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Silverton fire causes power, internet, cell outages

Posted at 1:31 PM, Dec 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-23 15:31:20-05

SILVERTON, Colo. (AP) — A fire that destroyed a historical building in a small mountain town in southwestern Colorado over the weekend led to power, internet and cellphone outages and took more than half of the town’s stored water to fight, officials said.

The fire in Silverton, which was reported at about 10 p.m. Saturday, took nearly 17 hours to extinguish in sub-freezing temperatures and used so much water that city officials asked residents of the small mountain town to voluntarily conserve water for a couple days until storage tanks could refill, the Durango Herald reported Monday.

Initially, “there was no way to get the word out,” to the town’s 400 residents, said John Sites, Silverton’s director of Public Works.

Patrons at a brewery who spotted the fire were unable to use their cellphones to call 911 due to the outage. Fortunately, the brewery had a landline

The fire damaged a power line and CenturyLink line that run through the alley behind the gift and souvenir store that was destroyed, said San Juan County spokeswoman DeAnne Gallegos. Power was out for about six hours as outside temperatures dipped as low minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 Celsius).

Other wireless providers rely on CenturyLink’s line, so they were out of service as well.

Gallegos wrote notices to town residents and delivered them door-to-door, she said.

Gilbert Archuleta, chief of the Silverton-San Juan County Fire and Rescue Authority, said a crew of about 16 firefighters and two engines initially responded to the fire.

“We thought we had it under control, but then it jumped into the ceilings and burned through the roof,” he said. Additional help was called.

The fire was under control at 6 a.m., but Silverton’s fire crews continued to put out hot spots until 4 p.m. Sunday, Archuleta said.

Internet and cellphone service were restored early Monday to the community about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Durango.

The cause of the fire is unknown. Foul play is not suspected, Archuleta said.