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LYONS, Colo. –

A home in rural Boulder County burned to the ground Friday morning after the volunteer firefighter who lives there accidentally ignited the house with a blowtorch, officials said.

The blaze broke out about 8:30 a.m. at 3955 Conifer Hill Road near the town of Allenspark.

Boulder County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Rick Brough said the owner, Erik Akia, was using a gas blowtorch to try and thaw pipes under the house in a crawl space when he accidentally caught the building on fire.

Officials initially thought a controlled burn got out of control.

Akia’s wife and four children were inside the house at the time, but escaped unharmed. Akia and his wife were taken to a hospital in Estes Park because of possible smoke inhalation, Brough said.

The fire spread quickly through the house, which was constructed of hay bales and mud, Brough said.

A work shed next to the house also caught fire and burned to the ground, he said.

Akia won’t face any charges, according to the sheriff’s office.

“It’s non-criminal, because he set his own property on fire,” Brough said.

Jeff Kolen, a firefighter with the Allenspark Fire Department, confirmed Akia is a volunteer with the department. He declined to say how long Akia has been a firefighter.

Kay Lane, who owns property near the site of the fire, said news of the blaze hit close to home.

“Everybody in an area like that gets so close,” she said.

She said Akia and his family live in the rural area throughout the year, and that getting through the mountain roads can be difficult.

“Usually, we can’t get into our cabin this time of year,” she said.

Sheriff’s officials said snow from Thursday’s blizzard hampered efforts to reach the fire.

Snow plows had to be sent in front of firefighters from Allenspark, Lyons, Indian Peaks and Left Hand Canyon to clear a path to the blaze, officials said.

It took firefighters 25 minutes to reach the house, Brough said.

Archived comments

Yep, I was watching the big plume of smoke thinking it must be a structure.

Controlled Burn?Under feet of snow?Somehow, I doubt it.

3/27/2009 9:53:10 AM

Burn ban?


3/27/2009 10:16:31 AM

Burn ban was lifted yesterday.


3/27/2009 11:38:54 AM

“Controlled Burn? Under feet of snow? Somehow, I doubt it.”Seriously – this is the time to burn slash piles.Providing, of course, they aren’t right next to your house!I’ve got two I’ve waiting to torch off, and will get to them this afternoon.Might not get another chance if the weather turns back towards our endless summer.


3/27/2009 11:40:38 AM

uh, oh, this is gonna be “hot”, I can tell…

3/27/2009 2:20:02 PM

“The fire spread quickly through the house, which is constructed of hay bales and mud.”

The big bad wolf could have huffed and puffed and blown that fire out.


3/27/2009 2:23:23 PM

Sounds like he was in the crawlspace – no snow (hopefully) in there!


3/27/2009 2:37:27 PM

You just can’t make this stuff up!


3/27/2009 2:49:50 PM

the “house” is made of hay bales and mud and this bright light has a lit gas torch trying to thaw pipes?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? AND he’s a volunteer fireman…. HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


3/27/2009 2:53:09 PM

If they outlaw torches, only volunteer firefighters will have torches!



3/27/2009 3:06:19 PM

glad not to live in Lyons. what do the volunteers do when somebody’s home is on fire? roast wieners and drink beer? this guy has to be Barney Fife’s grandson… has to be.


3/27/2009 3:19:05 PM

Didn’t DC just do a story on one of these marvels of green living (hay & mud homes)? One thing they forgot to mention is that evidently they go up like a tinderbox. I’m glad the family got out okay.


3/27/2009 3:35:26 PM

If he was an AIG executive, they’d give him a performance bonus …


3/27/2009 3:36:39 PM

Didn’t he ever hear about the pig that built a house out of straw??

Jeeez.That’s Algorism taken to the extreme. Not that I don’t feel sorry for the guy, but ………….. so much for green living. Good he didn’t burn up his family or he would have been a candidate for a Darwin award.


3/27/2009 3:50:34 PM

“The fire spread quickly through the house, which is constructed of hay bales and mud.”

Interestingly, I was told just a few days ago that these houses built out of hay bales were not only remarkably well insulated but also remarkably fire resistant because the hay is so tightly packed and it is sealed (apparently by the mud). So much for that theory.


3/27/2009 4:07:43 PM

Simple Experiment:

Build a small wall out of hay bales and mud.

Build the same size wall out of wood 2×4’s and plasterboard.

Light both on fire.

Let us know which one burns up first.


3/27/2009 4:20:45 PM

Volunteer firefighters are the funniest!When I was in high school one ran through a plate glass door trying to get to a fire.


3/27/2009 4:27:38 PM

This is my in-law’s house and I happen to have been up here to see this whole tragic event take place. I have never seen this kind of thing occur, and now, having witnessed it first hand, I can say it is truly devastating. Have a little compassion. They lost everything they owned. Everything. By the grace of god there were no serious injuries or loss of life.

BTW, part of the house was straw bale and stucco (concrete) construction. That was actually the last part to burn. The majority of the structure was typical stick frame like most of you live in. It was gone in a relative heartbeat.

This was a tragic accident. Preventable, probably. But it really doesn’t matter now.

Instead of casting aspersions, give you kids a hug and be thankful it did not happen to you.

Oh, and check the batteries in your smoke detectors. I will never forget what I saw this morning.


3/27/2009 5:39:15 PM

What caught my attentionis the remark made by a law enforcement officer, saying it`s not a crime to set fire to your own property see right here…

Akia won’t face any charges, according to the sheriff’s office.

“It’s non-criminal, because he set his own property on fire,” Brough said.

I do believe if Brough checks the revised statutes and court logs there are many instances of charges being filed for similar occurrences whether accidental or not and that is not directed to suggest charging your family sylas my prayers go out to all of you.

On the contrary it is merely meant to say Brough needs to brush up on ?his?her? knowledge of the revised statutes.


3/27/2009 6:10:53 PM

I initially did not read all the comments when I first posted. Now that I have I am shocked and saddened by the thoughtlessness and down right mean remarks people have posted.

I guess it’s all fun and games until tragedy strikes close to home, eh? Yeah, real smug and witty bunch.

My nieces and nephews are waiting for their parents to return from the hospital so they can get shoes and jackets. Everything, repeat, everything those kids had is gone. Including the only home they have known.

I wouldn’t wish this on any of you and I know for a fact they wouldn’t either.

Go look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I am the kind of person who laughs at other peoples tragedy”. Feel good? These are your neighbors, folks. Do you have the fortitude to say the drivel you have written in a public forum to your neighbors in person?

This is absolutely shameful.


3/27/2009 6:27:24 PM

Posted by Strt56: “glad not to live in Lyons. what do the volunteers do when somebody’s home is on fire? roast wieners and drink beer?”

Posted by spankymcgee: “Volunteer firefighters are the funniest!”

Yeah, those volunteer firefighters sure are a bunch of bozos.Who the hell do you think works on and puts out the majority of fires in Boulder County?It’s the volunteer agencies that saved Sugarloaf, Old Stage, Wonderland Hills, Flagstaff, etc.We’re also called in for mutual aid by Boulder Fire on structures and to cover their district.That’s just medical.It’s also the volunteers who perform most of the mountain search and rescue.So, what do you two dorks do for the community? Let me guess, vote for Obama and Will Toor.


3/27/2009 6:39:16 PM

Sylas,screw all these idiots.I wonder how many times Erik got called out in the middle of the night to answer a fire or medical call?My guess is that Erik will get an incredible amount of support from his fellow firefighters,both from Allenspark and other departments.The fire community sticks together.


3/27/2009 6:48:37 PM

“”It’s non-criminal, because he set his own property on fire,” Brough said.”

A perfect example as to why cops are not lawyers/prosecutors.

That statement is utterly false. Many criminal arson cases involve burning one’s own property.

18-4-105. Fourth degree arson.

(1) A person who knowingly or recklessly starts or maintains a fire or causes an explosion, on his own property or that of another, and by so doing places another in danger of death or serious bodily injury or places any building or occupied structure of another in danger of damage commits fourth degree arson.

(2) Fourth degree arson is a class 4 felony if a person is thus endangered.

(3) Fourth degree arson is a class 2 misdemeanor if only property is thus endangered and the value of the property is one hundred dollars or more.

(4) Fourth degree arson is a class 3 misdemeanor if only property is thus endangered and the value of the property is less than one hundred dollars.


3/27/2009 8:16:58 PM

“It’s non-criminal, because he set his own property on fire,” Brough said.

Gee, I think I’ll burn my house down also…it’s worth less than I paid for it ten years ago!


3/27/2009 8:19:04 PM

Okay, isn’t it about time for someone that knows them to start a bank account to accept money and make space available for furniture/household item donations to help these neighbors of ours?

They really need help from the community.


3/27/2009 10:59:00 PM

“It’s non-criminal, because he set his own property on fire,” Brough said.


I guess this is the answer to being upside down on your mortgage if you don’t qualify for Obama’s bail out.


3/28/2009 3:16:28 AM

At the very least, it’s a creative approach to job safety.

The drug companies do it-load us with pharmaceuticals that make us sicker with something else somewhere down the line so we have to take another one of their products. The cigarette companies do it-addict us to their products. Why shouldn’t fire fighters?


3/28/2009 3:18:16 AM

fourth degree arson is if you andanger anothers property with a fire you started. Insurance fraud is another issue if you start a fire to collect money.

Regardless, this is not a laughing matter. The calous remarks from somebody about how funny volunteers are is way off base. 22,000 out of 24,000 fire departments in the US are volunteer or combination. Spanky is probably chair of the “save the tofu Molerat” league in Boulder versus volunteering for something where he may actually touch a real human life.


3/28/2009 7:20:49 AM

For those of you who feel free to knock volunteer firefighters- I am one, my spouse is one, most of my friends are either ff’s or in one way or another support the dept.The dept is as varied in age, gender, political beliefs and religions as one can get in this relatively homogenous society.And personally I would rather spend time with those people than with most on the planet- the people on the dept are good hearted, generous to a fault with their time and compassion and commitment. I have seen many many examples of selflessness under circumstances that would test most people’s patience (drunk drivers who crash cars, unprepared hikers, etc).If you think ff’s just sit around deptartments drinking coffee and waiting for calls to come in you are wrong.When a pager goes off in the middle of a snowy night, the ff’s drag themselves out of a warm comfy bed, put on freezing cold heavy gear, get themselves to a scene and do what must be done no matter how long it takes. And they do it with almost no compensation whatsoever- maybe a nice travel mug at the holiday party or the occasional community picnic.They give up multiple nights and weekends to stay trained, and run out on birthday parties, family dinners, dates with their significant others when the serious calls come in. So for the people with the smart mouths, I say keep it to yourself. It’s hard enough for the morale of ff’s without you yahoo’s spouting off. Remember, when it is your turn to call 911 and someday you will, these are the people that will show up and save your butt.


3/28/2009 8:54:52 AM

I am a volunteer firefighter on the western slope and a member of the family tho suffered this loss. I have stood in the dark and snow many times and seen the sorrow on the faces of the people who have lost everything.Short of war nothing affects peoples lives as much as the loss of a home.I am VERY thankful everyone got out ok.Life safety is the number one priority for the fire service.Firefighters are human too ( though they do superhuman things ) and make mistakes like the rest of you.My dept. has been paged out to save my house, as well as the homes and business of my friends and neighbors.I am sad to read the postings on this page, people seem to think this is an chance to post jokes and smart a.. comments.This is the time to come together and show support for people in our world who have suffered a life changing loss.We are packing up clothes to send (the kids have no shoes or winter coats )and are thinking of going over the devide to help Erik rebuild next summer. Please people, show some compassion.Someday this could happen to you.As for all you smart out there, when your house catches fire, well… who will you call?


3/28/2009 9:36:25 AM

“fourth degree arson is if you andanger anothers property with a fire you started”

Re-read the statute posted. Repeat if necessary until you comprehend it.

Here’s the part directly applicable to this case, digested for your reading level:

“A person who knowingly or recklessly starts … a fire … on his own property … and by so doing places another in danger of death or serious bodily injury … “


3/28/2009 11:03:41 AM

Attempt to Thaw Pipes Ignites Indiana Fire / 01-19-2009 10:45:58 AM.

The Effort to thaw pipes blamed for Thomasboro fire

Fire Chief Paul Cundiff said Brian Doty was using a torch to thaw pipes in the crawl space at Doty’s single-story house at 506 Meyer St. …

N.H. fire marshal: don’t thaw pipes with open flame

CONCORD â New Hampshire Fire Marshal William Degnan is warning residents not to use open flames to thaw frozen water pipes because that creates a fire hazard …

Man uses torch to thaw pipes, starts fire. (28-DEC-06) UPI NewsTrack

BEL ALTON, Md., Dec. 27 (UPI) — A Bel Alton, Md., man scorched part of his home while trying to use a propane torch to thaw frozen pipes.

Man sets fire to home while thawing pipe

Jan 23, 2008 … The homeowner said it wasn’t the first time he had used a propane torch to thaw a frozen pipe, but this was his first fire. …

Danger Associated With Thawing Pipes

Firefighters warn thawing frozen pipes can be dangerous. … exerted from torches or heat guns can cause insulation surrounding the pipes to catch on fire.

Homeowner using propane torch to thaw frozen pipes sparks fire

A fire in Attleboro sends one man to the hospital. Flames broke out at 14 Lakeshore Drive Saturday morning when the homeowner tried to thaw out frozen pipes …

Frozen Pipe Leads To House Fire In Irwin –

An Irwin man trying to thaw a frozen pipe in his home apparently started a house fire. Several fire departments responded to the fire on Chestnut Street …

Pipe-thawing blowtorch lights Rockland apartment fire

Jan 31, 2007 … Flames struck buildings in Rockland, Ont., and Ottawa’s Bells Corners neighbourhood last night, including one started when a man tried to …

City of Madison Fire Department

The City of Madison Fire Department reminds residents: Never try to thaw frozen pipes with a blow torch or other open flame; the pipe could conduct the heat …


Who knew it could be so dangerous ??


3/28/2009 12:01:51 PM

dear kemo-wasabi, what is your personal stake in this issue?You quote the law yet have no direct knowledge of the situation.Hmmmm.Better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and confirm it.


3/28/2009 12:13:56 PM

Dear Fireman,

What makes you think anyone needs a “personal stake” to comment on a public blog?

I do quote the law, contrary to the demonstrably false statements made by the Sheriff and repeated by this newspaper.

Perhaps in your expert fireman knowledge you can tell us how this statute would not apply in this case, or how it does apply in other cases, cases where you don’t have a “personal stake” in the event?

“A person who knowingly or recklessly starts … a fire … on his own property … and by so doing places another in danger of death or serious bodily injury … “

I suppose you could argue that it wasn’t “reckless”, that the average person — or in this case the average fireman — wouldn’t be aware of the inherent danger of attempting to thaw pipes with an open flame.

Or do laws only apply to “other” people when they recklessly start fires that endanger the lives of others?

If this wasn’t someone you know personally, do you honestly expect us to believe you fireman wouldn’t be joking around the firehouse about the foolishness of using a torch to thaw frozen pipes ?

Do try to be honest in your answer. Your heroic image is at stake.


3/28/2009 12:28:47 PM

I think Kemo is late for the “save the tofu molerat” meeting with Spanky


3/28/2009 12:36:11 PM

TFA = spokesperson for Volunteer Firefighters everywhere


3/28/2009 1:10:12 PM

to be sure, any open flame in a structure is a hazard.This is why the building codes have many regulations concerning fire codes.Yes, we firefighters do laugh at people who do stupid things. It makes it easier to cope with the sadness we feel because unlike most people we see first hand the true level of devastation fire causes in peoples lives.I can laugh because I have wept. Using a torch to thaw pipes is less dangerous than your commute to work. You do that every day.


3/28/2009 1:20:15 PM

fireman states: “Using a torch to thaw pipes is less dangerous than your commute to work. You do that every day.”

Wow! Good quote.

Lets see if the local Fire Chiefs , the International Association of Firefighters, National Volunteer Fire Council, or the International Association of Fire Chiefs endorse your view, promoted in a public forum, as a volunteer fireman.



3/28/2009 1:43:44 PM

Stupid is as Stupid does.


3/29/2009 11:21:22 PM

fireman on March 28, 2009 at 1:20 p.m. wrote:

“Using a torch to thaw pipes is less dangerous than your commute to work. You do that every day.”

That’s got to be the stupidest quote ever posted by someone claiming to be a fireman.


3/30/2009 1:01:21 AM

Our thoughts and support are with Erik and his family. Frequently I read the comment section and am amazed at how stupid and callous some of these posters are. Usually I dont know the people involved in the news stories, but this time I do.

If any of you even slightly knew Erik, you would realize that few better people exist on this planet. I know him very well and I can assure you that all of the negative comments made about him are so completely wrong and off base and that the people that sat down and typed them should be very very ashamed of themselves. I am ashamed of them.


3/31/2009 10:02:34 AM

“Using a torch to thaw pipes is less dangerous than your commute to work. You do that every day.”

That’s got to be the stupidest statement ever made by a supposed fireman.


4/5/2009 2:49:38 PM

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