Fire strikes Holiday House housing
November 7, 2007
ASPEN Fire ripped through a downtown Aspen Skiing Co. affordable housing facility on Wednesday.No one was injured, but it took Aspen volunteer firefighters nearly two hours – from around 5:20 until 7:15 p.m. – to contain the blaze that left a thick haze of smoke over the neighborhood between Paepcke Park and Shadow Mountain.The Holiday House, which sits on West Hopkins Avenue, was slated to open before the holidays and would have housed as many as 60 seasonal employees for the winter, Skico officials said.The Holiday House Annex next door survived the fire intact.The incident is under investigation, but fire officials suspect that construction work sparked the blaze.The site is a mix of buildings dating back as far as the 1950s, and renovation workers from Mod Systems Structures were there Wednesday, Skico officials said.Construction workers, who didn’t want to reveal their names, said they were just finishing up their day on the second floor when the fire broke out. Workers saw smoke and tried to fight the blaze with fire extinguishers, but the fire spread quickly, and one worker said he “barely got out.”Rick Balentine, deputy chief of the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department, was one of the first on scene.Firefighters checked the building for people, but the flames were too thick and floors had become brittle, so firefighters did a “surround and drown,” Balentine said. Crews soaked the structure with water and foam for two hours, as thick, black smoke filled the night sky.”It’s a total shock,” Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said. “We’ve been planning this project and working on it for more than two years.”The loss is a blow to Skico staffing, but the company will regroup and find necessary housing for its employees, Hanle said.”We’re not going to not run lifts or not open facilities because of this.”Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.