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Rocky Mountain News (CO) – Tuesday, July 6, 2004
Author/Byline: Clayton Woullard , Rocky Mountain News
Staff writer Jerry Roys contributed to this report.
Edition: Final
Section: City Desk/Local
Page: 20A
Samantha Valdez said goodbye Monday to the little dog that saved her life.

Chico, a Chihuahua that belonged to Valdez’s sister, Rita, was killed in a blaze that destroyed 14 homes at the Corona Condominiums, 8740 Corona St., early Sunday.

Investigators late Monday had not determined the cause of the fire that erupted about 1:30 a.m..

Samantha Valdez, 20, was awakened by Chico’s yelps. Valdez then woke her boyfriend, Daniel Stepp, also 20.

“If Chico didn’t yelp,” Stepp said, “then we would’ve just laid there and died.”

Making their way through thick smoke, the couple headed toward the door. When they opened it, more smoke rushed in.

“We couldn’t breathe at all,” Stepp said.

They opened the window, preparing to jump, but Valdez couldn’t move.

“I think I really froze when I saw the other building on fire,” Valdez said.

Stepp said he had to push Valdez out of the three-story window because they were about to pass out from the smoke.

The couple, along with 24 other residents, were taken to the hospital where they were treated for minor bruises and smoke inhalation.

No one was hospitalized overnight for injuries, said Sgt. Louis Dixon, spokesman for the Adams County Sheriff’s office.

Bruce Buffington said he ran to the field across the street when his building became engulfed in smoke.

“I was really upset because I couldn’t see everybody I knew,” said Buffington, who also serves on the Corona Condominiums homeowners’ association board.

The Red Cross on Sunday set up a temporary shelter for fire victims at nearby McElwain Elementary School. Dixon said only a few families showed up and later found shelter with friends or family members.

Valdez and Stepp are staying at her parents’ home.

“I’m happy to be alive and sad to be homeless,” Stepp said.

Valdez’s sister, who owns the condo, was camping with her father in Eagle County when the fire broke out. Her cat also died in the fire.

Residents in need of help can call the Red Cross at 303-722-7474.


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