Transformer Fire Spreads To Home Infested With Bedbugs

Firefighters Had To Be Decontaminated

A fallen tree is being blamed for causing a Wednesday morning fire that spread from a transformer pole to a home infested with bedbugs.

Firefighters were called to the home, located on Franklin near East Colfax Avenue, at about 6 a.m.

AirTracker 7 was overhead as sparks flew from the transformer pole to the home and then gradually spread along the attic.

"Apparently a 14-inch tree branch, a large-diameter branch, broke, brought down the power lines coming into the structure. The wires impacted the house. The fire ensued within minutes," said Denver Fire Department spokesman Phil Champagne. "We had a tremendous fire in the attic. The attic had a lot of storage."

Firefighters arrived within minutes but were faced with large flames because of all the storage and debris in the building.

It took about 45 minutes for 36 firefighters to extinguish the blaze, and then afterward, some firefighters had to be decontaminated, Champagne said.

"We're very concerned about our exposure to some bedbugs in the property as well," Champagne said. "Asbestos was in there as well in the attic insulation … so we were concerned about that, too."

Champagne said encounters with bedbugs aren't that uncommon.

"Sometimes it's more common than people think," Champagne said. "We confront this on a regular basis."

If West Metro firefighters are sent to a certain address, they put on extra protection.

"The first time we've had to red-flag for bedbugs is 2010," said firefighter Ed Gaffrey, from his station house in Lakewood. "I never thought bedbugs would be an issue like they are now. That's for sure."

Now they put hazardous materials suits on before they go to the red-flagged addresses, to try to minimize an increasing health issue.

"It seems to span every socio and economic group. There's no real rhyme or reason to. It's cropping up everywhere," Gaffrey said. "We hear about it a lot more. It definitely doesn't occur as much as worry that it will. But it's definitely becoming a growing problem."

The alternative to the extra protection, Gaffrey said, is the possibility that you'll bring the tiny, blood-sucking parasite back to the firehouse bunk bed, typically shared by three people every week.

Denver firefighters will now clean their uniforms, after their brush with the buggies Wednesday morning, Champagne said.

As the power line was brought down, there was a loud explosion that woke neighbors and caused everyone in the home to run out. No injuries were reported from the fire.

Eight people who live in the home, which serves as an apartment building, are displaced. Three surrounding homes are without power until service can be restored.

Champagne said the fire could have quickly spread from one house to the next because of their proximity.