Two fires under investigation


— Two costly fires on Wednesday has Routt County Sheriff John Warner concerned.

The seven-year sheriff is urging residents to take some preventative steps that could help stop future fires.

"With the cold weather we are having, I would advise everyone to have their furnaces and base-board heaters cleared of any debris," Warner said after fires destroyed a barn early Wednesday morning and badly damaged a house later in the evening. "It is also a good idea for everyone to check their chimney pipes."

Warner made the plea Thursday after an early morning fire burned a barn to the ground. The structure was owned by David Hunt, 28200 Thorpe Mountain Drive.

The second fire occurred at a Stagecoach home owned by Jerry and Janice Johner, 29940 Rock Point Trail.

The Routt County Sheriff's Office, along with fire investigators, continue to investigate the cause of both fires.

At about 4:30 a.m., eight Steamboat Springs firefighters responded to Hunt's barn that had been transformed into a "fancy apartment," said Bob Struble, Steamboat Springs assistant fire chief.

"When we received the call, the barn was already fully engulfed in flames," said Struble of the structure that is about 50 feet from Hunt's home. "When we got there, the building was about to collapse.

"It was a total loss. There was nothing we could do."

Warner said Hunt leaves the area every winter to go back to California. The caretaker of the property, Tom Clark, lives in the barn when Hunt is in the Steamboat area, Warner said.

At this point in the investigation, Warner does not believe any crime occurred.

"There are no signs of arson or anything like that," he said.

Steamboat Springs firefighters were helped by two firefighters each from the Oak Creek and the Routt County Rural fire districts.

Firefighters from Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek teamed up once again at about 4:30 p.m. when a fire was reported at Johner's residence.

Oak Creek Fire Chief Chuck Wisecup had 17 firefighters from his district at the scene along with two engines, an ambulance and a command vehicle.

Five Steamboat Springs firefighters assisted at the scene with an engine.

Two Yampa firefighters were also there with a vehicle equipped to refill air tanks used by firefighters.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, smoke and flames could be seen coming out of the top floor of the tan two-and-one-half-story home.

At about 7 p.m., firefighters had a majority of the fire out but crews did not leave the scene until about 10:30 p.m., Wisecup said. The reason for the delay was an air vent leading to the furnace was smoldering, he said. It took firefighters time to get to the air vent, which was built in between the first and second floors of the home, he said.

At this time, the cause of the fire is unknown, but Wisecup believes the fire originated on the first floor between the kitchen and the master bedroom, he said.

Wisecup said he believes the fire then spread to the upper level of the home.

The home received "extensive smoke and water damage," he said.

Although the cause of the fire is under investigation, Wisecup does not suspect arson.

"We have no suspicion at all of foul play, but we don't have any clue of why it started," he said. A neighbor reported the fire after seeing smoke coming from the top level of the home, Wisecup said.

Throughout the evening, Johner and his wife watched firefighters extinguish the blaze from the road in front of their home.

Firefighters were able to rescue two cats from inside the home that belong to the couple, Wisecup said.


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