Fire still under investigation

Cause of dorm blaze unknown


— Fire Marshal Jay Muhme was continuing his investigation Monday into the cause of a dormitory fire that forced the evacuation of more than 90 students at the Alpine Campus of Colorado Mountain College on Easter Sunday.

Muhme declined to speculate on the cause of the fire.

"We really don't know yet," the fire marshal said.

Steamboat Springs Fire Chief Bob Struble said his department was paged at 5:36 p.m. and the first fire truck was on the scene at 5:41.

In all, 21 firefighters and five trucks responded to Hill Hall. They were on the scene for 1 hour and 44 minutes.

There was a little bit of flame still burning when firefighters arrived.

The door of the closet where the fire broke out, blocked the flow of the sprinkler head, Struble said.

Colorado Mountain College Dean Robert Ritschel said he was conducting a debriefing with members of his staff Monday afternoon to go over their response to the fire alarm and the steps they took to guard the welfare of the students in the dorm.

Ritschel said a significant part of the credit for the smooth evacuation of the dormitory goes to several students who went to the front desk in the dorm and confirmed that it was a real fire, and not a drill or false alarm. A desk in the dormitory was staffed even thought it was Easter Sunday.

"We were really pleased," Ritschel said. "Probably it was our good fortune, if you can call it good fortune in a case like this, that it happened during daylight. Had it occurred from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m., there would have been that period of slumber and awakening," for students living in the dorm.

Ritschel said the residents of room 223, where the fire broke out, were not in the room at the time. He declined to give out the names of those students, but said he had been told that one of the two men had gone skiing for the day and had not yet returned to his room. The other resident of the room had left to attend church services, Ritschel said he was told.

The two men have been provided housing elsewhere in the dorm. The residents of five other rooms, which were affected to a minor degree by water used to put out the fire, were able to return to their rooms, Ritschel said.

The rooms weren't really damaged, he added.

"We wet-vacced that up," he said.

Sunday's fire marked the second time in three years that a fire has broken out in a closet at the dorm, and was largely extinguished by the sprinkling system.

Fire Chief Bob Struble said there was a similar fire at Hill Hall this time of year in 1998.

"If it hadn't been for the sprinkler, I think there would have been considerable damage," Struble said. "It just shows how valuable a sprinkler system is."


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