ALLENSPARK, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – A fire has heavily damaged a community residence, kitchen, conference room, library and lounge at the historic St. Malo Catholic retreat, but spared the historic church that Pope John Paul II visited during his 1993 trip to Denver.
Archdiocese of Denver spokeswoman Jeanette De Melo said the fire was under control at noon in the lodge and had not spread to the guest rooms. The lodge is located about 200 yards behind the church and is used year-round.
De Melo says there were no guests Sunday night because there was a power outage over the weekend and all guests were sent home. Staff and residence were evacuated and there were no injuries reported.
Strong wind gusts were making the firefight difficult all morning and huge chunks of ash were floating into the air. Seventy firefighters from 14 different fire departments were battling the blaze and air support was requested. Firefighters have had to drive several miles back and forth to bring in water because the location is in a remote area.
A resident in the nearby town of Allenspark said they lost power on Saturday and it hasn’t been restored since then. The six people who were at the retreat had been using the fireplace for heat.
Employees like Brenda Brown watched the fire in horror.
“This is piercing me right through my heart,” Brown said.
Brown has worked the front desk for more than 20 years and said it is a holy place that draws people from around the world.
“It’s going to be very devastating. We have groups due to arrive here at the end of the week,” Brown said.
“It’s kind of heart-breaking and scary for residents around here to have a fire with all the winds we’ve had and we’re still out of power,” a resident said.
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. So far damage has been estimated at more than $1 million.
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