Retired N.M. assistant chief hurt in blaze that destroyed his home

Santa Fe's former Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal Ted Bolleter ran through the fire as other family members escaped, according to his daughter


Brian Sandford
The Santa Fe New Mexican

SANTA FE, N.M. — A retired assistant fire chief's longtime home was destroyed by a blaze Friday, and both he and a responding firefighter suffered burns, the Santa Fe Fire Department said.

Eight people were in the house on Osage Circle — five of them children — when a wind-blown ember from a fire pit apparently set wooden patio furniture ablaze, said former Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal Ted Bolleter's daughter, Savannah Bolleter-Baca.

Family members had planned to make s'mores around the fire pit, she said.

"My brother saw the fire through the kitchen window, and he informed my dad," Bolleter-Baca, also of Santa Fe, said Saturday. "My dad didn't know how big it had already gotten, and at that point my dad, brother and sister-in-law had heard what sounded like gunshots. It turned out to be two propane tanks in the backyard that exploded."

Bolleter, 55, opened the two-story home's back door and the fire came rushing in, she said.

"He screamed to get the babies; there were two dogs in the house as well," she added.

While family members escaped, Bolleter ran through the fire and around the back of the house, suffering second- and third-degree burns to his hand, feet and face, his daughter said.

He was taken to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, then transported to the University of New Mexico Burn Center, she said. He remained there Saturday.

"He is OK; he is stable," Bolleter-Baca said. "He's just resting and in a lot of pain."

The fire department received a report of the blaze around 6 p.m., Chief Brian Moya said. Four engines, two ambulances and about 25 firefighters responded, with some staying on the scene until 1 a.m. Saturday.

Battallion Chief Eric Gonzales said firefighters didn't know if anyone was inside the burning home as they arrived, and one suffered burns to his shoulders, chest area and neck during an "initial push" into the blaze.

He was treated on the scene, Gonzales said, and later at Christus St. Vincent for injuries that were not life-threatening. He since has been released. Gonzales declined to identify him other than to say he's a senior firefighter in his mid- to late 30s.

Genevieve Armijo said the Bolleters have been her neighbors for years, and they'd renovated the home recently.

"I was sitting in my living room and I kept hearing something pop," she said Saturday about the blaze a day earlier. It sounded like firecrackers or gunshots, she added.

Armijo said she looked outside to see ambulances, and "when I saw the fire popping out those windows, it was terrible. It was like a movie. You see, but you don't believe it."

She described the Bolleters as animal lovers who are still looking for their pet cat following the blaze.

"They're a very loving couple — a very good family, very good with their kids," Armijo said. "His backyard was an oasis for kids. ... I feel so bad for them."

Bolleter-Baca said her mother, Jo Ann Bolleter, already had talked with an insurance company.

"The house is going to have to be rebuilt," she said. "There is no saving the house."

In the meantime, she said, she's taking in family members displaced by the fire — likely including her father after he's released.

Bolleter-Baca estimated her parents had lived in the house 30 years, and it has been in the family at least twice that long.

Ted Bolleter also had longevity with the fire department, working there more than 20 years, his daughter said.

The blaze hits especially close to home for the department, Moya said.

"I haven't even had time to process everything," he said, adding he planned to visit Ted Bolleter later Saturday at the burn unit.

Bolleter-Baca said her family is in shock.

"We're just trying to figure out how to go about the next steps," she said. "There were six people living in that house who have nothing left. My family lost everything. The fire engulfed the house so quickly."

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(c)2022 The Santa Fe New Mexican

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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