Fire exposes lack of planning
The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen returns this weekend for some more decadent fun and indulgence, and Aspen Mountain will be open to skiing as well.Lucky us. Well, not all of us.Today, a number of the 17 residents who were displaced by Tuesdays fire at the Castle Ridge Apartments remain homeless. These working folks lived in affordable housing, meaning they dont have the means to make a seamless transition into a $2,000-per-month studio unit on the free market.The affordable-housing market is tight as usual, and the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority was scrambling this week to find units in its inventory for the newly homeless. To the authoritys credit, it did find two units in the Marolt Apartments for two families who lost their homes.Meanwhile, other victims have been staying at friends homes, and some have slept in a makeshift shelter at Aspen Valley Hospital.As bad as this fire was, we hope it will cast a spotlight on an issue the community has failed to properly address. As Housing Authority Executive Director Tom McCabe noted, The communitys ability to respond to this is not very well developed. When bad stuff happens, people are usually just out of luck.Aspen prides itself on helping other people, and a Back from the Ashes benefit for the fire victims already has been planned for next Wednesday at the Wheeler Opera House, thanks to the Wheeler and the Aspen Music Festival. Still, the lack of housing and shelter for locals in urgent need exposes an embarrassing deficiency.The situation is doubly ironic when so many trophy homes and vacation residences in the upper valley sit vacant and locked for all but a few weeks of the year.We applaud the Housing Authority, the Red Cross and the Back from the Ashes sponsors for coming to the aid of the Castle Ridge residents, but we also encourage city leaders, property managers and anyone with a spare apartment or bedroom to reach out to the victims of this local catastrophe.The Housing Authority can be reached at 920-5050, and the number to donate to the Red Cross is (888) 545-7800. Please mention the Castle Ridge Apartments fire in Aspen, Colorado when you call.