House demolition might have caused rat infestation in Denver neighborhood

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DENVER -- A south Denver neighborhood is dealing with a lot of unwanted guests after a vacant home was bulldozed.

The property on East Dickenson Place near East Iliff Avenue and South Colorado Boulevard reportedly sat vacant for 30 years before demolition crews took it down about a month ago.

“Trashed. I mean there were weeds,” neighbor Keith Urstadt said. "And it’s been empty. No activity whatsoever.”

Or so he thought.

Since the demolition, Urstadt said the neighborhood has been overrun with rats.

There is no proof they came from the construction site, but he said in the 12 years he’s lived down the street, he has never seen a rat until now.

“When you disrupt the Earth, where do they run? Away. Now they’re shoving them through a live community,” he said.

He said each night he sees groups of 15 to 20 of the rodents running through the streets.

“They’re coming through our yards, our homes,” he said, “This is a health hazard safety issue.”

Urstadt said the rats have dug under his fence and tunneled under his bushes. Not only has he had to fix the holes, but he’s also spent about $250 on rat poison and traps.

“In the last seven days, I killed at least 50,” he said.

But some of the damage they caused can’t be fixed with money.

“They destroyed a bunch of stuff I had in storage that I had of my daughter,” he said.

His daughter died in 2011 while she was in college. Urstadt kept her last belongings in containers in the garage.

He said the rats got into the garage, chewed through the containers and destroyed the irreplaceable memorabilia.

The still-grieving father became emotional when explaining what the rats did to her belongings.

“It’s not fair. But I had to throw it away. Can’t keep it,” he said.

Now, he’s hoping his story will encourage Denver to change the rules when it comes to demolition.

“They need to put a stipulation before they start any excavating or demolishing,” he said. “They need to go in there and fumigate the place and kill the rodents in there before the start excavating.”

Denver’s Department of Environmental Health said it will send staff to the neighborhood on Wednesday to check out the problem and to coach neighbors through the infestation.

The city advises anyone with significant damage from infestations stemming from construction to contact an attorney if they wish to recoup their losses.

Some homeowners' insurance policies might also cover expenses.

Anyone experiencing problems with rats should remove all possible food sources. If the rats have nothing to eat, experts say they should move on within a few days.