Fire rips through Aspen Alps condominium |

Fire rips through Aspen Alps condominium

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times
ALL | Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Aspen volunteer firefighters battled a major blaze at the Aspen Alps condominium complex in the early hours Friday morning. Damage is estimated at $1 million.The building was evacuated and no occupants reported any injuries.The cause is under investigation.”It was scary,” said one witness who wished to remain anonymous. He reported flames shooting 30-feet above one block of units. “We’ve been up all night.”Residents awoke to the smell of smoke and blaring fire alarms at 1:45 a.m. Friday. The bottom floor and roof of a four-story building was on fire when two engines and one aerial ladder truck from the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department arrived at 1:52 a.m.With assistance from Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District, which provided one engine and four firefighters, some 23 Aspen volunteers and officers had the blaze contained by 5 a.m.”Nobody was injured. The fire department was spectacular,” said Pam Cunningham, the general manager at Aspen Alps. She said three units were affected, but would not comment further.The fire centered in the 500-block of the Aspen Alps compound, a few hundred yards up a winding private drive on the east edge of the Little Nell slope.Kelli Bohl, a security guard with Foremost Response, the hotel’s hired security service, was patrolling the area early Friday, and was the first on the scene, according to Richard Newman, a Foremost Response operations manager.Security officials evacuated 11 people from building 500. Police and fire officials gave the OK for people to stay in the 400-block building, Newman said.Aspen fire officials said the fire started in the bottom floor, in a unit under renovation.Flames burned the first two floors, then skipped the third floor where residents were sleeping, and burst through the fourth floor and the roof. Exterior walls are charred but sound, and there is a gaping hole in the roof.”There’s not much left of the inside,” Newman said.All evacuees were relocated to other units in the compound by 3 a.m.”We’ve ruled out its being suspicious,” said Ed Van Walraven, Aspen’s fire marshal.Van Walraven is working with insurance company investigators to determine the cause.”We’ve had three major fires there,” said Aspen Fire Chief Darryl Grob. One was just next door to the 500-block.

Long after reporters and photographers had been shooed away Friday morning, security guards at the scene of the fire again heard alarms and saw smoke coming from the basement unit.Newman said the doors of two units were warm, and he considered opening the door to fight the fire with an extinguisher, but said that could have caused the fire to spread.An Aspen fire official on site called in support, and a second call went out at 12:45 p.m. to Aspen volunteers, some who showed up in ski boots to put out the flames again.”We hate rekindles,” Van Walraven said, but they’re not uncommon.The rekindle was caused by a few stray embers that caught a mattress and furniture on the bottom floor, Van Walraven said.”The problem was the fire was in the walls and ceiling,” Grob said. After such a complex fire, firefighters “super-saturate” the affected area and strip walls to trace every stray ember, but it is not unusual for some ember of the fire to stay alive deep within a wall area.The building was built in 1965, and while Van Walraven said that wasn’t the cause of the fire, he said the older construction contributed to the fire spreading as it did.”The firefighters did one hell of a job,” Van Walraven added. They found the source of the fire and put it out quickly.A security detail will spend the night in front of the burned-out units and make sure another fire doesn’t break out.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is