Steamboat Springs A fire destroyed two homes and heavily damaged two others Monday night in a townhome building on Spring Valley Drive.
No one was in the units, which are part of The Enclave subdivision, when the fire started about 8:30 p.m. No one was injured.
The fire apparently started in the entryway between neighboring units, 3358 and 3350 Spring Valley Drive, then spread upward and through the roof into other units, Steamboat Springs Assistant Fire Chief Bob Struble said. A natural gas service line going into a meter on the side of the building ruptured and fueled the fire, he said.
The fire was reported at 8:35 p.m. and the first Steamboat Springs fire truck was on scene four minutes later, Struble said. The fire was contained at 9:55 p.m., but crews continued to work into the night.
"It was basically a good stop. When we arrived on scene, two (units) were fully involved and a third had started," Struble said.
The fire began in the end unit of the five-unit building. Marlene and Kenneth Richmond of Wilmette, Ill., the owners of the home where the fire started, were in town but not home at the time.
Tom Simmins, general manager of Big Country Resorts which manages the homes, said the units were owned by out-of-town residents. Besides the Richmonds, no one was staying in the other units that burned.
The Richmonds' home at 3358 Spring Valley Drive and the neighboring unit, 3350 Spring Valley Drive, owned by Wes and Elizabeth Ortolano of Loveland, were destroyed. A third unit at 3346 Spring Valley Drive, owned by Arieh and Jan Szigeti of Greenwood Village, was heavily damaged by fire. A fourth, at 3342 Spring Valley Drive and owned by Richard and Joan Sullivan was also damaged.
The Enclave subdivision is about three years old; its units are worth more than $300,000 each.
Four other buildings in the housing development were evacuated.
Annette Burnsides and her family were having a spaghetti dinner across the street when they heard sizzling, which they first thought was rain. By the time they realized it was a fire, it was almost too dangerous to stand in their driveway.
"It just came so fast," Burnsides said.
A narrow column of smoke was visible at about 8:30 p.m. throughout the neighborhood of the Whistler Meadow subdivision. Ten minutes later, flames could be seen leaping into the air from miles away.
Hundreds of nearby residents and passer-byers surrounded the outskirts of the fire, taking photos and watching the flames.
Steamboat Springs responded with two ladder trucks and two engines, assisted by a unit from the West Routt Rural Fire Protection District. About 25 firefighters were on scene.
Elizabeth Williams, who lives at 3367 AprÃs Ski Way, was grilling in her back yard and keeping an eye on the first five minutes of Sen. Hillary Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention when she noticed the fire.
Williams, whose backyard overlooks the rear of The Enclave townhomes, noticed flames and smoke coming from the garage roof of the end unit.
"You could see flames and smoke. I yelled for (my roommate) to call 911 and ran upstairs to tell my roommates. By the time I got upstairs, it had jumped onto the main roof," she said.
Williams her roommate said they could feel intense heat in their back yard, which was about two doors down from the burning units.
They saw burning embers landing in their yard.
"There were sparks landing all around. I noticed some neighbors hosing down the outside of their homes," Williams said.
Tom Ross contributed to this story.