Blaze guts Mine Dumps unit |

Blaze guts Mine Dumps unit

Aspen firefighter Kevin Smiddy attacks a fire at the Mine Dump Apartments through a doorway Wednesday afternoon. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

ASPEN Fire gutted an upstairs unit at the Mine Dump Apartments on Wednesday, forcing Aspen City Councilman Jack Johnson to evacuate his first-floor unit.There were no injuries.The fire broke out shortly after 3 p.m. in a deserted second-floor apartment Johnson used for storage. Johnson said only his unit and another in the building at the back of the complex were occupied.

The Mine Dump Apartments are slated for demolition in coming months to make way for townhouses.”It’s a vacant apartment that hasn’t been rented for years, and I was storing some stuff up there,” Johnson said. “I ran some errands and came home, and I was reading, and the police knocked on my door.”Johnson said he was in the upstairs apartment earlier in the day but has no idea how the fire started, adding that there is no kitchen in the unit.Aspen police were first on scene near the base of Aspen Mountain and Lift 1A, according to officer Brian Nichols. Aspen firefighters responded with hose trucks.

Volunteers doused the blaze in a matter of minutes, according to Rick Balentine, deputy chief of the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department.”These old buildings are susceptible to large fires,” Balentine said, adding that newer buildings are held to higher code standards and have sprinkler systems.Balentine said officials do not know the cause of the fire, and the investigation will continue.Water damage to the downstairs unit was not bad, Johnson said. He’ll stay with friends until he moves into a new apartment July 1.

“I wasn’t looking forward to moving that stuff anyway,” Johnson joked. “I always wondered what it would be like to not have anything.”After covering the blaze, Aspen Times photographer Paul Conrad was treated for smoke inhalation at the Aspen Valley Hospital. He was released and reportedly doing fine. Charles Agar’s e-mail address is

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