By Dillon Thomas
WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – Several residents in the Kings Mill neighborhood in Westminster are still without a permanent home after their townhome were burned in a fire on June 3.
The cause of the fire was not determined by Westminster Fire officials. However, it did burn one unit’s staircase, and the smoke spread to neighboring townhomes.
Resident Jon Looker purchased his unit more than 10 years ago. He had just landed in Mexico, with his family, when the fire happened.
“My next door neighbor texted me a picture of our house, entirely engulfed in smoke,” Looker told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.
When Looker, his wife and child returned to their home, they found it severely damaged.
“It smelled like a giant barbecue, where the main dish was plastic and fiber glass,” Looker said. “It was a total loss.”
Looker said the property was not livable, and asbestos fibers were located in a neighboring unit.
“There is no safe amount of asbestos you can have,” Looker said.
Left without a home, Looker was forced to stay with friends and family. His wife, and 2-year-old daughter, joined him.
“We are 100 percent homeless right now,” Looker said. “There is no possession worth putting any of our lives at risk.”
Looker said he knew the repairs to the units would take a long time. However, when he asked the HOA to address cleanup and repairs, he wasn’t given any timeframe.
“We have requested multiple times for a schedule of clean up, and a schedule of repairs and a schedule of when we can just move back home, and we have heard nothing,” Looker said.
Looker provided CBS4 a letter to the HOA board which asked for a timeline. The email also referred a public adjuster who could help get things started.
However, in a response provided to CBS4, an HOA official told Looker he would have to wait two weeks to present his proposal to the board. Once presented, they would then have to consider it at a later meeting.
Looker was concerned the process could take months.
“We are left just homeless, waiting and hoping, and nothing is being done,” Looker said. “We are not asking for donations, or anything like that. We really do just want to go home.”
CBS4 reached out to the HOA for comment and was referred to HindmanSanchez P.C. representing the townhome complex.
They offered a statement:
On 6/3/2018 a fire broke out in a unit within the Kings Mill Townhouses Association. In fighting the fire, an additional nine units were impacted for a total of ten affected units. Insurance carriers and emergency contractors were immediately notified. In addition to the Westminster Fire Department, numerous insurance companies and fire investigation teams have inspected the site. As a result of those inspections asbestos was detected in the originating unit as well as a few of the other affected units. The presence of asbestos resulted in the need for additional testing as part of the fire investigation. The Association and its construction contractor have continually informed the impacted owners of the status of the Association’s investigation and the owners have been advised to contact their personal insurance carriers. The Westminster Fire Department completed its report and released the site for insurance underwriting purposes on July 3, 2018. The Association is still waiting for the insurance carriers’ fire investigators to conclude their investigations and release the site. Once the site is fully released, the Association’s insurance adjuster and construction contractor are ready to move forward to expedite repairs to those portions within the community for which the Association is responsible.
The Association and its property management company consider the community fire to be a very serious situation requiring action as soon as possible, and both are sympathetic to the displaced owners. Unfortunately, neither the association nor the property management company have control over the pace of the Westminster Fire Investigator nor the insurance carriers’ investigators, which in this case took over a month and given the active investigation updates concerning the status from the fire department were delayed. The Association was advised that no repairs or action of any kind is permitted while those investigations are under way. With the discovery of asbestos in the units and the involvement of multiple insurance carriers (one for each unit in the building and for the Association), the path forward will continue to be complex and a quick resolution can’t be guaranteed. However, the Association remains committed to informing the owners honestly as the process progresses.
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.