LONGMONT, Colo. (CBS4) – Investigators say a fire that destroyed a 115-year-old mortuary in Longmont has been ruled arson.
The fire broke out before dawn on Tuesday at Howe Mortuary, located at 439 Coffman Street. It’s been a family business for four generations.
“I (saw) a huge ball of fire go up and I said, ‘Oh, my God this is a fire!’ ” said Longmont resident Bob Lugan.
Seven bodies set for funerals were lost in the fire. Only one body was removed from the facility without being damaged.
“Fire Investigators have determined the fire started in a dumpster adjacent to the building. This dumpster was directly beneath an overhang containing an exhaust fan outlet which allowed the fire to quickly spread into the attic and through the roof,” Jeff Satur with Longmont police said in a statement.
A Boulder Fire Rescue employee was seen running up to the burned building and tried to get inside. He had a close family member whose body was inside the building being prepared for funeral services. The man was overcome with grief and it took five firefighters to pull him away from the building.
One deceased that was in a casket that had a funeral Tuesday and they were able to get that person out of the building.”
Chemicals for the mortuary business stored inside the building re-ignited the fire which made it difficult to get under control. The roof collapsed which made the building a total loss.
“As you can see it was a very difficult fire and the building appears to be a complete loss,” said Satur.
Howe Mortuary has been in the community since 1884 and has become a landmark in Longmont.
“It’s sad to see it go down like that because it’s a landmark,” said Lugan.