Cigarette ignited Aspen fire |

Cigarette ignited Aspen fire

Charles Agar
Aspen Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado ” A cigarette left in potting soil caused Tuesday’s fire that destroyed 10 units in the Castle Ridge Apartments, according to Aspen fire officials.

No one was injured in the blaze, but 17 people were displaced.

“They’d left a cigarette,” said Aspen Fire Marshal Ed Van Walraven. “And the cigarette wasn’t quite out enough.”

The two men renting unit 107, where investigators said the fire started, could not be reached for comment.

Van Walraven said the pair apparently left the apartment after smoking on the balcony, and the errant butt smoldered, sparking a fast-moving fire.

All 17 residents escaped ” one cat died of asphyxiation ” but the building was a loss, officials said.

Van Walraven said the two men were “extremely remorseful” and cooperated with the investigation.

There will be no criminal charges and the case is closed, he said.

It is up to the apartment complex owners ” a group of St. Louis attorneys ” to decide whether to file any civil litigation against the two men.

Balcony fires from lit cigarettes are becoming more and more common, Van Walraven said, “especially with people not wanting people smoking in houses.”

The two residents of the apartment were reportedly at home in the early evening watching basketball, but were away when the fire broke out at 11:30 p.m.

Fallout from the spark

Residents of the building were able to salvage what they could from their apartments on Thursday afternoon.

“There’s really nothing left of the second floor,” said Deputy Fire Chief Rick Balentine, adding that first-floor residents were able to save some of their belongings (though most were water-damaged).

The blaze moved quickly, Balentine said, and he congratulated firefighters for saving what they did. Still, the building is little more than a charred skeleton open to the sky.

Firefighters first arriving on scene struggled to loosen a cap on a hydrant in front of the building, but trucks were already pumping water and Balentine said the minor glitch did not slow down the operation at all.

“I’m really proud of my guys,” Balentine said.

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