Three bodies recovered from charred Littleton house
August 4, 2008
LITTLETON, Colo. ” Three bodies have been recovered from a house that burned when a fire erupted during a party early Sunday.
The fire also severely injured one of two survivors, destroyed the house and damaged two others. One survivor suffered burns to 70 percent of his body.
Names have not been released.
Officials had feared that up to six people may have been trapped inside the house that burned around 3:30 a.m. in a neighborhood near Roxborough State Park, about 25 miles south of Denver. West Metro Fire Protection District spokeswoman Cindy Matthews said everybody but the three people, two males and a female, were accounted for.
Two bodies were discovered at about 11:30 a.m., about 8 hours after the fire was reported, while the third body was found at about 12:30 p.m. By late Sunday afternoon, firefighters were still combing through what was left of the house.
“They’re still looking through the rubble and with the reports of how many people were at the house, they still are going to be looking for additional victims,” said Michelle French, a West Metro Fire spokeswoman, noting that’s not to say that more are people dead.
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As many as 18 people were inside the house, she said.
Hundreds of people attended a vigil for the victims Sunday night, where Pastor David Jarboe said residents moved to the area to be part of a smaller community and get to know each other.
“We’ve got to do something,” he said. “We’ve got to gather as a community.”
Stuart Buckley, 37, lives across the street and saw the fire. He dialed 911 then went outside where he found the injured man a few houses down, his hair burned off, burns on his legs, torso and arms and still smoldering.
“His belt was still on fire or glowing from it,” said Buckley, still shaken from the experience hours after. Unable to render aid because of the severity of the injuries, he comforted the man until paramedics arrived.
The house was reduced to smoldering ruins, a few hardy studs ringing its concrete foundation like crooked, blackened matchsticks.
Firefighters had to wait more than six hours for the remains to cool before they could begin their search of the rubble. Wearing air tanks and protective clothing, firefighters slowly combed the house from one corner to the other.
“There’s nothing left of the house,” Matthews said. “They’re standing in a pile of rubble.”
Buckley and other neighbors calling 911 reported booms and loud popping sounds, and said the house exploded but Matthews said firefighters have been unable to determine what happened.
Steve Lesser, 45, who lives a couple of houses down looked out his window, saw the fireball and thought it was too early for the sun to be coming out before he realizing his neighbor’s house was burning.
Buckley said he earlier had stopped by the house for a beer at a small gathering of about a dozen people. He said the atmosphere at the house, which was occupied by a father and son, usually resembled a frat house, with people coming and going.
“If I had stayed there I would have been dead,” he said.
Families of those missing were notified and had made their way to the scene before firefighters discovered the bodies.
Firefighters arriving within minutes of the phone call were told of the people inside. Matthews said it was unclear how the people were trapped inside, whether they tried to escape but couldn’t or were somehow incapacitated.