Early morning fire destroys Frisco fourplex
FRISCO – Firefighters believe the early Tuesday morning fire that destroyed a fourplex on Creekside Drive was “human caused” – but specifics still have to be borne out by deeper investigation and lab tests.
“We are treating it like a crime scene,” said Jeff Berino, the fire marshal and assistant chief for Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.
Eleven people safely escaped the fourplex at 310 Creekside Drive and were sheltered and comforted by neighbors who offered clothing and blankets.
Real estate broker Chic Koran, who was listing one of the units for sale, estimated the building to be worth about $1 million all together. Koran serves on the Lake Dillon Fire Protection board and visited the scene.
Most of the building’s roof collapsed into the fire, and heavy damage extends through the second and first floors. Berino declared the building a total loss.
“All four units have to come down after the insurance companies do their thing,” the fire marshal said.
The Summit County Fire Investigation Team was called to the scene mid morning Tuesday and spent all day combing through the debris looking for clues.
Berino said the fire is ruled “incendiary.” It becomes arson if somebody is charged. Frisco police and District Attorney Mark Hurlbert have been called into the investigation.
“We are keeping all of our options open,” Hurlbert said, noting arson is hard to prove.
Units A and B were the only two occupied in the fourplex.
Escaping unharmed were Gary Morgan, his wife Melanie and children Taylor, 2, K.C. 10, Brittany, 12, and Jeremey, 18, of Unit A; and five unrelated inhabitants of Unit B: Chris Calenzo, Megan Siddall, T.J. Forte, Dave Hoops and Jamie, who moved in three days ago from Glenwood Springs and whose last name was not known Tuesday night.
Everybody in Unit B lost all they owned either through fire or water damage. Morgan said some things appeared salvageable in his unit, mostly appliances that can’t burn. All the furniture, family clothing and other belongings were burned or ruined, he said.
The fire started on the deck of Unit B, according to Siddall, who came to the Summit Daily News to offer information and say a fundraiser is being planned. Siddall actually lives at another Creekside address but was spending the night at 310 Creekside. Unit B’s inhabitants are currently bivouacked at her place.
Pictures taken by neighbors show the deck and front of Unit B fully involved, which was the condition firefighters found after the alarm was called in at 1:24 a.m., Berino said.
He said alarms were sounded by a passer-by and somebody in Unit B.
According to Siddall, Jamie was asleep in an upstairs front bedroom and awakened to see flames outside her window. She awakened Hoops in the neighboring upstairs bedroom. He helped sound the alarm while Jamie ran over to the Morgans to wake them up.
Hoops said his dog hadn’t sensed the fire and credited Jamie for waking up. As each person in Unit B ran out, their first instinct was to make sure the Morgans were alerted, Hoops said.
Gary Morgan said he saw the neighboring deck and front of Unit B on fire when he looked outside his unit.
“It was lit up like a matchbox,” he said.
Morgan said he woke up to Jamie banging on his daughter Brittany’s bedroom window.
“I just woke up; I don’t know why,” Morgan said.
He said he was dreaming about a hail storm – the sound of which turned out to be the crackling of the fire. When he opened his eyes he saw a brightness. He flung open the bedroom curtains and yelled for his family to get out.
“The fire went from zero to 60 mph at Mach 8,” said Berino, describing how fast the wood structure burned.
Once firefighters learned all occupants had escaped, the decision was made to wage a “defensive attack” on the structure.
“It was too involved to risk lives to go inside, although we would have gone in if we had to,” Berino said. “We stayed outside and knocked the main body of the fire down before going inside to look for hidden fires.”
Firefighters declared the fire extinguished at 4:24 a.m. They were helped by two close-by hydrants on Creekside Drive. Berino said firefighters poured between 40,000 and 50,000 gallons of water on the building.
Frisco Building Inspector Darren Haramija, a resident of 317 Creekside Drive across the street, said he witnessed the fire after it started.
“It was cooking when I walked outside. It was really hot,” Haramija said, noting that it wasn’t until well after 2 a.m. that he noticed the cool night air and needed a jacket.
Mark Sabatini, who lives next door at 312D in the Aspen Leaf Townhomes, said he was awakened by loud pops that sounded like firecrackers. He soon found the popping was the fire exploding in the fourplex, after the Morgan family pounded frantically on his door.
Sabatini opened his home to the Morgan family for the rest of the night. He said other neighbors, whom he did not know, also offered clothing and assistance to the 11 fire victims.
Sabatini credited Frisco Police Officer Jim Walsh with “stellar” work in accounting for all of the fourplex occupants.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen something that frightening,” Sabatini said.
He noted the Morgan children were visibly shaken by the experience.
Gary Morgan said his family is staying with relatives, Fred and Julie Turner, and he is in the hunt for a four-bedroom, single-family house. After Tuesday, he’s wary of living where a fire in a shared-wall unit could jeopardize his family.
Morgan said the family is gratified by the people who want to help.
“The kindness is overflowing,” he said.
Anybody who can help the Morgans can call them at (970) 485-0967.
Hoops said his group also is searching for another four-bedroom unit. Anybody who can help his group can call (970) 668-1053.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross had begun helping fire victims by late Tuesday.
The house fire was a two-alarm blaze, which called in firefighters from the Copper Mountain, Snake River, and Red, White and Blue fire departments to join Lake Dillon’s first response.
In all, 40 firefighters, two ladder trucks, six fire engines, one heavy rescue truck and three command vehicles joined the fight.
Berino said preliminary investigation began in the early morning hours to pave the way for the Summit County Fire Investigation Team. The team is comprised of firefighters, police officers and building and electrical officials from the towns and county.
The team forms on an on-call basis, he said, and the work helps each jurisdiction stay trained in a county where severe fire incidents are relatively rare.
Jim Pokrandt can be reached at
(970) 668-3998, ext. 227, or
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