CSFD: Careless smoking caused massive townhome fire

Posted at 3:35 PM, Mar 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-26 17:35:41-04

The Colorado Springs Fire Department ruled the cause of the fire that damaged at least 20 townhomes and left nearly 70 people without a home was careless smoking.

CSFD tweeted the cause of the fire Monday night, hours after gaining control of the massive three alarm blaze.

Public Information Officer Brian Vaughan said the fire was caused by someone who put out a cigarette in a potted plant, which then smoldered, caught fire and ignited a natural gas line.

The Red Cross said 68 people are displaced from the fire and the organization is working on getting donations for those affected. No residents who lived in the affected buildings will be allowed back into their homes. Fifteen residents are being housed Monday night at a nearby church.

"I don’t what to do. My whole life was in there besides my kids," said resident Brynn Stroope. "I came and saw my whole house on fire."

Stroope is thankful that she and her kids are safe, but as of Monday night, her cats, dogs, and bunny were missing. 

"Nothing like this has ever happened to me…I don’t even know what to do. I’m in shock. I had a panic attack. Nothing is going through my head to be honest."

The fire forced Stroope from her home and fortunately, into the hands of friends and family giving her a place to stay. For others needing shelter, the doors of First Pentecostal Church are open.

Pastor John Burgess said, "When I first moved to this city I lived in those townhomes and so these people are our neighbors…it’s heartbreaking to see people and stand out there, and talk to people who have lost everything…we just felt to open our doors to help them in whatever way we could."

CSFD originally said there were no injuries, but later said three patients have been transported to local hospitals with non-life threatening injuries. 

Colorado Springs firefighters and police officers will remain on scene tonight to watch over the property, and restoration efforts will begin Tuesday.

Firefighters actively fought the fire and they do expect to be on the scene for the next 48 hours. Firefighters are continuing to conduct searches to confirm there were no additional injuries. 

"We’ve had one floor collapse, we’ve had other ceilings come down. Right now we have to be very methodical so we don’t add to the injury count," CSFD Public Information Officer Brian Vaughan said. 

There were at least 60 firefighters on the scene as well as several fire investigators, who are still working to determine the cause of the fire.

Many displaced residents are concerned about their pets, as some are still missing. CSFD said when responding to a fire, they open the doors of the homes so the animals can run to seek shelter. 

So far a lizard, cat and a dog have been returned to their owners. 

CSFD said at least 40 people have been displaced, but some of that number includes a family visiting, so not all of those people are confirmed residents. All those displaced are asked to go to the Pentecostal Church at 2950 Monica Drive West.

First calls came in shortly after 3 p.m., firefighters described it as fast-moving and driven by strong winds in the area. The fire burned between two buildings, burning the backs of the units.