Ashes suspected to be cause of Black Forest house fire

By: lisa walton lisa.walton@gazette.com
March 31, 2014 Updated: March 31, 2014 at 7:00 pm
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photo - Firefighters clean up hot spots from a house fire in the 11500 block of Milam Road Monday, 3/31/14. According to Black Forest fire chief Bob  Harvey, some embers were left outside started bushes in front the house, spreading to the structure.The two people home at the time of the fire made it out safely. 
Carol Lawrence/The Gazette
Firefighters clean up hot spots from a house fire in the 11500 block of Milam Road Monday, 3/31/14. According to Black Forest fire chief Bob Harvey, some embers were left outside started bushes in front the house, spreading to the structure.The two people home at the time of the fire made it out safely. Carol Lawrence/The Gazette 

A blaze that heavily damaged a home in Black Forest on Monday afternoon was likely caused by improperly disposed ashes, according to Black Forest fire officials.

No one was injured in the fire, which broke out around 3 p.m. at a house near Milam and Burgess roads, said Black Forest Fire/Rescue District spokeswoman Kathy Russell. Black Forest firefighters responded, along with firefighters from Palmer Lake, Falcon, Donald Wescott, Tri Lakes/Monument and the U.S. Air Force Academy. The fire burned through two floors of the home, and the home is likely a total loss, Russell said.

Despite the windy, red flag weather conditions, the fire was contained to the property, and firefighters were able to douse it within about half an hour.

Quick, coordinated response, played a role, Russell said.

"The main reason this fire did not extend to the forest was very fast response," said Russell. "We train together so we can respond together on these."

Russell, who has lived in Black Forest for more than two decades, said residents of the heavily wooded community have always been nervous about seeing smoke in the air. Since last summer, when the most destructive fire in the state's history swept through the area, killing two people and destroying 488 homes, firefighters have been aggressive in their efforts to educate residents on fire prevention and mitigation.

With memories of last summer's fire not even yet a year old, seeing smoke in the air is particularly difficult, she said.

Reports of smoke from the house fire were first called in by a passerby, and an off-duty Colorado Springs police officer saw the plume and stopped by to make sure the two residents that were home at the time were able to evacuate safely. Pets also made it out of the house, Russell said.

Residents of the home told firefighters that they had put hot ashes into a can, which they placed near some juniper bushes close to the home. The heat from the can likely ignited the dry bushes and then spread to the house. Juniper is also a fast-burning bush.

"This is not the first time firefighters have responded to a fire caused by ashes that were not appropriately disposed of," Russell said. "Embers can stay hot for a very long time. Days. Sometimes even a week. And they gradually build up heat."

The proper way to dispose of the ashes, she said, is to toss them into a metal container away from something that cannot catch fire, or to dump the ashes into water, give it a stir and set it aside.

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