Apartment residents ‘lost everything’
June 12, 2008
ASPEN Displaced residents of the Castle Ridge Apartments, which was gutted by a fire late Tuesday night, were trying to come to grips with their situation on Wednesday.Red Cross volunteers set up an aid station at the nearby health and human services building, and officials with the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority were scrambling to find housing for the 17 displaced people.I couldve lost everything, but I have my son and my wife and well go on, said Quay Reinert, who lived in a downstairs unit adjacent to where officials believe the fire started.And as wet snow fell on the charred skeleton of the building in the early morning after the fire, Emily Titera looked up at the second-floor apartment in hopes of spying her skis or other valuable possessions.She had only the clothes on her back.Thats the worst part, I think, Titera said.The porch of unit 107, near the middle of the building, was burned completely, and all along the row of apartments, the metal roof was twisted off and open to the sky.Titera said she was in town when her roommate called to tell her about the fire, and said she watched as the apartment complex shed lived in for 15 months went up in flames.I lost everything, said Christina Monaco, Titeras roommate.The only thing shell miss is some heirloom jewelry she hopes to search for later, adding, I dont think diamonds burn.Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Monaco has lived in the area for two years. She has family in Boulder and Denver and stayed the night with a friend, but said shes not sure where shell go from here.And shes not alone.Housing officials on Wednesday were able to find two apartments in the Marolt apartments for the two families who lost their homes in the fire, but Red Cross volunteers and city officials are asking for any help to get roofs over peoples heads.We need apartments desperately, said Rochelle Obechina, a volunteer and member of the national response team with the Red Cross.Obechina said she needs to find three studio apartments and five two-bedroom units.These are all employees, Obechina said. The need is great.Five victims of the fire slept in a makeshift shelter at the Aspen Valley Hospital, Obechina said, and others are staying with friends or couch-surfing, but securing long-term housing is not easy.Its the same situation she faced following a 2006 fire that left 40 Carbondale residents out in the cold.The number one issue is to get something over their head, Obechina said of the handful of people still displaced. Theyre in shock; theyve lost everything.Scott March checked in at the makeshift Red Cross station on Wednesday afternoon and said he scurried out of his apartment with only a cell phone when he heard a knock on his door and saw flames on Tuesday night.We all lost everything, March said. But the building period starts now.Help is flowing in, March said whether in the form of a pizza donated by local restaurants or outpouring from friends and he was encouraged.Everyones come together to help us, March said. Im just blown away.Hell stay at a friends house in Aspen Village until he can find something more permanent.He was sad to lose his collection of watches, but March said he is covered by insurance.Everythings up in the air right now, March said. But weve all got our lives and thats whats important.We were just counting up whats available on our website to see roughly what we have available for rooms, said Tom McCabe, the housing authoritys executive director.McCabe is concerned, however, that the city has no plan for when people are displaced.The community doesnt have a way to address it, McCabe said, adding that there have been plenty of times when seasonal workers have showed up in Aspen with no housing and found themselves homeless during a blizzard, for example.The communitys ability to respond to this is not very well developed, McCabe said. When bad stuff happens, people are usually just out of luck.Victims of the Castle Ridge fire need more than just a place to crash, McCabe said, but even in the short term, they wont find space in area hotels. Those rooms are quickly filling up for the upcoming Food & Wine Classic.Its a good thing for us to look at as a community, McCabe said.And McCabe was asking for any help on Wednesday.If you have an apartment or a room that we could use, please call us, McCabe email@example.com
City housing officials are seeking help for victims of the Castle Ridge Apartments fire. Anyone with an available room or apartment can call the housing authority at (970) 920-5050.Donations of clothing and other items are being accepted at the North 40 Fire Station next to the Airport Business Center on the outskirts of Aspen. Call the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department at (970) 925-5532 to find out what’s needed.To make a financial contribution, contact the Red Cross regional office at (888) 545-7800 (or online at http://www.redcrosswesterncolorado.org) and specify that the donation is for the Castle Ridge Apartment incident.Red Cross officials also confirmed that executives at Alpine Bank are setting up a relief fund for victims.