The smoke has now cleared over Howe Mortuary & Cremation Services in Longmont. But the blaze that struck the venerable business, which has been in operation since 1898, left its mark, destroying the building and disrupting the lives of families who were already grieving.
Six bodies were reportedly inside at the time of the blaze, with funerals for five scheduled. Two of the bodies were quickly recovered. See photos, video and more below.
Photos and video obtained by 7News show the blaze at its hottest. Here are some of the images:
The fire was first reported just shy of 1:30 a.m. yesterday morning and raged for hours, with the roof collapsing around 4 a.m. By the time the sun rose, it was clear the structure was a total loss. As noted by the Longmont Times-Call, the conflagration echoes an incident from February 1978, when a fire seriously damaged the building. In that case, the blaze was deliberately set by one Steven Lee Pulec, who was ultimately tied to a series of arson episodes over a several month period. Pulec eventually pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in regard to the crimes.
Still, this previous history doesn't make what happened yesterday any easier for the families involved, or for Geoffrey Howe, the mortuary's namesake, who has posted the following on its website:
To our Families and our wonderful community of Longmont,
We are deeply saddened about the fire to our mortuary, most importantly the impact it has on the families we serve and their loved ones in their time of grief. First and foremost, our priority remains as it has always been in caring for these families and assuring their needs are cared for. We continue to assist the Longmont Police Department and Longmont Fire and Investigation.
The community of Longmont has been gracious and caring for the staff and I, as we assess the current circumstances of this devastating loss. We want to let you know, we are still here and available to serve the needs of Longmont's families in their most difficult time.
Plans are underway 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.
Our deepest appreciation to the first responders of Longmont: the Longmont Fire Department and Longmont Police Department. We sincerely appreciate your skills, diligent efforts and bravery.
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Continue to see more photos from the fire, plus a video. Continue to see more photos from the fire, plus a video. Continue to see more photos from the fire, plus a video. Here's the 7News report:
More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Christopher Padgett accused of racking up nine arson counts in three blocks."