Fire safety prompts eviction of Brighton Blvd. arts colony
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