Two people missing, presumed dead after fire destroys Old Snowmass home
One person injured while attempting to rescue others
Two people are missing and presumed dead while another person who tried to save them suffered significant burn injuries in a house fire Monday, according to authorities with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Roaring Fork Fire Rescue.
The tragic incident unfolded at about 2:15 a.m. when the fire was reported at a house at 655 Monastery Cutoff Road in Old Snowmass. The reporting party told emergency dispatchers that two people occupied the home.
“Responders later learned the home was occupied by four people that evening, the homeowner, his fiancé, and two other adults,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release. “While en route, responders learned that one of the residents had suffered injuries while attempting to rescue two adults who were believed to be on the home’s upper level.”
The fourth person escaped the house unharmed.
Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Chief Scott Thompson said the male occupant of the house managed to escape the structure after trying to save the other people.
“He tried to save his parents,” Thompson said.
The man’s fiancé drove him out of the site. Their vehicle met an ambulance on Snowmass Creek Road. The injured male was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital and then to another facility. Authorities didn’t release names of any victims.
A log house and a barn were completely destroyed in the fire. The house was burned down to the concrete foundation, Thompson said. The fire appears to have originated in the house, spread to a nearby RV camper and continued to the barn, he said. The barn was about 50 yards from the home, he estimated.
Authorities believe the missing couple is in the ruins of the house. “They are missing and presumed dead,” Thompson said.
The ruins are cooling down but were still too hot Monday to search for victims, he said.
The first firefighters on the scene found the house 80% engulfed in flames and already collapsing, Thompson said. The barn was about 50% consumed.
“It’s a long way back up there,” Thompson said of the site near the Shield-O-Mesa subdivision in rural Pitkin County. “There’s no easy access to that property and no water nearby.”
The structure fire spread to surrounding vegetation in the rural subdivision with lot sizes in excess of 20 acres. The firefighters made the decision that the structures couldn’t be saved and weren’t survivable by anyone caught inside, so they focused on the wildland fire, Thompson said. The burning house was at the bottom of a valley with houses on both ridges above. 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 were forecast 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.
A number of outside agencies were called in to assist in the investigation of the fire, as is standard procedure in an incident this serious, Thompson said.
“The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is coordinating with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control for fire and arson investigation resources,” the news release from the sheriff’s office said. “This type of investigation is standard as the investigative efforts to determine the cause of the fire are all-encompassing.”
Thompson said he is also bringing in a fire investigator he has worked with from the Denver metro area. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation will also help with the investigation, he said.
At this point, authorities are making no assumptions about the cause and manner of the fire, Thompson said. The investigation will start Tuesday.
The Buddy Program rang in the holiday spirit with their annual Gingerbread House Workshops in Aspen and Carbondale.