Extreme temperatures at Old Snowmass house delay fire investigation

Firefighters cooled ruins Tuesday to allow search for two presumed victims, cause of fire

Firefighters patrolled the area Monday around a destroyed home in Shield-O-Mesa subdivision. The ruins were cooled down Tuesday so the search for remains of two presumed victims and investigation of the cause can proceed on Wednesday.
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The ruins of a house that burned in Old Snowmass Monday morning were too hazardous Tuesday to allow substantial work on recovering the remains of two presumed victims or investigating of the cause, according to authorities.

The fire broke out in a home in the rural subdivision of Shield-O-Mesa at about 2:15 a.m. Monday. Two occupants survived while two adults sleeping in an upstairs bedroom are missing and presumed dead, authorities said.

The temperature of debris in the garage and basement was still 2,000 degrees late Monday and early Tuesday, according to Parker Lathrop, chief deputy of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. The ruins of the house constructed of logs collapsed into the basement.

“With a fire this hot, you lose a lot of stuff you’d look for to determine the cause,” Lathrop said.

Roaring Fork Fire Rescue firefighters were applying water “slowly and evenly” to cool the debris without disturbing the scene on Tuesday, he said.

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A preeminent fire investigator in Colorado from Adams County visited the site on Tuesday and consulted with local authorities, Lathrop said. Investigators from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control are also on the scene.

In addition, an expert team that helped search for human remains in the Marshal Fire in Colorado’s Front Range last winter will help with the search in Old Snowmass, authorities said. They will assist the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office in the search for the victims.

The house in the secluded area of the county had electric baseboard heating, according to records at the Pitkin County assessor’s office. It didn’t have an interior sprinkler system, authorities said.

Homeowners Clint Coerdt and Katherine “Kate” Sartain survived the fire. Their friends set up a GoFundMe page to help with recovery. There have been 837 donations for more than $277,000 as of Tuesday evening. There is also a fund established for them at Alpine Banks.

An update posted on the fundraising page said Coerdt received second-degree burns on 44% of his body. He is being cared for at a Denver hospital. Sartain was not injured. The update said Coerdt’s recovery is progressing well but acknowledged the tough road the couple face to recover from the tragic incident.

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