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Upper Pine, Los Pinos help Durango fight fire
2/29/2008 By: Carole McWilliams
Los Pinos and Upper Pine firefighters helped Durango Fire & Rescue Authority fight the blaze last Friday afternoon in 100-year-old buildings in downtown Durango. Fort Lewis Mesa also sent people and equipment.
DFRA spokesman Dave Abercrombie said they were paged at 1:40 p.m. for flames and smoke at the Seasons restaurant. When they arrived, they found fire moving quickly through common void spaces in three buildings – Seasons, Half Price Tees, and Le Rendezvous restaurant.
“They are over 100 years old,” Abercrombie said. “The timbers were very dry. There are common void spaces or accesses through fire walls that lets fire move quickly. Very quickly it moved to Half Price Tees and Le Rendezvous.”
He guessed the explosion at Le Rendezvous happened around 2:20 p.m. There were a lot of spectators on the far side of the street and firefighters on the roof.
“We had people on the roof cutting holes to let hot gasses and smoke escape. They were moving from the north across Half Price Tees and were over Le Rendezvous when that building exploded,” Abercrombie said. Seven firefighters were injured, but none of those were life threatening.
The most serious injury was to DFRA Deputy Chief Allen Clay, who was thrown off the roof by the explosion. “Several others were bounced around,” Abercrombie said.
Firefighter Tony Jakino was on the sidewalk in front of Le Rendezvous and was buried in bricks. The bricks landed on the sidewalk while glass was scattered across the street. None of the spectators was injured.
“There was every reason to believe there could be fatalities,” Abercrombie said, noting how lucky the firefighters were. The seven were rescued by their comrades and taken to Mercy Medical Center.
Jakino, Jon Wolf, Justin Wickes, and Donna Dignan were treated and released. Nathan McGrath and John Brennan were kept over night for observation and released the next morning. Only Clay was still in the hospital Monday morning, in good condition, Abercrombie said. Clay was released later on Monday.
Two other firefighters were taken to the hospital later on Friday, one for a strained neck, and one for a strained back. They were treated and released, Abercrombie said.
The explosion blew out the passenger side window on DFRA’s ladder truck.
Upper Pine Fire Chief Rich Graeber said DFRA requested Upper Pine’s ladder and a rescue truck shortly after DFRA got to the fire. Five Upper Pine people responded with those trucks.
The explosion happened a short time after they arrived.
Graeber said, “The call went out that an explosion had occurred and numerous firefighters were down and possibly civilians. At that point, you send everything you have and start back-filling for local coverage.”
He continued, “We sent three medics to assist. DFRA had all the injured treated and en route to the hospital. Our medic units assisted with rehab of on-scene responders and staged in the event of other calls in the area until DFRA units got back in service.”
Upper Pine’s ladder truck worked the north end of the fire between Seasons and the Gardenswartz Building to try to keep the fire from spreading into that building.
Other Upper Pine firefighters worked side by side with DFRA, Los Pinos and Fort Lewis Mesa firefighters to keep the fire from spreading south from Le Rendezvous, Graeber said.
“Again, aerial operations and some very hard work by firefighters in the building kept damage to that building to a minimum,” he said.
Upper Pine had 18 responders plus vehicles on the scene for about seven hours. Another 11 people covered the district during the fire, Graeber said.
Los Pinos Fire Deputy Chief Tom Aurnhammer said they were called after the explosion. He and five other people went. They sent two ambulances but didn’t transport anyone.
The Los Pinos people rotated into crews fighting the fire, he said. They left around 8 p.m. “The bulk of the fire was knocked down, but I don’t think they had it out until much later,” Aurnhammer said.
Abercrombie said the next buildings to the north and south had windows broken, and some heat, smoke, and water damage. But he didn’t think it was extensive. Termar Gallery is on the north in the Gardenswartz Building, and Durango Marketplace on the south.
“It will be a few days before we piece together the cause of the fire and the explosion,” he said. He estimated a total of around 105 firefighters and medics were there, plus around 10 Red Cross people. He didn’t know how many police were there.
They were there until around midnight, so the firefighters needed the food provided by the Red Cross and many businesses. “We really appreciate their support,” Abercrombie said.
He also appreciated the help and support from the other three fire departments. It was needed, he said.
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