Fire ravages building in condo complex

       Residents of 12 units at the Stepping Stones condominium complex were forced from their homes this week after a fire raged through the western end of one of its several buildings Sunday afternoon, Aug. 9.

City Council member Scott Hente (red shirt) talks with fire investigators Aug. 10, the day after fire raged through the west end of the building at the Stepping Stones condominium complex.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The location, 2268 Stepping Stones Way, is off Glenn Street, west of 19th Street, near Uintah Gardens.
       The cause and exact source of the fire are not known, although fire investigators have ruled it accidental, determining that it started beneath the deck of one of the units, according to Lt. Julie Stone, a Colorado Springs Fire Department spokesperson.
       An initial suspicion that the cause was a barbecue grill has been ruled out.. “Unfortunately, because of all the damage, we can't sift through and see what started it,” she said. “We can tell there was debris, leaves and things. But we'll never be able to tell the ignition source
       The only injury was to a 63-year-old woman, who was treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation.
       Building damage is estimated at approximately $1.5 million. The westernmost six condos in the building suffered “major fire damage,” Stone said, with all 12 having to be evacuated for safety reasons.
       Residents from all but 1 of the 12 units were able to move in with family. For the one, the Red Cross had to find temporary housing through the city's Office of Emergency Management, Stone said.
       Some pets were unaccounted for during the fire, but afterward only a cat remained missing. Some birds that had belonged to one resident died in the blaze, Stone said.
       The fire was reported at 3:47 p.m. Aug. 9. The first responders were the Westside's Station 5 at 3:52 and Station 3 at 3:53 p.m. They found “several units on fire,” Stone said.
       A wind blowing at the time “did contribute to a fast moving fire,” she said. “However, several factors kept this fire from engulfing the entire complex, including a fast response by the Fire Department, an adequate number of resources dispatched early and an aggressive fire attack by first arriving firefighters.”
       The fire crews quickly aimed water from major hoselines onto the parts of the building that were burning and also not burning, and this was key in preventing the fire from spreading, she said.
       Eventually, 9 of the city's 20 fire stations responded, she said.
       After controlling the flames, fire crews remained on the scene “throughout the evening working on stabilizing the building, searching for pets and extinguishing hot spots,” Stone said.
       Since the fire, the stricken building has been isolated with a temporary chainlink fence. Stone said the city has ordered the most charred part of the building - the two units at the far western end - to be torn down because they are “completely unsafe.” The actual demolition will occur at an undetermined date, after the insurance company for the Stepping Stones' home association gets a chance to make its own investigation, she said.
       The Fire Department has determined that the six units at the building's eastern end could ultimately be inhabitable again. However, two of those six would need new roofs and, in some cases, replacement of drywall and trusses, she said.

Westside Pioneer/press release