by E.E. Mullens
WALSENBURG — Area firefighters from three departments responded to a large residential fire at the Ray Pfaffenhauser home at #55 CR 595 shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday, March 21.
No one was injured in the fire that gutted the large home and the occupant, Pfaffenhauser, was able to get out prior to firefighters’ arrival according to Huerfano County Fire Protection District Division Chief Paul Gomez. Gomez was the incident commander at the scene.
Gomez said both La Veta and Upper Huerfano Fire Protection District departments responded to the scene on a call for mutual aid.
Gomez told the World Journal the suspected cause of the conflagration was a human accident. He said statements made to law enforcement at the scene by the home’s occupant at the time the fire ignited, indicate embers from a fire in a fireplace popped out and caught carpet and other material on fire.
Firefighting efforts had to be split to opposite corners of the home with Huerfano County fighting the blaze from the front and La Veta and Gardner working the fire on the back deck side of the home. Gomez said a live downed power line was the reason firefighters had to battle the blaze from opposit corners due to safety concerns. Power to that line was eventually cut and it was moved, said Gomez.
Dump tanks used:
With no fire hydrants in the Toltec neighborhood, HCFPD deployed one of their tender trucks’ dump tanks to keep water flowing to the fire. The dump tanks are used when a hydrant is unavailable and are seen in many wildland fire operations. Tender trucks fill up at the closest source and transfer water to the tanks which then provide a constant flow to fire hoses through pumper trucks. The tender units were busy refilling at the hydrant located at the corner of Stout and Maple on Walsenburg’s north west side of town near John Mall High School/ Peakview school complex throughout the incident.
Return to the scene:
Huerfano smoke-eaters returned to the scene for approximately one hour Sunday morning to extinguish a small flare up in the home’s front room where the fire is believed to have begun. Gomez said debris from the fire was dug up and the area soaked with water.
Huerfano County dispatched five vehicles to the fire Saturday, La Veta two, and Gardner one, according to Gomez.
According to HCFPD Chief Gerald Jerant, firefighters cleared the scene initially Saturday at 2:03 p.m.