Mystery bystander helps quash fire on roof of condo complex |

Mystery bystander helps quash fire on roof of condo complex

Naomi Havlen

Heat tape on the roof of an Aspen condominium complex caused a small fire Sunday morning, but the damage could have been much worse if a bystander hadn’t immediately attacked the blaze with a fire extinguisher.The fire was called in at 7:30 a.m. by a neighbor who saw flames at Building C of the 5th Avenue Condominiums at the south end of Mill Street.Anne Murchison, who lives in the first floor of the three-story condo, said she went outside when her neighbor called her about the fire. A man in the parking lot told her he had been walking to work when he saw smoke and asked her if she had a fire extinguisher.”I gave him the one out of my truck and he ran up the stairs and used it,” she said. Murchison was in her pajamas and a fur coat as she watched Aspen firefighters secure the scene.”Whoever he is, he gets our thanks because he did one heck of a job,” said Fire Marshal Ed Van Walraven. “He ran up there with a fire extinguisher and took care of the situation immediately.”A pipe with heat tape to melt snow runs up the north side of the building next to Murchison’s front door. The end of the pipe next to the ground was charred and partially melted, and the end closest to the roof was completely melted away. Flames from the fire had singed a wooden support beam, though Van Walraven said the damage looked minimal.”We’ve localized the cause to the heat tape, but as to what failed there, I couldn’t say at this point,” he said yesterday afternoon.The complex had a roofing company crew there on Saturday that left the heating tape coiled on the roof before leaving for the day, said Micky Spalding, the general manager of Aspen Lodging Co., which manages the complex. Van Walraven said that’s a possible cause of why the tape caught fire, but insurance investigators will also look at the scene to help determine a cause.The few residents who were in the building were evacuated by firefighters.The resident from across the street who called 911, who didn’t want to be named, said he was drinking coffee on his deck when he saw a fireball explode by Murchison’s front door and a small fire on the roof.”Over the years this area has been plagued by fires, and I’d have to say kudos for the fire department because they were here so fast,” he said.As for the anonymous bystander who ran to the roof with the fire extinguisher, firefighter Jack Simmons said he’s done the same thing in the past.”People should have one in their cars – that’s really just a rolling bomb you’re driving,” he said.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is

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