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First on the scene

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Good eyes kept a massive garage fire last week from turning into a bigger ordeal as local firefighters got on site even before a call to 911

By Gene Sears

Response times. A fire department, and the townspeople they defend, live or die by them. Judging by last week’s amazing catch, the Fort Lupton Fire Protection District may own a new record in that category.

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    While delivering backpacks for the Blessings in a Bag program to Butler Elementary School, an eagle-eyed fireman noticed smoke rising from the neighborhood west of the school. Locating the source on the 100 block of West Hill Court, firemen began battling the blaze just as it exploded, managing to contain the inferno to a single structure. Nestled among some of the city’s largest homes, the oversized six-car garage may have been a total loss.
    All in a day’s work, according to FLFD Fire Chief Phil Tiffany, visibly proud of his firefighters who took the initiative and likely saved multiple adjoining houses.
    “They saw a little bit of smoke coming from the area, so they drove over,” Tiffany said. “They found the fire and immediately started fighting it.”
    So quick were crews to respond, the homeowners hadn’t noticed the fire until the trucks appeared.
    “They looked out the window and said, ‘Why are there firefighters in our driveway?’” Tiffany said. “So they were right on scene, they arrived before the first 911 call.”
    Despite the rapid response, the crews found their hands full as the fire accelerated.
    “They got there quick, but the fire was moving pretty quickly,” Tiffany said. “They started pulling hose and began their attack on the fire. When I arrived maybe two minutes later, the fire was already through the roof.”
    When the fire breached the original structure, it started to jeopardize the house at 161 Cahill Place, across the block to the south. Fearing the potential for spreading, the district brought in some help.
    “We called for mutual aid from Platteville, Brighton and Frederick,” Tiffany said, as the crews went to defensive mode.
    “We learned right when we arrived on scene that no one was inside, everyone was accounted for,” Tiffany said. “So we continued attacking. It was burning internally, so we stayed defensive on the outside, attacked it and protected the other structures. That was our key strategy. We try and keep it in the building of origin. We were able to successfully do that.”
    Lost in the fire was the structure and its contents, one item being a new Subaru with 30-day tags still visible in the rear window. At this point, the FLFD has no reason to believe the fire suspicious in nature, and the cause is pending investigation.