by Mary Lowers
According to a statement from the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO), a Colorado State Patrol dispatcher received a report at 4:19pm Tuesday, October 15 of a structure fire in Moffat. The fire spread quickly, engulfing four buildings and setting fire to vehicles. The cause of the blaze, which included an explosion that could be seen from Casita Park (approximately 7 miles away), is under investigation. As I write this, the fire is still smoldering in places.
Four structures including a house thought to be the first house ever built in Moffat, were lost. Sadly, dogs belonging to residents of a burnt home were not able to escape the blaze. No human lives were lost.
I heard Crestone Fire engines racing out of town with sirens blaring, followed quickly by Baca Fire vehicles. Saguache, Mosca/Hooper, Center Fire, Chaffee County Fire Protection District, and the State Department of Fire Prevention and Control out of Alamosa were on the scene to support the Moffat Fire Department.
Because Moffat has no fire hydrants, Chaffee County Fire Protection Chief Robert Bertram sent a tender that could haul 2,500 gallons of water to the scene. The tender went and filled up at an irrigation well 2.5 miles from the scene. The tender then filled fire engines with water to fight the blaze.
According to Chief Bertram there were two spot fires, one 200 feet in diameter, caused by blowing embers. Although a county-wide burn ban is in effect, Bertram said, “We believe somebody was burning debris and it got out of hand.” Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick said that a propane tank near a destroyed structure may have been ignited, causing it to explode. The explosion sent smoke thousands of feet into the air. The Sheriff believes the fire started near the Crystal Sticks company one block east of Hwy. 17 on the north side of Moffat. He also reported numerous vehicles were destroyed and a pickup situated at the south end of the fire burned up completely.
State investigators were in Moffat doing air quality checks. The District Fire Chief advised anyone in the area of the fire with lung or breathing conditions to stay indoors. The Moffat School and Moffat Clinic closed early, due to air quality concerns. Fire investigators on the scene have yet to officially announce the cause of this devastating blaze.
Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick said he thought the fire may have started outside one of the residences and eventually ignited the 250 gallon propane tank—which greatly fueled and expanded the fire There had been prior reports of people ticketed for burning trash in Moffat during this fire ban.
Great appreciation is expressed to all the firefighters who helped put out this horrible fire. Thank you firefighters!