Oak Creek A man died after a home in Oak Creek exploded this morning. The likely cause of the blast is a propane tank explosion, an Oak Creek fire official said.
Chuck Wisecup, chief of the Oak Creek Fire Protection District, said the man was trapped in the wreckage of the blast, which occurred shortly after 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at 208 Carbon Ave., on the west side of the South Routt town. The house was destroyed. Crews reportedly heard the man calling for help when they arrived on the scene early this morning, and fought to reach the man in severe smoke inhalation conditions for the next several hours. Wisecup said more than four feet of water poured into the crawl space of the home. The walls were blown out and the roof caved in when the explosion occurred, Wisecup said. Oak Creek Public Works crews helped pump out water and remove debris at the scene. Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg confirmed the man's death at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, but would not confirm the man's identity pending notification of kin.
A neighbor and town official both identified the resident of the house as Dennis Eugene Harris, 64, known as Gino or Gene. Harris reportedly lives alone with his dog. The dog reportedly escaped the house alive. Harris is a driver for the Routt County Council on Aging. A council van was parked at the residence this morning. The explosion blew out all the van's windows.
"It was definitely an explosion," Oak Creek Police Chief Russ Caterinicchio said of the blast. Neighbors said they felt the blast at their homes, and reported smelling propane in the area as early as Monday, when Harris may have had his propane tank refilled.
Numerous law enforcement and emergency response agencies, including Oak Creek police, the Routt County Sheriff's Office, and fire crews from Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs, responded to the scene. The fire was contained by noon. Wisecup said several adjacent homes suffered structural damage including blown out windows and skylights and exterior damage. Law enforcement did not evacuate Carbon Avenue. Wisecup said the Colorado Bureau of Investigation will inspect the site Thursday morning.
According to the Routt County Assessor's database, the home at 208 Carbon Ave. was purchased by Peter Nauman of Steamboat Springs in November 2004. The 674-square-foot, one-bedroom home has electric heat and wood siding, according to the Assessor's Office sales record.
Tonight's community meeting about law enforcement in South Routt, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at Oak Creek Town Hall, has been canceled due to today's tragic events. A new meeting date has not been set. Call 736-8231 with questions.