Blaze Burns Bodies, Mortuary in Colorado

May 29, 2013
One occupied casket was removed by firefighters while others remained in the mortuary.

May 28--LONGMONT -- An overnight fire destroyed the Howe Mortuary building at Fifth Avenue and Coffman Streets, leaving a smoldering hulk that firefighters continued to watch Tuesday.

Police and fire crews were dispatched to the scene about 1:22 a.m., and flames were showing when firefighters arrived at the mortuary and crematorium building at 439 Coffman St.

"We haven't seen the interior, but the attic was fully engulfed," acting assistant fire chief Kevin Blumenshine said early this morning. "The building's roof collapsed."

The cause of the fire is not yet known and is under investigation, but Longmont Police Cmdr. Jeff Satur said it appears the fire started inside or outside the northwest corner of the mortuary building before spreading to the roof and attic area.

"The building appears to be a complete loss," Satur said, adding later that "there's a lot of debris they've got to clear out" as part of the investigation as well as the cleanup of the surrounding area.

No one is believed to have been inside at the time of the fire, and no injuries have been reported.

However, there reportedly were as many as six bodies inside the mortuary at the time of the fire, Satur said.

Firefighters were able to remove one, which was in a casket, Satur said, but the others remained inside as firefighters continued to douse the interior and watch for flareups from hot spots before attempting to get farther inside the structure.

"They did what they could do" about getting to those bodies as soon as possible, Satur said. He said all those remaining bodies had been removed from the structure by mid-morning.

Satur said five Longmont fire trucks, along with a truck from the Frederick-Firestone Fire Protection District, responded to the blaze.

Mortuary owner Geoff Howe said in an interview that his staff has reached out and spoken with all of the families who had loved ones in the structure at

the time of the fire.

"We are trying to keep our focus on the families," he said.

Howe also expressed his appreciation for "the outpouring from the community, their care and concern." He said he can't respond to all of those calls and messages but wants to thank those who have sent them.

Asked if he had learned any more about a possible cause of the fire, Howe said: "It's too early in the investigation."

In a message Howe Mortuary posted later Tuesday morning on its website -- -- Howe and his staff said that while "we are deeply saddened about the fire to our mortuary," most important is "the impact it has on the families we serve and their loved ones in their time of grief."


and foremost, our priority remains as it has always been in caring for these families and assuring their needs are cared for."

Howe Mortuary's website message said: "Plans are under way to provide a facility in the interim, as we start a long process to reconstruct our facility and continue to provide to the highest standards in funeral services."

At least one visibly distraught member of a family with a body inside the mortuary showed up at the scene on Tuesday morning, with police and fire officials escorting the man away from the building. The man's identity was not immediately available but he was wearing a blue Boulder Fire Department T-shirt.

Any families with questions about pending services or the situation at the mortuary have been asked to call 303-776-2434. That number takes callers to the mortuary's answering service.

Copyright 2013 - Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Colo.

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