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Christmas Day fire destroys house in Walsenburg

by Edie Flanagin

WALSENBURG- The Walsenburg Volunteer fire department was paged out at 8:50 on Christmas morning to  fight a fire at Eugene Quintana’s home at 721 Kansas.

    The fire department responded with three engines and nine firefighters.  After arriving at the scene, the fire chief, Gerald Jerant, could see more help was needed and called the La Veta VFD. They responded with two trucks and eight men. 

    The firefighters  were confronted with a serious problem in fighting the fire because the homeowner had numerous boxes and other items packed into every room  making entry very difficult.  The homeowner also informed the firemen that there were several tanks of acetylene and oxygen as well as ammunition stored in the house.  Faced with a very hot blaze and obscuring smoke the firefighters chose to fight the fire “defensively” rather than the way they would like by entering the home and fighting it “offensively.”  A hole was cut in the roof and using the ladder truck, a large volume of water was pumped into the home near the chimney.  This effort slowed the progress of the fire, but because the firefighters couldn’t see and aim the hose the fire continued to spread, eventually engulfing the entire structure.  At this point the firemen could only contain the fire to the one house and save the neighboring structures. 

    The fire started in the chimney from the wood/coal fired furnace located in the basement.  The fire either overheated the chimney or breached the chimney and ignited the floor or walls on the main floor.  The homeowner tried to extinguish the fire with a fire extinguisher, to no avail.  The black smoke and intense heat built up so quickly the owner had no time to save any possessions.

    Most firefighters and trucks left the scene by 5 pm.  One truck and several fighters remained at the scene because it was still dangerously hot.  Throughout the night materials in the house continued  exploding, with one of the acetylene tanks blowing up and flying 100 feet into the night sky, landing on the adjacent garage.

    Late Saturday afternoon the last firefighters left only to be recalled the next day to put out the last of the smoldering debris.  The home and contents are a total loss.