Minturn helps couple recover from fire |

Minturn helps couple recover from fire

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail Daily

MINTURN, Colorado ” Lisa and Steve Sprug desperately worry about how they will replace the home they loved that was destroyed in a fire.

The Sprugs, who wait tables at restaurants in the Vail Valley, don’t know if they’ll be able to return to live on their land a year from now, Lisa Sprug said.

“Old Minturn house issues” have so far gotten in the way of getting enough money to build a new home to replace the Sprugs’ modular, the inside of which burned in a fire March 8.

The home, built in 1973 in Grand Junction and plopped down on a lot on Pine Street without a foundation, cannot be rebuilt to today’s housing codes. So the Sprugs must tear down the old one and build a new, inevitably more expensive one.

But their insurance company has so far declined to give them enough money to do that.

“We’re going to get something from the insurance company that’s not going to come close to the cost of the new structure,” Steve Sprug said.

The home, at least from the inside, is blackened with soot and almost all the Sprugs’ possessions have been destroyed, they said. On their old dinner plates, soot has exposed cracks that Lisa Sprug didn’t know existed.

“Everything’s smoke-damaged and black,” she said.

The Sprugs used to heat their home, often surrounded with stacks of chopped wood, with a wood-burning stove.

On March 8, Sprug tried to start a fire in the stove with some logs, newspaper and no kindling after her wood-splitter failed. The fire wouldn’t start.

Frustrated, Sprug climbed on top of her roof to shovel off ice and snow. She saw smoke coming out of the chimney, but 10 or 15 minutes later it stopped.

“All of the sudden, I smelled the worst burning smell that I have ever smelled,” she said.

She got off the roof and tried to open the door, but it pushed her back, she said. Smoke had been pouring out of every crevice that wasn’t insulated.

She called 911, screamed for help and began digging furiously at a snow-covered fire hydrant nearby. When Minturn Police Officer Geoff Heil got there he took her shovel and started digging himself.

“I’m completely destroyed,” Lisa Sprug recalls. “I’m thinking the worst thing that could ever happen has happened.”

When the firefighters got there, Heil put Sprug in his police car to keep her warm, he said.

“It was a cold night,” he said.

Lisa Sprug had closed the door to her wood-burning stove, but hadn’t latched it, authorities said. When she was on her roof, authorities said, heat or a burning ember most likely jumped to table nearby and started the fire.

“Somehow my TV blew up,” Lisa Sprug said.

The Sprugs had spent hours and hours through the years fixing their home, and have installed windows, walls, insulation and a roof.

“All I could think of were all my husband’s thousands of hours of work,” Lisa Sprug recalls.

After the Sprugs’ losses, Minturn residents have helped. Lisa Sprug’s co-workers have given her clothes and Heil has helped the Sprugs apply for money from local charities.

“Every time I see him, I don’t know, he’s like a brother or something looking out for us,” Steve Sprug said.

David Clapp, a bartender at Chili Willy’s, let the Sprugs move into one of his homes on Taylor Street after the Sprugs spent more than a week in Avon at the Comfort Inn, which gave them a discount.

“They were very, very helpful,” Lisa Sprug said.

Heil and Minturn Police Chief Lorenzo Martinez posted flyers at businesses around town spreading the word about a donations account for the Sprugs.

Five weeks later, people still ask about Steve Sprug’s home wherever he goes in Minturn. He has lived in Minturn since 1996, but residents have made him feel like he’s lived there his whole life.

“It’s one of the nice things about living in Minturn.” Steve Sprug said.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or

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