Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Historic building blazes up

Trail Creek Village fire reportedly started by cigarette

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum firefighters Keith Potter, left, and Ben Varner turn water on smoldering timbers at Trail Creek Village in Ketchum on Monday night. Ketchum Fire Department chief Mike Elle reported in a news release that the fire caused $25,000 worth of damage to the commercial building. Photo by Willy Cook

Six-foot flames flared up on a second-story deck in Trail Creek Village on South Main Street in Ketchum on Monday night, causing an estimated $25,000 worth of damage before Ketchum and Sun Valley firefighters were able to extinguish it.

The fire was reported by business owner Jenifer Edmonds, who owns Jenifer's of Australia spa in the building. Edmonds said she spotted the fire about 11 p.m.

"I stepped out on my deck, looked up, and I just saw the bottom part of the deck blazing," she said in an interview. "It just kept getting bigger and bigger."

According to a news release, Ketchum Fire Department crews responded to the scene at 11:06 p.m., and immediately spotted the 6-foot flames on an upper deck.

Twenty-six Ketchum firefighters and 13 Sun Valley firefighters contained the blaze to the outside of the building and the deck within 15 minutes. The fire was extinguished about an hour later.

One Ketchum firefighter was transported to St. Luke's Wood River for treatment of an eye injury. He has since been released.

The Fire Department stated in its news release that the cause of the fire was an inadequately extinguished cigarette.

Edmonds said one of her neighbors had been warned about improper disposal of cigarette butts at the building.

On Monday night, a butt was disposed of in a plastic flower pot filled with peat moss, the Fire Department reported. According to the department, the butt smoldered for several hours before igniting the pot as well as nearby plastic deck furniture. The blaze spread from there.

Edmonds said she had been working in her office for several hours, cleaning up Christmas decorations in preparation for Valentine's Day. She said she smelled smoke a few hours before she saw the fire itself, but thought little of it.

"I just thought, oh, someone is having a fire," she said, not an unusual occurrence during a Ketchum winter.

Edmonds said she called in the fire from her cell phone, as phone service to the building was out. She reported that she was the only one in the building.

"If I hadn't been there, the whole place would have burned down," she said.

The building was built as a hotel in 1927, and most of it is timber construction. The building is currently occupied by offices, retail businesses and art galleries. Edmonds said she has been working there for eight years.

Though her office was undamaged, crews forced their way through several doors in the building and rearranged items in offices to fight the blaze and minimize damage to personal items.

Edmonds said that though she lost some business Tuesday and was upset about the incident, she was grateful to the fire crews for their service.

"I'm really glad they came that fast," she said.

Katherine Wutz:

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