The first decent snowstorm of the season in La Plata County was followed by three house fires on Sunday, with chimneys and stovepipes to blame for two of the blazes.
Authorities from Upper Pine River Fire Protection District responded to two separate structure fires in and near Bayfield on Sunday morning.
The first call came about 8:40 a.m., when a chimney caught fire on a house on the 2400 block of County Road 500 near Bayfield. That fire was contained and cleared around 9:30 a.m.
Shortly after, another house fire broke out on Mesa Drive. Initially, firefighters suspected the fire originated from a wood-burning stove, but later they said it could have been caused by electrical issues in the attic.
Upper Pine District Chief Bruce Evans said his initial crews were attacking the chimney fire when the second fire was reported on Mesa Drive.
“We got a full-blown house fire there,” he said, en route between the fires. “We’ve got units assisting us from Durango and Los Pinos on that. They’re on the scene and have already made an attack on the fire and got it knocked down.”
Los Pinos Fire Protection District Deputy Chief Tom Aurnhammer said the house fire on Mesa Drive was significant when they arrived on scene.
“We had a pretty well-developed fire in the attic, and since Upper Pine was tied up at the other fire, we came up from Los Pinos and established command,” Aurnhammer said.
Alena Keen, owner of the house on Mesa, said she, her husband and her 6-month-old daughter were sleeping when a neighbor knocked on the door and alerted them that smoke was coming from her roof.
Her oldest daughter – who stays in the second story bedroom that eventually caught fire – was not at home.
“It didn’t start in the bedroom,” she said. “It was all up in the roof, and then it dropped down into the bedroom.”
Keen, who works at La Plata Family Medicine, called 911, and then waited for crews.
“It was surreal,” she said as she looked at the aftermath.
No injuries were reported from either fire.
Later Sunday, shortly after 3 p.m., firefighters from Durango Fire Protection District quickly doused a house fire at the 4700 block of Florida Road (County Road 240).
Travel was blocked for about half an hour in both directions while crews established command of the scene near the home.
Durango Fire Battalion Chief Tony Harwig said after an inspection it appeared the fire was related to a stove pipe.
“It looks like the fire got into the attic around the chimney, where they have a pelt stove fireplace, and it burned out around that chimney pipe,” he said. “There’s a hole there clear through the roof.”
Homeowners Zach Wilson and Ryann Sanders were at home when Wilson said he heard something in the roof.
“I was watching the Broncos game and could hear it crackling in the ceiling,” Wilson said. “I could see flames. When I came outside, I knew right where to look.”
He said the flames were minimal but visible.
While material was still smouldering and dark gray smoke was pouring from the roof, the fire was contained at around 3:30 p.m.
Harwig said with the rapid response crews were able to douse the fire before it could grow.
Fires related to fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are common this time of year, Evans said.
“If there is one thing that can help us, is that it’s really important that people inspect their chimney this time of year,” Evans said. “It’s that time of year when people are stoking up to keep their homes warm, and if they have the creosote built up in their flue, then we usually have to go to work.”