Aspen Alps fire sparks fight in court |

Aspen Alps fire sparks fight in court

Charles AgarThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Two insurance firms are suing a local contractor, plumber and security company they claim committed negligence by causing the March 2007 fire at the Aspen Alps condominiums. In a complaint filed Tuesday in Pitkin County District Court, New York-based Vigilant Insurance Corp. and Colorado Casualty Insurance Co. allege that workers with Bishop Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning started a fire at Aspen Alps unit 503 on March 8, 2007, but failed to report it.The suit claims that workers either with Bishop, security company Foremost Response or contractor Call John also had covered smoke detectors in plastic so that emergency officials were not notified.John Salm, owner of Call John LLC, also was named as a defendant in the suit. He declined comment Thursday. The lawsuit claims that at 10:30 p.m. on the night in question just hours before the fire broke out a security guard with Foremost Response spotted smoke and, assuming it came from a fireplace, simply opened a window to vent the building. Foremost Response also is a defendant in the suit. Another security guard returned to the building at 11:50 p.m. and reported everything was secure, then at 1:40 a.m. saw heavy smoke coming from unit 503 and dialed 911, according to court papers. Aspen firefighters arrived at the unit at 1:52 a.m.An official with Grand Junction-based First Response denied the claim.We responded accurately, we responded well, and we have records to support that, said J.J. Sutton, owner of Foremost Response. We saved probably very large amounts of continued damage and the lives of the people in that building.Sutton said he will fight the lawsuit.Our name and our reputation is at stake, he said.The blaze broke out in the early morning hours of March 9, and witnesses said flames shot 30 feet into the air.Crews evacuated 11 people from the building, but no one was injured.The fire burned deep within the walls of the 1960s-era condo building. Flames gutted the first two floors of one condo block, then skipped the third floor where residents were sleeping. The fire then burst through the fourth floor and the roof, according to firefighters.Crews had the blaze under control by early morning on March 9, but the flames rekindled at 12:45 p.m. that afternoon, and fire crews returned to the scene to douse the flames once again in daylight.Fire officials estimated the damages at more than $1 million.The two insurance companies paid out on the Aspen Alps claim, according to court papers, but attorneys for the insurance companies are seeking more than $100,000 in damages from the two contractors and the security company. (The precise claim will be proven at trial.)