Fire leaves tenants homeless
An intense structure fire early Sunday morning in Snowmass Village left eight people homeless for the holidays, but one of them has plenty to be thankful for: his life.And he knows who to thank for it – neighboring tenant Tom Fritz.For a year and a half, Joe Violasenor lived at 35 N. Ridge Lane – at what was affectionately known as the “Hippie Dome.” But at about 2 a.m. Sunday, the building – and nearly Violasenor, as well – went up in flames.”I woke up at two in the morning with forty-foot flames all around me and I had to run for my life,” Violasenor said. “And by the time I got outside, the whole town of Snowmass was glowing orange.”The five-unit building was home to eight, 20-something residents, six of whom were home asleep when the fire started.”Tom Fritz, who lives downstairs, woke up literally five feet away from forty-foot flames, and ran around the whole building waking everybody up,” Violasenor said. “He’s the man, he saved all of our lives … and all he owns right now is the boxers he ran out in.”It was Fritz’s pounding on the door that awoke Violasenor’s roommate, Chris Martin, who in turn rousted Violasenor. The two shared an upstairs unit. They suffered little in the way of monetary damage in the fire aside from smoke damage to belongings that will require professional cleaning, Violasenor said.However, Fritz and two other men and a woman who lived in the downstairs units, “they lost all their stuff,” Violasenor said.”I had time to grab stuff – maybe a minute, tops – but downstairs, they had no time at all,” he said.After escaping the burning building, Violasenor and the five other residents watched as firefighters fought the blaze consuming their home.”It was a big fire, it took ’em all night to put it out,” he said. “But they did a good job. They saved everything I own and I’m thankful.”In the aftermath of the blaze, Violasenor said most of the eight displaced residents are staying with friends, though he’s not sure exactly how everyone’s faring.Violasenor, who works at D&E Snowboard Shop in Snowmass Village and for the Aspen Skiing Co., along with Martin, have found housing at the Grand Aspen Hotel.”The Skico hooked us up,” Violasenor said. “All the managers were very helpful – they broke rules to help us out.”But it’s likely that the other six displaced residents haven’t been so fortunate, he added, urging the community to help.”They could use clothes, and if anyone wants to donate money, that could be helpful too, considering that Tom has a pair of boxers and that’s it,” Violasenor said.The D&E Snowboard Shop in Snowmass Village has agreed to collect any donations for the unfortunate Hippie Dome residents.Meanwhile, Snowmass Village Fire Marshal John Mele said state investigators were at the fire scene yesterday and will release their findings within a week.”We’re still waiting for some lab analysis on some things, but it looks like it was not criminal,” Mele said. “It was just a very serious fire and sometimes that can make it difficult to determine the cause.”On Wednesday, fire officials said the cause of the blaze was of “suspicious.”When asked about the displaced residents, Mele said: “God bless those kids, because it’s hard to have a fire anytime, let alone at Christmastime.”
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