Asbestos being removed from condos hit by fire |

Asbestos being removed from condos hit by fire

A major clean-up and construction project, including asbestos removal, at a fire-damaged Aspen condominium complex could keep the building uninhabitable until at least November.

Crews are busy tearing out damaged materials from the Aspen View Condominiums on Midland Avenue, where a fire on June 30 destroyed two apartments and left most of the other units with extensive smoke and water damage.

The fire began on a third-floor balcony and engulfed the building’s attic until it was extinguished by the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department.

According to the Fire Marshal Ed Van Walraven, the blaze was definitely caused by a person, but whether it was intentional or accidental is unknown. The department is still waiting for tests of substances found at the scene to be returned from a laboratory, said Deputy Fire Chief Orrin Moon on Friday.

Residents of the 18-unit apartment complex have had to vacate their apartments and were told recently to move out all of their belongings while the building is repaired.

Larry Swift, a five-year resident of the building, said smoke from the attic forced its way down through all of the building’s nooks and crannies, leaving smoke residue and a strong odor everywhere.

In addition, asbestos was found in the ceiling of some of the units. The “popcorn” ceiling installed decades ago, with its knobby stuccoed style, incorporates asbestos to keep it from flaking. Workers in the area where asbestos has been found are wearing suits and masks to protect themselves from the carcinogen.

Once the asbestos is removed, damaged wooden supports in the attic will be replaced, as will the building’s alarm system, which had been in the attic. The units on the building’s third floor have been almost entirely demolished, with nothing but wooden supports separating one unit from the next.

“We’re still not settled on a contractor to build everything back,” Swift said. “But we’ve had several contractors guarantee us that we can be back in our apartments by Thanksgiving.”

All of the units but three were occupied on the night of the fire, Swift said. Residents have either found temporary lodging with friends or with short-term leases, or are living in local hotels for the time being.

Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance generally covers the cost of lodging and storing furniture while the construction work is under way, he said.

The owner of the unit where the fire started, Barney Oldfield, faces drug-related charges after police allegedly found 6 pounds of marijuana and other paraphernalia in his apartment while investigating the fire.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is]

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