Denver apartment fire displaces 70-90 residents ahead of arctic blast

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DENVER -- Between 70 and 90 residents were displaced from their west Denver apartment complex Tuesday morning after an electrical fire broke out in the complex's utility room.

Denver Fire confirmed that calls reporting the fire at Valley Park Apartments, which is near the intersection of West 6th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard, came in just before 3 a.m. When firefighters arrived on scene, they found a heavy fire in the attic of the complex.

That fire possibly started as an electrical problem in a utility room—burning mostly in the attic.  But it destroyed two apartments below, including Tony Juarbe’s and his girlfriend’s.

"Our Christmas tree popped. It popped. The lights went out. And sure enough there was a fire or something outside. We couldn't even breathe," said Juarbe.

“We heard crackling through the walls and didn't really know what it was,” resident Ashley Coriello said. “We came out, and the second we came out, our Christmas tree lights shorted out, I started to smell the smoke and I got everybody outside.”

While only two units were destroyed and no injuries were reported, the electrical fire rendered the apartment complex's utilities useless, Denver Fire spokesperson Gregory Taft said. Taft said that means the building will be "uninhabitable" for at least the immediate future.

That forced residents to scramble come daylight to find new homes.

"Right now, we're just trying to find a place to stay the night and go to school and stuff," said Sarmiento.

“Utilities are shut off, water is shut off," Taft continued. "We are going to have to relocate all the people in that building, effective immediately.”

That's tough news considering an arctic blast is set to begin in Denver Tuesday night. The storm is expected to bring snow and temperatures in the teens and single digits, with the forecast calling for the coldest week-long temperatures the state has seen since 1998.

Firefighters were not able to offer a timetable about when residents would be allowed to return to the complex.