Fire leaves six homeless
April 14, 2003
Fire swept through a three-story duplex on Saturday, causing an estimated $3 million in damage and leaving six Aspen residents temporarily homeless.
The Aspen Volunteer Fire Department arrived at 515/517 Park Circle – a duplex split into three separate residences – just after 10:15 p.m. Saturday to find the rear of the building engulfed in flames. A column of smoke and sparks had also spread into the air, choking the surrounding neighborhood.
The human occupants of the duplex – including local real estate agent Rich Wagar and his family – had evacuated the building by the time firefighters reached the scene. However, a quick rescue plan was needed to save two pets left behind by fleeing residents, said deputy fire chief Orrin Moon.
“There were actually two dogs in a basement unit we were able to rescue,” he said. “Once we found out the dogs were still in the building, we broke a lower window and got them free.”
All residents, pets and their rescuers escaped injury, Moon said.
The late-night blaze quickly drew a crowd of gawkers – mostly residents of the crowded neighborhood just below the burning building. Many worried that the flames would spread to two apartment buildings and a house just a few hundred feet downhill from the duplex.
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One group of witnesses noted that there were no outward signs of smoke and fire as they drove past the home just before 10 p.m. Saturday. However, the building was fully engulfed by flames stretching between 25 and 50 feet in the air less than half an hour later.
Two fire engines, a ladder truck, a heavy rescue unit and 24 firefighters were called to the scene for the initial attack. Firefighters contained the fire just before 11:30 p.m. Saturday, but a fire engine armed by a small crew of firefighters remained at the scene overnight to monitor the smoldering building.
Though the face of the duplex remained relatively untouched, the building’s back half was completely demolished. Fire department officials estimated the damage to be nearly $3 million.
The building was turned over to local investigators at 1 a.m. Sunday. An inquiry will likely take several days to complete, and could even be delayed by another major investigation – the explosion and fire that leveled the Pine Creek Cookhouse on Thursday.
However, a preliminary investigation performed Sunday seemed to rule out arson, Moon said.
“We haven’t come to any conclusions yet – we’ve just been working the scene all day,” he said. “We haven’t got any conclusions one way or the other, but we don’t feel like it’s intentionally set.”
Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org