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Arson destroys two houses in Walsenburg

WALSENBURG-  A three-alarm fire destroyed two empty houses in Walsenburg Wednesday evening, Nov. 26.  The page out was just after 9 pm, and by the time the first firefighters arrived on scene, it was already out of control.  “This got out of control before anyone could do anything,” reported Fire Chief Gerald Jerant.

    The fire started in 323 W. 6th, which had been abandoned for some time, and was known locally as the wino’s hangout.  High winds gusting as much as 20 miles an hour pushed the fire into the next door house at 321 W. 6th within minutes.  A nearby duplex occupied by two families and their pets was evacuated, and suffered only minimal smoke damage.  Businesses nearby, such as Edla’s Yarns and Hollowpoint Sporting Goods, had no damage.  Both houses were completely engulfed and were lost.

    Mutual assistance was called for, and the La Veta and Gardner fire departments both sent crews to help.  Three firefighters responded from  Gardner, and La Veta also sent three.  Walsenburg had 10 firefighters and three engines on scene, most of them staying for 12 hours in the freezing cold and dark.  At one point, trains passing through town had to be stopped, as fire hoses were laid across the tracks.

    Arson was immediately suspected, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was called in.  Search warrants have been issued, and police are looking for three persons of interest.