Update, March 8: The Denver Fire Department said the body of the second missing person was found with help from cadaver dogs. It was near where the first body was found, in an area where much of the building had collapsed. No one else is unaccounted for.
A building under construction in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood caught fire Wednesday afternoon, killing one person.
The structure at 1833 Emerson St. was completely engulfed in flames and was a three-alarm fire, according to the Denver Fire Department.
Witnesses at the scene have reported hearing explosions, and Denver Fire Department spokesman Greg Pixley told Denverite there were reports that some construction workers jumped from the building.
One person was found dead at the scene, Pixley reported at a 4:40 p.m. press conference. One person remained unaccounted for.
One person was critically injured, one firefighter has mild to moderate injuries and four people were treated for smoke inhalation, Pixley said at a 1:30 p.m. press conference. He also told press that the fire began in wood materials on the third floor and that more than 40 vehicles were damaged or destroyed.
“Any time you have a construction site with exposed wood — we all know what it can do when it’s heated up,” Pixley said. “… The fire took off quite rapidly.”
Pixley told Denverite that close to 100 firefighters reported to the scene. He also called it one of the worst fires he’s seen and said the heat could be felt from 300 feet away. That heat has affected some adjacent structures.
During the press conference, Pixley said there was an “active rescue” in the medical building to the south of the construction site, which also caught fire. An additional four buildings nearby were affected.
“As far as the heat goes — a fire with that volume is very significant,” Pixley said at the press conference. “… Anytime you have that amount of heat that is producing that amount of BTU, any other product that can catch fire will start to create its own energy and could actually ignite, and that’s what we saw in the adjoining building to the south, that’s what we saw in a lot of the cars were around. They weren’t next to the building but they were close enough to the building that the heat continued to build up to the point that they caught fire.”
As of the 1:30 p.m. briefing, Pixley could not say when the construction site was last inspected, but said “there’s a comprehensive collaboration between the building department and the fire department anytime we have this type of project going.”
The fire department is asking anyone who was on the scene to call 720-337-2800 and report what they saw.
The project underway was a five-story apartment building with 84 units, according to Denver Infill. It’s just off Park Avenue and close walking distance to the cluster of medical centers that includes Saint Joseph Hospital, Franklin Medical Offices and Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center, among others.
Pieces of debris from the fire came down around the city — some outside the Denverite office more than a mile away.
All of 1800 Emerson Street in an evacuation area. Residents won’t be able to access buildings on that block.
An evacuation center has been opened at St. Charles Recreation Center, 3777 N. Lafayette St. It will be open through the night and can serve up to 580 people.
Transportation will be provided to anyone who can’t get there on their own. People reporting to the center are asked to bring ID, essential documents, cash and a flashlight. Anyone with an infant should also bring food, diapers, blankets, bedding, clothing and other supplies. Pets brought to the center will be transfered to the Denver Animal Shelter at 1241 W. Bayaud Ave.
This is an ongoing story and will be updated.
Kevin J. Beaty contributed to this report.