Fire safety prompts evic­tion of Brighton Blvd. arts colony

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kieran Ni­chol­son

In the af­ter­math of the fa­tal Oak­land, Calif., ware­house fire, which killed 36 peo­ple, Den­ver of­fi­cials evicted about a dozen peo­ple Thurs­day, in frigid tem­per­a­tures, from a build­ing on Brighton Boule­vard.

Den­ver po­lice and fire­fight­ers went to 3553 Brighton Blvd., a do-it-your­self art and mu­sic space where about a dozen peo­ple were re­sid­ing.

“Po­lice knocked on the door and asked if they could come in,” said John Gross, who leases the space and has been re­sid­ing there. “They said they wanted to talk about Oak­land. They wanted us to be safe.”

A short while later, Den­ver fire­fight­ers showed up and car­ried out an in­spec­tion, find­ing elec­tri­cal and in­su­la­tion is­sues on the prop­erty, Gross said.

“An in­spec­tion by fire pre­ven­tion tech­ni­cians re­vealed nu­mer­ous se­ri­ous fire code vi­o­la­tions,” the Den­ver Fire De­part­ment said. “An or­der to com­ply was is­sued, stat­ing that all sleep­ing units needed to be va­cated im­me­di­ately.”

The two-story brick build­ing is home to “Rhinoceropo­lis,” a work and gath­er­ing space for artists and mu­si­cians. The build­ing, how­ever, is zoned in­dus­trial, Gross said, and peo­ple should not be re­sid­ing there.

Fire­fight­ers posted no­tices on the door, and the peo­ple in­side were or­dered to va­cate about 5 p.m., when the Den­ver tem­per­a­ture, with the sun set, was in the sin­gle dig­its and drop­ping.

The city did of­fer im­me­di­ate hous­ing as­sis­tance to those who were dis­placed.

“Ev­ery­one has some­where to go,” Gross said. “We’re stay­ing with friends.”

Gross, who lost two friends in the Oak­land “Ghost Ship” ware­house fire, said he un­der­stands the is­sue at hand.

“I’ve been think­ing about this all the time, deal­ing with the loss of friends,” he said.

Den­ver build­ing-code em­ploy­ees will go through the struc­ture Fri­day af­ter­noon, Gross said. He ex­pects the is­sues to be cor­rected promptly.

“In­di­vid­u­als from nu­mer­ous city agen­cies will meet with the build­ing owner (Fri­day) to dis­cuss next steps, and those with be­long­ings in the build­ing will be al­lowed back into the build­ing briefly, un­der the watch of a fire pre­ven­tion tech­ni­cian, to col­lect the re­main­der of their per­sonal items,” the fire de­part­ment said.

As res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment mush­rooms along Brighton Boule­vard just north of down­town, in the River North Art District, known as RiNo, Gross hopes the build­ing’s zon­ing can be changed from in­dus­trial to res­i­den­tial.

Ware­house lease holder John Gross ex­its into the cold as tech­ni­cians en­ter Thurs­day. Joe Amon, The Den­ver Post

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