwhile, the community rallied Monday around two survivors of the fire and owners of the home. A GoFundMe page was established by friends of Clint Coerdt and Katherine “Kate” Sartain, who are engaged to be married.
“They have lost everything and will need support from their friends in every way possible,” said the fundraising page established by a friend of the couple.
Nearly $110,000 had been raised by 6 p.m. Monday.
“Their home is a complete loss and animals are still being accounted for,” the fundraising page said. “Clint is currently stable but in the ICU burn unit in Denver with significant burns. Kate is not injured.”
Coerdt is a longtime employee of Steakhouse No. 316 in Aspen.
“Everyone loves him, every employee, every customer,” said Samantha Cordts-Pearce, co-owner of the restaurant. “He is just a great guy. The staff is devastated.”
Coerdt worked Sunday night until closing.
“He is the type of guy who would run into a burning building and save everyone until he had his last breath, which is what he did,” Cordts-Pearce said.
The fire was reported to emergency dispatchers at 2:15 a.m. Monday. The reporting party said two people occupied the home at 655 Monastery Cutoff Road, in the rural Pitkin County subdivision known as Shield-O-Mesa. Responders later learned four people were in the house at the time of the fire.
Authorities said the male occupant of the house attempted to rescue two adults sleeping in the upper floor. He was able to escape the burning structure.
The woman, who was not injured, drove him from the site and met an ambulance on Snowmass Creek Road. The man was initially taken to Aspen Valley Hospital for treatment of significant injuries, Thompson said.
Authorities didn’t release the name of the survivors Monday out of respect for their privacy, Bruchetta said.
Friends of the couple said Coerdt and Sartain are engaged to be married in August and that both sets of parents were in the area to meet.
When the first firefighters arrived at the scene, the house was 80% engulfed in flames and starting to collapse, while a nearby barn was 50% engulfed. Thompson said the fire appeared to have started at the house, ignited an RV camper parked outside and spread to the barn estimated to be 50 yards away.
The battalion commander for the fire department determined that the structures couldn’t be saved, and humans couldn’t have survived, Thompson said. Firefighting was also a challenge.
“There’s no easy access to that property and no water nearby,” Thompson said.
Pitkin County property records show the two-story log house had about 1,920 square feet of heated space and a wood balcony of 1,440 square feet. It was built in 1992 and remodeled in 2000. No information was immediately available on whether it had a sprinkler system.
The structure fire ignited adjacent vegetation, so firefighters focused on preventing a wildfire from spreading in the large-lot subdivision, Thompson said.
The burning house was at the bottom of a valley with houses on nearby ridges. The fear was a wildland fire could spread to other structures, Thompson said. No other homes were evacuated.
A federal firefighting crew from the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit responded to help prevent the spread of the wildland fire. High winds blew throughout Monday. Roaring Fork Fire Rescue personnel also remained on scene and continued to put out hotspots into Monday, according to Thompson. He estimated the fire burned a patch the size of a football field.
The house burned down to the concrete foundation, and the barn was also destroyed. Other outbuildings were not engulfed in the flames.
Reporter Carolyn Sackariason contributed to this report.