Barbara Lawlor - Coal Creek Canyon
By the time neighbors saw the smoke and flames, a Lillis Road home off Ranch Elsie Road in Jefferson County was well on its way to being destroyed on Thursday morning, June 27. Although the incident is still under investigation, neighbors told deputies that they had heard fireworks the preceding night. It has been determined the fire moved from being a wild land fire and moving through the tinder-like dry grass, before climbing into the trees and igniting the house.
The area is densely populated and neighbors, once they became aware of the blaze, set up lines around nearby homes, putting out sparks and embers that moved quickly through the fuel, threatening a couple more homes. Although they couldn’t save the burning home, they managed to defend those in the vicinity.
Coal Creek Canyon Fire Department Station 11 was just across Highway 72 and soon, Rocky Mountain Fire, Timberline Fire Protection District and Nederland Fire Protection District were at the scene with tankers and brush trucks for a quick attack. The Colorado State Patrol set up roadblocks at Ranch Elsie Road and the United Power station on Gross Dam Road to divert traffic. Jefferson County, Gilpin and Boulder County Sheriff’s departments gathered at the command site at Coal Creek Canyon Elementary School.
A pre-evacuation warning was sent to 920 phones at 11:45 a.m. and those residences nearest the burning structure were told to evacuate. As flames moved through the structure, they also engulfed two pickup trucks, creating a series of small explosions, bangs and pops as the heat ignited fuel sources on the property. Nobody was hurt in the blaze.
Jeffco Public Schools had a bus on standby to transport children at a daycare center in the canyon to Ralston Valley High School, but the fire never got beyond the involved structure and its property perimeters. The rapid response from mutual aid fire district firefighters kept the flames from spreading as well as containing the fire within a few hours.
Fire bans were in effect for Jefferson County west of Highway 93, Gilpin County and Boulder County, with moisture expected to mitigate fire danger over the next week.
TFPD Chief Chris Jennings said neighbors were fortunate the winds were not stronger. He also said that Timberline responded to 20 fire-related calls in the preceding two days. With the Fourth of July holiday coming up, fire districts will be on alert and there will be zero tolerance for anyone caught lighting fireworks.