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Firefighter injured in garage blaze

Staff Report

WALSENBURG- A shed used in a home-based business was destroyed and one firefighter sustained an injury in a fire that could have gotten out of control last Friday evening.

    The Huerfano County Fire Department responded to the building fire at 436 Ysidro around 8:20 pm.  When they arrived on the scene, they found a shed engulfed in flames.  A ten-gallon can of gasoline just inside the shed’s doors and large piles of uncut firewood hampered the advance on the fire by firefighters.

    The shed sits off Ysidro behind some houses;  property owners and firefighters were concerned that hot embers from the flames might leap from roof to roof, causing the fire to spread.

    The shed and residence at 436 Ysidro along with the empty residential building just to the north of the address are owned by Chris Ortega and his wife Francisca. Ortega cuts firewood for extra cash and operates out of the shed where he keeps his chain saws, log splitter and other tools.

    “This has put a damper on buying Christmas presents with my business going up in flames,” Ortega said.  He and his wife have three children who were in Pueblo visiting family at the time of the fire.

    Ortega had been working in the shed earlier in the day splitting wood and had just filled the ten-gallon gas can before shutting down.  According to the fire department investigation, a wood stove in the back of the shed had overheated the wall behind it and caused the fire.

    Ortega estimates damages to the shed and equipment to be around $10,000.  “I just put a new roof on the shed and I had several chain saws that were destroyed along with some other tools.  But we were able to get the log splitter out before it could get damaged.  That’s the most expensive piece of equipment.”

    Steven Martinez, a neighbor and helper in Ortega’s business, was the one who turned in the first call on the fire around 8:20.  “I went outside for a cigarette and saw all this smoke and followed it up the street and I saw it coming out of the shed.  I ran home and called the fire department and grabbed my lock cutter.  Then I ran back and cut the chain and opened the door and got the log splitter out.  There was other stuff in there but I couldn’t get it out,”  Martinez said.

    Captain Paul Gomez reported that the shed was a total loss.  The wall and floor joists were unburned, but the interior was completely burned and the roof was severely damaged.

    One firefighter sustained a knee injury when he stumbled on some wood that was hidden from view by the dense smoke of the fire.  He was transported to Spanish Peaks Hospital to be checked out but was released the same evening and back on his feet, albeit he will be using crutches for several days.  No other injuries were reported.