By Karen Morfitt
LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – Weeks after a fire forced dozens of seniors out of their homes at the Windermere Apartments in Littleton, management says the building is no longer safe to live in. Every one of the nearly 200 seniors will now have to find a new place to live.
“I was pretty optimistic. I figured it was only a little smoke damage and everything would be okay,” Mary-Louise Tulloss said.
One person was killed, and 13 others injured.
Now more than three weeks later, officials say the smoke damage and asbestos have made the building uninhabitable. Tullos and her partner Jon Olsen are living in a hotel with the help of their insurance.
“It has a nice little kitchenette. There’s like two forks and one bowl. We’re finding there are a lot of little things you need to get by,” Olsen said.
For Olsen it is a bit of déjà vu.
He was living in the Windermere’s sister building when a fire forced those residents to find a new place to live in 2016.
“I just always feel that one way or another I will prevail. With this happening again, I have to tell you it’s beginning to feel like the last straw in the camel’s back,” he said.
They know, like many of their neighbors, finding a new apartment will be difficult.
In addition to the tight housing market and sky-high rent prices, many are living on fixed incomes, have health issues or rental histories that will only add to the struggle.
“We are fortunate that we are younger and more resilient. The older you get the less resilient you are. The more health and fatigue really stress you out and make it harder.”
Management is going to give residents a pro-rated rent for the month of November, and as soon as they sign the lease termination, they will give those residents $500.
After announcing the building was uninhabitable, The City of Littleton released the below press release detailing the decision and what role they will play moving forward:
Based on results of air quality tests and physical inspection of The Windermere Building, 5800 South Datura Street, city fire and building officials have determined the building is not safe for residents to return in the near future due to damage from the November 17 fire. While initial air testing showed no contamination, micro vac testing mandated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found asbestos clinging to surfaces such as walls, stairwells and air ducts. These areas will need to be cleaned and abated along with extensive repairs required on the elevators, ventilation and fire control systems.
“There is a lot we know,” said Littleton Chief Building Official Bill Tracy. “But more importantly, there is a lot we don’t know. The building can’t be maintained in a safe manner while further evaluation, repairs and testing get underway.”
“Our primary focus is the health and well-being of the residents who can’t return to their homes,” said Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman. “We are so appreciative of the assistance provided by Love Inc., the American Red Cross, Arapahoe County, city staff and other agencies who continue to assist those who are displaced. The City of Littleton is providing $7,500 each to Love Inc. and the American Red Cross to help reimburse these great organizations for their costs in helping residents with housing, food, transportation, clothing, and other expenses,” Brinkman added. Almost all of the residents had renters insurance but they are incurring incidental expenses and deductibles that must be met before their policies kick in.
Most residents will have the opportunity in the next few weeks to retrieve the rest of the items in their home. However, nine of the 130 units are considered a total loss. Property management will submit a plan to the city that describes how and when residents can gain access to their units to remove the remainder of their belongings.
Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.