1988: Two fires ravage Aspen residences | AspenTimes.com

1988: Two fires ravage Aspen residences

In celebrating the 125th anniversary of The Aspen Times, we are printing a story or two from each year the newspaper has existed – 125 historical selections in 125 days. This series is in conjunction with the Aspen Historical Society. Two fires ravage Aspen residencesBy Scott CondonAn Aspen house and some units in an apartment building were heavily damaged in separate fires this week. But all occupants escaped with their lives when awakened in the wee hours of the morning.The first fire occurred on Monday Feb. 29 at a house at 727 E. Hopkins. The four men renting the house escaped injury when they ran out a back door after one of them heard the flames and alerted the others at about 5.35 a.m. according to occupant Larry Radelia.”Mark Skluzacek heard it first and started yelling ‘Fire, Fire'” Radelia said.Two men had been sleeping in the basement and the other two were on the first floor of the one-story house owned by Ralph Melville.”I want to go on record as commending the fire department” Radelia said.Quick responseThe Aspen Volunteer Fire Department responded within just a few minutes and controlled the flames to the first-floor living area.The fire station is located [on Hopkins] three blocks away.The house suffered structural damage and the renters had some of their belongings destroyed.”We had thought of going back in and grabbing some stuff, but we opened the back door and smoke rolled out,” Radelia said.Tim Cottrell, public information officer for the fire department, said the first fire fighter was on the scene within 3 minutes after receiving the report.Eventually 30 fire fighters, two pump trucks and one serial truck were on the scene.Blame it on leap yearThe cause of the fire was determined as an electrical short in a lamp, according to Cottrell.Radelia blamed the mishap on Leap Year. He said he and his roommates did not have renters’ insurance, but learned a lesson through the incident.The four men have not been able to return to the house and are hunting for sleeping quarters with friends.Ironically, Radelia said, he and his roommates were going to have to seek new quarters this spring anyway since the house was scheduled for demolition.Apartment fireThe occupants of at least seven units at the 18-unit Cottonwood Apartments had to find new accommodations Tuesday night after a fire tore through one wing of the complex.John Schwartz was passing by the complex at 124 W. Hyman at 1:23 a.m. when he spotted flames, according to Cottrell.Schwartz began running from door to door alerting the residents while someone else alerted authorities.Cottrell said he was among the first fire fighters to arrive at the scene, just minutes after the call.”It’s chaos when you get there and people are running all around and you don’t know who’s out and who’s not even home.” Cottrell lamented.