Kerosene heater caused mobile home fire in Vallecito

Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016 5:52 PM
Investigators say a kerosene heater placed under the skirting of a mobile home caused the fire that destroyed the structure Monday night in Vallecito.

Investigators have determined the cause for a fire that consumed a mobile home Monday night in Vallecito, saying the blaze started after the tenants attempted to thaw frozen water pipes with a kerosene heater placed under the skirting of the home.

"The folks at Lewis Merc in Bayfield supply heat tapes for preventing frozen pipes, for less than $50 this loss could have been prevented," Upper Pine River Fire Protection District Chief Bruce Evans said in a prepared statement.

According to a press release, the kerosene heater was then left unattended. Soon after, a fire was discovered in the back bedroom and bathroom area of the mobile home, located north of Vallecito Lake.

A fire engine from Upper Pine Station 4 arrived at 8:35 p.m., just eight minutes after the initial dispatch. However, by that time the fire had destroyed the mobile home, and firefighters focused on keeping the fire from spreading to the forest and adjacent homes.

"First-on-scene fire units were confronted with a rapidly advancing fire in a large mobile home, seventy foot flames and fighting a fire in 14 degree temperatures in a neighborhood with no fire hydrants," the release said.

Three occupants who were renting the unit are now displaced as a result of the fire. It's unclear who was at the mobile home at the time the fire started, but the fire district said no one was injured in the incident.

"We lost everything," Alan Ridgeway, a longtime Vallecito resident, told The Durango Herald on Tuesday. "The only things we have are the clothes that we're wearing."

Ridgeway rented the mobile home with his 19-year old grandson, David Ridgeway, and their mutual friend Michael Esper, better known as "Hobie." Donations for the three displaced men can be dropped off at the Rusty Shovel Saloon in Vallecito, and Ridgeway said they are also looking for a long-term rental as well as work.

They can be reached at (970) 884- 2964.

The property is owned by Ron and Heather Kinailuk, who could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday morning.

According to the La Plata County Treasurer's office, the property is valued at $80,000, and the fire district estimated another $35,000 in belongings, motorcycles and other vehicle damage was destroyed by the fire.

Evans told the Herald on Tuesday the last crew left the scene around 3:30 a.m.

Seven water tenders, five engines, a medic unit and four command officers responded with over 25 firefighters. Heavy equipment was brought in to remove the debris and the fire was fully extinguish after a six-hour operation, according to the press release.

Evans said with more winter weather on the way, taking some proactive steps to winterize your home is key.

Durango and Los Pinos fire protection districts aided in the incident.