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Blaze Ruins Condo Building In Snowmass Village

Blaze Ruins Condo Building In Snowmass Village

A blaze that began on Wednesday morning has left an entire seven-unit building at The Willows condominium complex in Snowmass Village uninhabitable, according to fire officials.

Officials reported that no one was physically harmed in the incident. The blaze occurred in Building D, located two streets north of the Snowmass Mall. 

As of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Chief Scott Thompson said the building was still standing, though the roof had collapsed. He said some fire was still burning inside the building and that RFFR would set a “fire watch” to monitor the scene through the night.

Thompson said firefighters first attempted to fight the blaze from inside the building and then withdrew from the structure less than two hours into it because the roof began sinking. Firefighters then fought the blaze from outside the building and worked to protect neighboring structures.

He said firefighters successfully prevented the fire’s spread to other buildings, one of which was only 6 feet away from Building D. 

“It was very tense for a little while, but they saved Building C,” he said.

RFFR — which serves Basalt, Snowmass and surrounding areas — received a call regarding the fire at 9:42 a.m., according to a news release issued by Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District, which assisted. After arriving on the scene, RFFR personnel called on emergency responders throughout the Roaring Fork Valley for help.

In total, 47 responders from 10 entities running from Glenwood Springs to Aspen sent personnel to The Willows’ fire. The response included five fire engines, two ladder trucks, one rescue truck, ambulances and command vehicles, according to the release. 

Thompson said at one point, firefighters were pumping 3,750 gallons of water per minute to fight the blaze. Upon arrival, he said, firefighters had to remove snow covering a fire hydrant they needed, which hampered the response, as did other issues. 

“It's an enclosed space, so it's hard to get at. It's high up in the air so we had to put the ladder truck up. These condos are on a slope, and we have deep snow all the way around them,” Thompson said. “It kind of hamstrings us, and then the fire hydrant on the road above. We had to dig it out just to be able to use it.” 

Fire investigators will examine the scene on Thursday morning, according to Thompson. He said the fire appears to have begun in the attic but the source is otherwise unclear.

Thompson could not provide an exact number of residents in Building D who had been displaced. The Snowmass Village Police Department and the Red Cross were not available for comment as of press time.

Lost her home 

Cheryl Koehne, a Building D resident whose unit was destroyed in the fire, said she had heard from another resident that smoke alarms in the building did not sound an alert. She could not provide the other resident’s name. 

Koehne said she learned about the fire while she was at work and then hurried home. She said she spent a large portion of the day watching it from the Big Hoss restaurant at Snowmass Mall. 

She said the Red Cross sent her $350 for temporary shelter at a hotel and was working to assign a caseworker. She said she has already managed to arrange a place to stay through a local friend until June. After that, she has no clear plan for housing. 

Koehne said she bought her unit in 2001 and has lived there ever since. At the time of the interview, she had not yet spoken with her insurance company. She worries she will have to continue paying mortgage payments on a unit that no longer exists while struggling to pay rent in the Aspen market.

“My payments were really low, but I can't afford to rent here. And until (the insurance claim) is settled, I won't be able to buy anything else. So I don't know what I'm gonna do,” she said.

Koehne, who works for Sport Obermeyer in the Aspen Airport Business Center, said she won’t consider moving downvalley because she cannot stand the commute. In a pinch, she said, she would rather move back to her home state of Texas.

Koehne had no pets. Her dog passed away in 2022, and she hasn’t gotten a new one because she has been traveling and working through a period of hardship for her immediate family, she said. 

“I just started looking (for a dog) again, but something was telling me the time is not right yet. God kept me from getting a dog because it probably would be dead in there,” she said.

Koehne said she had completed a series of renovations on her unit last year, including new tiling, a hot tub, a fireplace and a treatment for her ceiling.

“I just did an incredible interior remodel — all these things I've been wanting to do and I finally had the money to be able to pay someone to do it,” Koehne said, adding that she had previously completed a large portion of the remodel herself.

She said fire officials may allow her back in the structure on Thursday, when she can begin salvaging belongings. Her unit sustained smoke and water damage, and the roof collapsed in part of it. She said she hopes some of the watercolors she inherited from her deceased aunt are savable. 

Through all the loss, however, she said she has been amazed by the outpouring of support she has received from community members and friends. 

“I have a great circle of friends here that have been super supportive,” Koehne said. “My phone has just been blowing up. I'm very touched by everybody who’s reached out to me and their kindness. We have a great community here. I don't want to go downvalley because I will leave my community.”


By: Austin Corona| Aspen Daily News I March 7, 2024

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