Littleton apartment complex damaged in fire deemed uninhabitable

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LITTLETON, Colo. -- A large apartment complex for seniors damaged in a fire last month has been deemed uninhabitable. On Monday, building managers told residents who have been displaced since the Nov. 17 fire that they would be unable to return.

One person, resident Michael Mitchell, was killed in the fire at The Windermere apartments in Littleton. On Sunday, Mitchell's family told FOX31 and Channel 2 that they had started a fundraising effort to help people displaced by the fire.

Officials said Monday that there is an asbestos spill inside the complex. They said critical pathways inside the building will be established no later than Friday so residents can go inside and collect their belongings.

The state determined that belongings inside the complex do not have asbestos fibers. However, people who live on the west wing of the first floor or in unit 233 will not be allowed back into their apartments.

All residents will be given pro-rated rent back for November and an additional $500.

According to a press release from the city of Littleton, the decision to deem the complex uninhabitable was based on the results of air quality tests and physical inspections.

"While initial 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," the statement reads.

The city said the aforementioned areas will need to be cleaned and abated. It also said repairs are required on elevators and systems controlling ventilation and fire control.

“There is a lot we know,” said Littleton Chief Building Official Bill Tracy in the statement. “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.”

Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman said the city is giving $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."

"Almost all of the residents had renter's insurance but they are incurring incidental expenses and deductibles that must be met before their policies kick in," the city's statement said.

Additionally, officials said nine of the 130 units are considered a "total loss."

“I don’t really know how to explain it. We’re getting screwed over and over and over," resident Gudrun Peyton said.

On Tuesday, Arapahoe County officials said a fund had been established to help those displaced by the fire. Donations to the Arapahoe County Foundation Fund for Displaced Seniors are being accepted online. Checks can also be mailed to the Arapahoe County Foundation: 5334 South Prince Street, Littleton, CO 80120. Please make checks payable to "Arapahoe County Foundation" and include "The Windermere Apartment Fire Victims" in the memo.

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