Fire in 2016 saw tower's residents evicted

Posted 11/26/18

The fire at the Windermere apartment complex that displaced more than a hundred residents on Nov. 17 wasn't the first — a fire in April 2016 in the complex's other tower, facing Windermere Street, …

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Fire in 2016 saw tower's residents evicted

Posted

The fire at the Windermere apartment complex that displaced more than a hundred residents on Nov. 17 wasn't the first — a fire in April 2016 in the complex's other tower, facing Windermere Street, bore many similarities.

An accidental fire, later determined to have started on or near a dishwasher, struck a fourth-floor apartment about 11:30 a.m. on April 6, 2016. At the time, the complex was named Southview Place Towers.

The fire spread to several neighboring units and took an hour to put out, according to Littleton Independent articles from the time. Four residents were treated for smoke inhalation.

Residents were unable to re-enter the building after the fire while Tebo-Orvis LLC, the building's owner, awaited the findings of air-quality tests.

More than a dozen seniors spent 10 days in a Red Cross shelter before being moved to temporary housing arranged by county officials and local charities.

On April 19, 2016, 13 days after the fire, the tower's more than 130 residents were told that management was evicting them all.

Much of the building was still habitable, according to a report prepared by an industrial hygienist and reviewed by the state health department, but the decision to evict residents was made by Tebo-Orvis, according to a city press release.

Residents were given a letter stating that the tower would be closed indefinitely for renovations.

“The fire damaged the mechanical elements of the building including the fire alarm and sprinkler systems,” the letter read in part. “Due to the extent of the damage to these systems, most of which were installed in 1972, the systems may need to be repaired and upgraded to meet today's safety standards.”

A city news release sent out on April 21, 2016 reiterated Tebo-Orvis.

“Certain parts of the building will need to be upgraded to comply with the International Building and Fire Codes,” said Littleton fire marshal Tim Stover in the release.

According to city documents obtained by the Independent, however, the tower never received a building-wide sprinkler system. Instead, two sprinkler heads in the basement were moved slightly, and a new sprinkler head was installed near elevator machinery.

City staff determined that the building's renovation wasn't significant enough to trigger the mandatory installation of building-wide sprinklers, which are required under modern fire code, and the building was allowed to stay grandfathered into 1970s-era code, Stover said last week.

The eastern tower that was the site of the Nov. 17 fire did not have sprinklers either, Stover said. He added that he did not observe any fire-code violations in the eastern tower during a walkthrough after the fire.

The Independent has requested fire inspection records for the eastern tower.

Tebo-Orvis bought the complex just months before the 2016 fire for $30.5 million, according to county records. Stephen Tebo, the company's principal, is a Boulder-based real estate magnate with a portfolio of more than 200 properties, according to his website. He is also famous for his collection of nearly 400 classic cars, including the Beatles' Rolls Royce and the hearse that carried President John F. Kennedy.

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