The Crestone Eagle, Decemberr 2008:

Crestone & Baca firefighters respond to 2 incidents within 24 hours, citizens evacuated due to propane tank rupture
by Diane Bairstow

Photo of a storage shed on a property above Crestone that was a total loss.Wednesday night, Nov. 19, a tool shed caught fire at 803 E. Galena. The fire call came in at 11:25pm, was declared out at 3am, and fire personnel departed the scene by 3:25. The fire was discovered by the owners of the property, White Cloud and Virochana. Before the firefighters arrived, they “heard a hissing sound” and flames shot up 30’ into the air, enveloping the trees.

It took 3000 gallons of water and 250 gallons of foam to put out the blaze. Empty propane tanks were stored against the building and had to be kept cooled during the course of the fire fight. Empty propane tanks and gas cans, it turns out, are more dangerous than full ones as the combination of the fuel and air will create a bomb.

At 1:12am, Josh and Deanna Wilfong arrived with the Baca ambulance to provide rehab for the fire fighters by checking oxygen levels, blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. One of the firefighters sustained an injured ankle during the course of the event.

This was a combined effort between the Baca and Crestone Fire Departments, and Ben Brack, the Incident Commander and Chief of the Baca Fire Department, was very pleased with the interaction and co-operation between the departments, which have been training together to good result.

On the scene were 5 Crestone personnel: Warren Stevens, Dave Czurbirka, Chris Botz, Nathan Good and Hunter Goodnight; 9 Baca personnel were also present: Cindy Peterson, Ben Brack, Marcio Bareto, Lisa Bodi (this was her first structure fire), Joy Hill, Ivan Lakish, and Jim Vanderpool.

The next evening, Thursday, Nov. 20, another call came in around 3:45pm. A worker backed into a 500 gallon propane tank on Wagon Wheel in the Baca, busted the valve, and propane began escaping. Propane sinks to the lowest point and ‘travels,’ creating a very dangerous situation. Roads were blocked within a 1-mile radius, and residents were instructed to turn off pilot lights and any open flames, then were evacuated on foot. AmeriGas came in, stabilized the situation and by 6pm residents were back in their homes, and firefighters had left the site.

Treat Suomi was the incident commander, and other responders from the Baca were George Hill, Joy Hill, Julie Bubbins, Mike Sullivan, Warren Stephen, Ivan Lakish, Ben Brack and Marcio Bareto. Chris Botz responded with Crestone Attack 1. 4 CERT team members were on the scene, as were the Sheriff and 2 deputies; the Red Cross was on standby; and the POA was prepared to barricade the area. Residents could have been out of their home for 24 hours, but because of favorable weather conditions and the speed and co-operation of all responders, the situation was brought under control quickly and efficiently.

“We do a lot of planning for a potential catastrophe,” Incident commander Treat Suomi said, “and Crestone and Baca are really working well together and forming a cohesive unit. This is the first time we had to evacuate in the Baca. Hope we don’t have to do it again.”

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