Red Cliff Lodge, old bank building destroyed
When a woman came running out of her Red Cliff Lodge apartment Friday morning with her face pitch black from smoke, neighbor Marco Lara ran across the street for help.
The woman, whose name has been withheld, apparently was asleep on her couch when a fire started shortly after 9 a.m., burning the Red Cliff Lodge and old bank building next to it, and destroying nearly everything inside.
Friends, neighbors and witnesses said the woman who was injured had apparently minor burns to her hair, face and hands. She was taken to the Vail Valley Medical Center for treatment. The hospital could offer no information about her condition because of new health privacy laws.
The fire nearly scorched one of the town’s most popular hangouts, but somehow neighboring Mango’s Mountain Grill escaped unscathed.
The Eagle River Fire Protection District and other emergency agencies were dispatched around 9:34 a.m. to the fire at 216 Eagle St.
The cause of the fire had not been determined by press time. It is under investigation by the Eagle River Fire Protection District and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
“I got a call around 9:30 this morning from someone who said the building near Mango’s was on fire,” said Town Manager Guy Patterson. “I looked out my window, and the entire building was engulfed in flames.”
Mango’s Mountain Grill owner Eric Cregon received a similar call from a neighbor. But the neighbor didn’t call. He went straight to Cregon’s house, banging on the door, yelling that the restaurant was on fire.
“My legs hurt,” Cregon said. “As soon as I heard about the fire … Oh, no … I jumped out of bed and sprinted down here. I pulled some shorts on and ran as fast as I could to the restaurant.”
The fire spread to the structure on the south side, which was formerly Red Cliff Banks, said fire officials. There was no damage to the multifamily apartments just east of the buildings on fire or Mango’s to the west.
The first floor of the bank building was completely drenched, though, said Red Cliff resident Carolyn Bradford.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Bradford said. “The people who lived in those apartments lost everything they had, everything they owned. They’re only in their mid-20s.”
Ron Mitchell, who owns the old bank building, “was just standing there helpless,” Bradford said. To others, he appeared shocked and he had very little to say about the fire.
Mitchell was just getting ready to move into the downstairs apartment, he said. But all he had moved in was a few belongings. The rest of his stuff was stored at his home in Edwards.
“They’re just lucky nobody was hurt seriously,” said Janice Fox, a Red Cliff resident. “We just drove into town to see this. It’s terrible.”
The woman who was injured apparently was asleep on the couch when the fire started, friends said. The other residents lost everything.
“I lost everything’
The occupants of the burned buildings were left with little to nothing of their belongings.
“We heard all this noise and could see smoke out the back window,” said Michael Broermann, who lived in the bottom apartment of the Red Cliff Lodge. “I jumped up and tried to get the garden hoses, but two of them were frozen. All we had time to grab were our pictures.”
Broermann and his girlfriend, Kyle Sinerd, had moved into the apartment downstairs about six weeks ago.
Lara said he was in bed when he heard the fire crackling. When Lara went outside, he saw his neighbor with her face black and covered with smoke.
He then realized what happened, he said, and ran to the post office and asked them to call the fire department.
When he returned, all he could salvage were his computer and his wallet.
“I lost everything,” he said.
Manning the hoses
Cregon arrived shortly after the fire started, and he immediately stepped in to help.
Cregon works for the water plant in Red Cliff, and he knows how the system works. But his main focus was to do what he could with the fire until the “real guys” arrived.
Elk hunters Gary Hover and Paul Nicholson from Eureka, Calif., spotted Cregon on the roof of Mango’s with a hose in his hand, soaking down the building.
“Hey, whatever works, man,” Cregon said.
The elk hunters saw the smoke from the building as they came around the mountain edge, Hover said.
“We were coming up the hill, saw the fire, then volunteered our services by manning the hoses with the firefighters,” Hover said.
The hunters saw the fire trucks shooting water onto the building, and helped the firefighters haul some of the hoses to the back of the building, Nicholson said.
“We got back from hunting a little early today,” Nicholson said. “The building was smoky – couldn’t see a thing. It was so full of smoke.”
Nicholson works for an insurance company in California. He said in times of disasters, one of the most important things for people to do is photograph their belongings.
“A video camera might work, but pictures are better for insurance purposes,” Nicholson said. “It’s hard evidence of what you have in your house.”
Boil order back
Another casualty of the fire, at least temporarily, was the town’s beleaguered water system. For two years, the drinking water in Red Cliff was unclean and unhealthy. But the on-again off-again order to boil all water before drinking it was lifted in early June. The order was reinstated Friday because of the fire.
“This is only a temporary problem,” Patterson said. “We needed … to keep the water pressure up high enough to fight this fire.”
Red Cliff is one of the county’s poorest towns, with an annual budget of about $477,000. The town secured $50,000 from Colorado Local Affairs for its new $460,000 water plant, which the town is lease-purchasing for $60,000 a year.
“This is not how I planned on spending my day. I had the budget on my plate today,” Patterson said. “I only had a half a cup of coffee this morning, and then the fire happened.”
Melinda Kruse contributed to this report. Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or at email@example.com.