El Jebel native, firefighter Cleve Williams loses home in Lake Christine Fire
The Aspen Times
El Jebel native and volunteer firefighter Cleve Williams’ house on Missouri Heights was one of three homes that burned to the ground overnight in the Lake Christine fire.
A volunteer for the Basalt & Rural Fire Protection District for 27 years, Williams had been working the road below some power lines Wednesday, July 4, where the fire originated on Tuesday evening.
His sister-in-law, Kara Williams, lives within 500 feet of Cleve’s home, located at 850 Vista Drive. She said Cleve called his brother, who also is her husband, Quent, at 1 a.m. Thursday with an update.
“He said, ‘My house is a loss. We are working to save yours,’” she said.
At 2:26 a.m. he told Quent that their house was, “No trees, but the house is good.”
“Cleve was up there trying to save his own house but it went quickly,” she said, adding that three trucks were working on it. “He has spent decades saving people, animals and structures so it’s profoundly ironic that his house couldn’t be saved.”
When reached by The Aspen Times on Thursday afternoon, Cleve was back on the fire line. The call was dropped due to spotty coverage.
On Wednesday night, Cleve evacuated his family — wife, Kerry, and their son, Cole, 16, from their single-family, four-bedroom home. Their daughter, Devin, is in California attending college, Cleve said.
Kara and her family evacuated around 10 p.m. Wednesday and are staying at a friend’s house at River Valley Ranch.
She hasn’t been able to get back to her property and is praying that everything is intact.
“For now, our house has been spared,” Williams said. “Right now, we are in shock. What’s most difficult, I haven’t seen it. We know nothing.”
Williams and Quent, however, own one of the other two homes that the fire took early Thursday morning.
‘My Heart Breaks’
Their home, located at 223 Lava Drive just outside of the El Jebel Mobile Home Park, burned to the ground. They used it as a rental unit and their tenant was able to get out safely. It was a three-bedroom home that’s been in the family since the early 1980s.
The other home that burned was located at 227 Lava Drive. It is reportedly owned by Bill McCauley. He didn’t respond to a voicemail.
Williams said she feels for her brother-in-law and sister-in-law, who raised their family in the house he built in the 1990s.
“Of course, my heart breaks for Cleve and Kerry who have lived in that house for 20 years,” she said.
Williams posted on Facebook saying, “Just pray this fire gets under control soon. Local firefighters are saying they’ve never see anything like this before — its unpredictability is unparalleled.”
Cleve Williams is part of the Crawford family, which founded modern-day El Jebel.
The fire was pushed toward the area overnight by strong winds that were blowing downvalley.
The valley’s commercial and residential property markets are similar in some ways — availability is tight and nothing is what you’d call “cheap.”