Soldering work ignited destructive blaze, Aspen fire marshal says
Aspen Times Staff Writer
A soldering operation at a construction site in the Aspen Business Center near the airport caused last week’s fire that resulted in $750,000 in damage, the Aspen fire marshal said.
The blaze, which was reported shortly after 10 p.m. on Feb. 18, probably smoldered for hours after construction workers left for the day before erupting into the flames that destroyed about half the structure. Eight units are planned for the building, with one-, two-, and three-bedroom condominiums being refurbished by developer Greg Hills for sale on the free market.
Aspen Fire Marshal Ed Van Walraven said the fire began in the ceiling of a basement-level mechanical room, where a leftover hot spot from a soldering operation on copper pipes that day ignited.
The fire smoldered in the ceiling before turning into flames that moved up a shaft carrying pipes from the basement. Once in the attic and roof, the fire spread quickly.
Firefighters gained full control over the blaze a little before midnight, although sheets of plastic covering large portions of the structure made visibility difficult. Seven fire engines and 30 firefighters responded. No one was injured.
Van Walraven said fires caused by soldering work can be prevented if a worker checks thoroughly to make sure all hot spots are out with a fire extinguisher, and then keeps watch over the area for at least 30 more minutes to make sure nothing is smoldering.
“It could have been prevented, probably with a little more diligence,” he said. “This fella did what he thought he needed to do, but he didn’t get all of the spots.”
Van Walraven added sometimes fires can erupt suddenly even though a worker was diligent. Last July a fire erupted for the same reason inside a wall in The Aspen Times. Van Walraven said the person soldering those pipes was careful about putting out hot spots, but added accidents do happen.
“We’re trying to get the word out to really check work when using a torch,” he said. “The best way to prevent this from happening is to stick around and make sure nothing is ignited in the area being worked on.”
[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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