A house fire in Crowley Lake destroyed the home of Maureen and Gordon Coldwwell, two long-time residents, on Thursday, May 30, but they were not home when the fire started, nor were other homes or structures involved in the fire, according to Crowley Lake’s county supervisor, Fred Stump.
Stump, who was the Long Valley Fire Department Chief before he was elected to fill the District 2 Supervisor seat last year (he is still a volunteer firefighter), said the cause of the fire is still unknown, but it took several hours to get the raging blaze under control.
“When I drove down Crowley Lake Drive, there was a huge black column of smoke rising from the fire and the trees were beginning to catch fire,” he said.
The first report of the fire occurred at about 2:40 p.m., he said and the Long Valley Fire Department trucks and firefighters were at the scene “within minutes” of the call.
It was too late to save the house, however.
“There were a lot of combustibles in the attic and the house had a floor plan that allowed the fire to run up a stairway and all the way to the attic,” he said. “It was hard to knock the fire down in the attic so we didn’t wrap things up until about 9:45 p.m.”
The blaze was not reported until it burned through the exterior walls of the home, which released smoke and gas from the synthetic fabric that alerted neighbors, he said.
“The first firefighters on scene were confronted with fire coming out of the attic and downstairs interior,” Stump said.
“The attic had considerable storage, about 50 bolts of synthetic cloth, a lot of paperwork and ammo, all of which hindered us trying to extinguish the fire in the attic space.”
Stump explained that the fabrics in the attic released a flammable gas that helped the fire spread to the walls of the home and all firefighters who aided in the suppression efforts were required to wear oxygen masks at the scene.
The fight against the fire was helped by more fire fighters, including some from Mammoth Lakes Fire Department, the Inyo National Forest and the state (CalFire), which provided water trucks, engines, and other fire fighting resources, he said.
The fire occurred close to the Wash All Laundromat and at the junction of Appleton and Crowley Lake Drive, forcing fire crews to close the main road through town for several hours and reroute drivers through the “Juniper Loop” road.
Stump said the couple have a condominium in Mammoth so they have a place to stay, but that they had essentially lost everything they had in the Crowley Lake home.
“There was not much left,” he said.
A Crowley resident who lives on the same street as the Coldwell’s said she rushed home from work to her home when she heard about the fire, to be sure her animals were all right.
“They (the Coldwell’s) just did a huge amount of work this past year on their property to remove brush and thin the trees,” she said. “If not, I think all of us on this street might have lost our homes. The wind was blowing very hard, and it was blowing right up the street.”
With reporting by Mike Gervais, Inyo Register Staff Writer