A structure fire engulfed a home Saturday morning on Ridge Road in Rafter J, a blaze that started with an explosion in a garage that destroyed the one-story building and a vehicle.
The fire started around 10 a.m. when David and Mandy Minton pulled into the driveway of their house in the 100 block of Ridge Road. David Minton said he stopped his truck filled with landscaping plants when he heard a “muffled boom” that blew the garage door outward about 10 or 15 feet.
Small flames started in northwest corner of the garage and spread throughout the space, Minton said. The fire spread along the northwest wall of the garage shared with the home toward the rear of the building, where a gas furnace and water heater were stored, he said.
Renate Widder, who lives across the street, said she called 911 after she heard “an explosion” and “then a wooosh” and dispatchers told her emergency responders were on their way. Brian Rose, who lives nearby, said he was driving home after a night in the wilderness when he saw smoke billowing from what looked to be his neighborhood.
“Any time you see smoke, it’s scary,” Rose said as he waited for law enforcement to open Ridge Road so he could get his son to a football game in Durango. “The neighborhood did a lot of (fire) mitigation, but there’s nothing you can do about a house fire.”
One of couple’s dogs, George, was in a caged area in the backyard away from the fire. Their second dog, Koda, was safe with them outside the home. A cat was in the home, and the couple broke windows to give the animal a way to escape, David Minton said. The cat was missing an hour after the fire started.
Firefighters battled the blaze with water from fire hoses for at least 45 minutes, causing the smoke from the fire to morph between a cloud of light gray smoke and a column of dark gray, almost black smoke. Law enforcement said the house was “fully engulfed” and is likely a “total loss.”
Firefighters from Durango Fire Protection District and Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Protection District arrived in at least three engines, two ambulances and two water tankers. The fire spread through the home within minutes – Minton said he heard “at least eight explosions, pretty big ones, too.”
Scot Davis with the DFPD said the cause of the blaze is still under investigation.
Emergency responders brought Mandy Minton to an ambulance for a precautionary examination, said La Plata County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Cory Lawson. The Sheriff’s Office closed the 100 block of Ridge Road for at least an hour.
Widder, the Minton’s neighbor, said she has seen other structure fires in the neighborhood since she’s lived in Rafter J. She served on the Homeowners Association for Rafter J, and the last time a house burned must have been almost a decade ago, she said. And she worked with the Red Cross for decades and offered to call on the Minton’s behalf for assistance.
“This is killing me that I can’t go over, you know, where are my cases of water, where is my Red Cross paperwork?” Widder said.
David Minton, who works as an EMS helicopter pilot, said “I’m OK.” But Mandy was a bit shaken up – her father died just last week, he said.
“I’m just watching this show, right now,” Minton said as fire crews blasted the remains of his home with fire hoses. “As an EMS pilot, I work with 30 people who are like family, they’ll do anything for us.
“We’ll be fine,” he said.