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Fire demolishes Vallecito home
8/28/2009 By: Carole McWilliams
Peggy Doyle’s house at Vallecito was destroyed by fire Wednesday morning.
She and son Gary were awakened by a neighbor who helped them get out with what they were wearing.
They had gotten home at around 1:30 a.m. from a visit to Tucson, Ariz. Gary Doyle had gone to bed in the clothes he’d been wearing. Mrs. Doyle took time to change into pajamas.
Upper Pine got the call at 9:11 a.m., and the first responders were there within two minutes from the Upper Pine station 2, about a half mile away.
That station is staffed. Roy Vreeland said, “When the page went out, I looked out the bay door and saw a black column of smoke.” As they came around the bend on County Road 501 by Vallecito Resort, they could see that the house was fully involved in flames.
“That’s when I put it on air that we were going defensive,” Vreeland said, meaning protecting nearby buildings instead of going into the burning house to try to save it.
“There were lots of pedestrians,” Vreeland said. He found out from them that everyone was out of the house.
The heat was tremendous, and trees were on fire, he said. They used a gun nozzle on top of the engine to shoot water from a distance.
Paint blistered on a house to the west. Vreeland said he started spraying that with water to cool it. He directed another line to protect the house just to the north of Doyle’s house. At that point Vreeland had three firefighters with him.
He and Upper Pine Chief Rich Graeber noted that Upper Pine signed an agreement about a month ago with Los Pinos Fire and Durango Fire & Rescue to send help automatically, without a call for mutual aid.
So they had three water tenders from outside the district, Graeber said.
The south half of the log house was charred. Graeber declared it too hazardous to enter. The north end of the house had much less damage, and plants next to the house were still green.
For a few minutes, a couple firefighters ventured in through a north window to salvage any belongings they could. They were called out when a spotter noticed the metal roof starting to buckle.
Then a couple firefighters went in through another window. They brought out several rifles. Gary Doyle checked each one to make sure it wasn’t loaded.
Graeber said the cause of the fire will be investigated by Tom Aurnhammer from Los Pinos Fire District.
Peggy Doyle said the fire seemed to have started on the porch on the south side. She had some stove pellets out there but not much else. The stove wasn’t going, because they had gotten home so late the night before, she said.
She said a man was walking his dog, saw the fire, and woke them up. Gary Doyle said the front of the house was too hot, so they went out a back door.
Peggy Doyle said she is a year-round resident at Vallecito. She and her late husband bought the property in 1980. They built the house around a small cabin which was then removed.
Gary Doyle said he lives in California and is visiting. They had just returned from visiting his brother in Tucson. He had planned to go back to California on Saturday.
Red Cross representatives and neighbors were helping the Doyles Wednesday morning. Donna Fahrion from Pine River Lodge offered them lodging and left a room key with them.
Mrs. Doyle’s main concerns as she sat on a neighbor’s porch were to replace her glasses, prescription medicines, clothes, and the keys to her car which was parked near the house and had significant heat damage to the front end. However, they had another vehicle to use.
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