Eagle-Vail blaze leaves 5 homeless
EAGLE-VAIL – Amy Clanton was in bed Sunday morning when someone shouting expletives told her to hurry out of her apartment. “I grabbed my cat and some cash,” said Clanton sitting on the grass across the street from the charred Washington Park Townhomes where, authorities say, an accidental fire destroyed at least two apartments around 8 a.m. Sunday. Clanton’s basement apartment was flooded, said her landlord, Tom Cigno, whose own home above was heavily damaged. An adjoining townhouse, which he also owns, was totally destroyed, said Carol Mulson, fire marshal for the Eagle River Fire Protection District. “I’ve been inside,” Cigno said. “It ain’t pretty. My kitchen is a waterfall and my roof just collapsed,” he added as he watched a firefighter’s chainsaw cut through the roof of his building.
A deck and roof burned first, witnesses said, but one corner of the building on Columbine Circle near the Eagle-Vail tennis courts and swimming pool was already engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. “Two of the three occupants were home at the time, discovered the fire, and escaped unharmed,” Mulson said. “Most of the damage occurred in the unit where the fire originated, destroying the upper floor.”The two women who were in the apartment sat across the street from their home but away from the rest of the residents and onlookers in the parking lot. Firefighters were able to salvage some of women’s important documents, including passports, from their charred home. A grimy, wet drawer of papers sat next to a shoebox on the grass near the dazed women’s feet. Victims services volunteers from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department were helping the displaced women find a place to stay. “We’ll get them situated with everything we can think of,” including vouchers to Wal-Mart to buy groceries and other essentials, said volunteer Cathy Zeeb.
By Sunday afternoon, investigators had ruled out early suspicions the fire was sparked by errant fireworks. “The fire is still under investigation and appears to be accidental and not related to fireworks as originally reported,” Mulson said. A fire that started in a different townhouse burned the same building in February 2003. Authorities blamed the blaze on a sofa that caught fire because it was too close to a baseboard heater. “This is the second time it’s happened, so I’m curious to see how it started,” said Brett Throne, who was evacuated from a neighboring townhouse. When he got outside, “It was burning pretty good,” he said. “In 15 minutes, that thing was roaring,” said another man who lives in the townhouse complex but didn’t give his name. The man said the flames spread quickly and that he could feel intense heat in his apartment across the street.
Mary Pleasants, who lives in the same complex but across the street from where the fire burned, said she was sleeping when a roommate banged on her door saying her car was on fire. “I didn’t comprehend it, I was still asleep,” she said. “I brushed my teeth and grabbed my glasses.”Though their apartment was getting smoky, fear does not describe the reaction of Pleasants and her roommates to the fire next door. Caroline Hardin said she made herself a cocktail – a fuzzy navel – before fleeing the apartment for the parking lot. “The fire was huge when we walked out,” said another roommate, Lauren Parsons. “All you could hear was shattering glass.”
Assistant Editor for Local News Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or email@example.com. Vail, Colorado