Flames engulf Aspen Glen building

By on February 25, 2014
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A fire broke out at Building Three in the Aspen Glen Apartments Monday night, sending three people to the hospital for precautionary purposes, according to Hamden Fire Chief David Berardesca.

The Hamden Fire Department do not know if the hospitalized residents were students.

The residents of 308 Aspen Glen Drive alerted the Hamden Fire Department of the blaze, which affected three floors in Building Three, according to the Hamden Fire Department.

“This fire was serious in a number of respects,” Berardesca said. “Mostly because of the life hazard that we were dealing with. We had a number of tenants in the building. Fortunately the fire alarm system notified them and they all got out without any injuries.”

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

”There was so much heavy fire there,” Berardesca said. “It is hard to really pinpoint a cause without really digging through everything.”

The department was notified of the fire at 11:07 p.m. and arrived at the scene at 11:11 p.m., according to Berardesca.

“That took them only four minutes to get there, which is just outstanding,” he said.

All visible fire had been knocked down as of 11:53 p.m., according to Berardesca. As of 12:02 a.m. Tuesday, the Hamden Fire Department determined the scene was under control, according to the National Emergency Alerts.

Twenty-three Hamden firefighters were on the scene. The final unit was cleared from the scene at 2:54 a.m.

“Our firefighters did an outstanding job and we are proud of their efforts,” Berardesca said. “There was a lot of fire in this particular incident and they did an excellent stop on the fire.”

Aspen Glen resident Joe Contini, who lived in the complex for two and a half years, had his apartment destroyed by the fire.

“I went out on my balcony and saw the flames shooting up so I picked up my dog and I ran,” he said.

Seniors Theo Siggelakis, Chris Koop, Taylor West and Kathryn LeMonda live in apartments affected by the fire.

Siggelakis was hanging out in his room, about to relax and play guitar, when he heard the fire alarm in the hallway. Siggelakis did not smell smoke and thought it was just a false alarm, he said.

Siggelakis said he put on a sweatshirt and moccasins and only had enough time to grab his keys, leaving his wallet and cellphone accidentally.

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Siggelakis said he felt pretty calm once he got outside.

“I was thinking, ‘I’m safe;’ I was checking to see if the people around me were safe,” he said. “They got us confirmation pretty quick that everybody was accounted for, very relieving, and then I went and started talking to people, see who I could use their phone to contact my parents and contact friends to pick me up so I could find a place to stay.”

David Kim, an Aspen Glen resident who moved to the complex in July, had just finished studying when he saw the fire.

“I looked outside my window and then there was flames on the side of the building,” he said. “I just evacuated everyone that I could. They said the ceiling might collapse right now, so that’s why we had to get our stuff out.. … It was crazy. … I didn’t have time to think. It was just instincts kicked in.”

The fire continued to grow as he stood outside, Siggelakis said.

“The wind blew it all around and it was hard for the firefighters to get to the hose because it was blocked by snow,” he said. “But actually their response time was very quick. They really handled it very well. I was impressed. For a huge fire, it got out rather quickly.”

Siggelakis stayed at Aspen Glen until about 1:30 a.m., thinking he may be allowed to go back to his room. He spent the night in his friend’s suite on York Hill, he said.

Many residents were displaced immediately following the fire and the Red Cross was alerted, according to Hamden Police Sgt. Michael Cirillo. The Red Cross and Aspen Glen Management took care of the approximately 25 residents from Building Three who stayed at Aspen Glen, according to Berardesca.

Hamden Fire Department does not know when residents will be allowed back into Building Three, according to Berardesca.

“There is going to be a lot of demolition involved with a good portion of the building,” he said. “A lot of folks in the building will be able to go back into the building and retrieve many of their items.”

Siggelakis went back to his room Tuesday to get his belongings.

“My apartment was minimally damaged, just some water damage, mostly in the kitchen,” he said. “I’m in the process of finding where I’m going to stay for the next week, but Aspen Glen says they could have me back in the room by Saturday, so they’ve handled it really well too. It’s a hard situation for anybody to handle, they’re really doing the best they could do. I appreciate that.”

Kim said his apartment has water damage, smoke damage and a little fire damage.

Contini, however, said it will be months before he can move into his apartment again.

“They say it is uninhabitable,” he said. “But most of my stuff, I think besides being smoky, is OK…They are going to talk to us tomorrow about possibly renting another apartment in here.”

The university offered to temporarily host students who do not have a place to stay in York Hill, according to Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan.

“We want to help those students who have been displaced because we are a student-centered university,” Morgan said. “And we want to do everything we can to help them make it through this difficult period.”

The university has space for 25 students, but as of Tuesday afternoon, only three students have requested housing.

“We expect to hear from more students as the day goes on,” Morgan said. “As students return to their units and find that either they can’t get in or there is too much water or smoke damage for them to live there.”

There are 443 units in the entire Aspen Glen complex, according to Alex Stanco, a worker at Aspen Glen. Stanco estimates about 65 people live in Building Three.

Senior Emily Ott, who also lives in Aspen Glen, responded to a woman who was evacuated from the building.

“My friend called me and we ran to the porch and saw [the fire] and immediately grabbed all our coats and boots and any blankets and ran outside,” Ott said. “When we ran out we heard people screaming. It was terrifying.”

Senior Andrew Wells said his fire alarm went off even though he did not live in the building.

“We went outside and we saw the smoke,” Wells said. “We walked toward the apartment, there were fire trucks everywhere. It looked like the second and third floor of the apartment were burnt out.”

Aspen Glen would not comment on the fire.

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