City officials crafting ordinance aimed at curbing fires at construction areas |

City officials crafting ordinance aimed at curbing fires at construction areas

A city ordinance is in the works that is aimed at cutting down on potential fire hazards at construction sites, calling for stiffer regulations on parking and heating mechanisms.

A task force of city building officials and emergency personnel has developed several suggestions for the ordinance in the wake of at least one large blaze that leveled a partially constructed Aspen home last December.

Although firefighters thoroughly extinguished that fire at 1225 Riverside Drive in the wee hours of the morning, several neighbors said if the fire had erupted in the daytime, emergency vehicles may not have been able to pass through the street packed with construction trucks.

The ordinance may create new requirements for construction parking and traffic mitigation that contractors could consult before traffic becomes a problem. Tim Ware, head of the Aspen Parking Department, said the plan would allow for emergency vehicles to enter a construction site as well as cut down on conflicts with neighbors parking in the area.

Ware said that in residential areas construction workers often make trips out to their vehicles every two hours to move cars or wipe chalk marks off of tires.

“The parking situation is one aspect of safety we feel we can really get our arms around in some graceful, effective way,” said Stephen Kanipe, chief building official with the city.

But one regulation in the potential ordinance may be more difficult to enforce, that being limitations on heating units at construction sites. Portable heaters placed in construction sites and left on overnight are a frequent cause of fires. That is the suspected cause of a small blaze in April 2001.

A fire that burned a large hole in the first floor of an incomplete house at 133 Robinson Rd. may have been started by a temporary heater, said the building’s owner and architect, Tim Semrau, now an Aspen City Councilman. Fire officials theorized that the first floor was smoldering for some time, and did not damage other areas of the house because of fire-proofing techniques, like fire-proof drywall and concrete floors.

While the city’s fire protection ordinance would like to include requirements on the type of heaters that are used at sites, automatic shut-off valves and burn-proof hoses, Aspen Fire Marshal Ed van Walraven must still report to the City Council on what new technology is available.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is]

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