Oct 242011
Authors: Erin Udell

Fort Collins resident Joe Martinez looked on Monday morning as firefighters sprayed in the walls of his future kitchen.

“I was supposed to live there this November,” Martinez, 26, said, pointing to the fourth floor apartment of the Penny Flats, a commercial and residential building that had caught fire and continued to burn since 3:30 a.m. “Not anymore, I guess.”

Onlookers like Martinez gathered by the building, crowding the corner of Maple and Mason streets and taking pictures as members of Poudre Fire Authority (PFA) worked to put out the blaze.

Captain Matt Housley of PFA said they first received a call at 3:37 a.m. alerting firefighters of the fire, which began at 311 N. Mason St., a partially constructed portion of the Penny Flats. It soon spread to the adjacent, and already completed, part of the building, which was evacuated.

“It was a third alarm, so we have about 50 people here,” Housley said.

When firefighters responded, Housley said the first building was “all involved.” Now, a metal building frame is all that remains of the four-story structure.

As firefighters from PFA and Loveland Fire Rescue lined the streets, so did charred debris, which reached all the way to the Fort Collins downtown transit center.

Due to the close proximity to the blaze, the center was closed and all buses were set up to temporarily report just south of its permanent location.

Kelly Petago, a Fort Collins resident who relies on the bus every day, said she missed her usual route in all the confusion.

“We didn’t know where we were,” Petago said, adding that she missed the connection she needed to make it to work on time. “There was debris everywhere and everything was blocked off.”

While the fire completely destroyed the initial structure, the second building experienced smoke, heat and heavy water damage related to extinguishment efforts, read a PFA news release.

According to Patrick Love, spokesman for PFA, it could be a number of several days to a few weeks before the fire’s cause and origin are known.

As firefighters had most of the hot spots extinguished and were able to place salvage tarps on belongings from several floors, they were still working at time of print. Love expects some occupants to be allowed in their apartments as early as tomorrow and no later than the end of the week.

“It’s terrible,” Martinez said, looking at the building. “It was so beautiful.”

News Editor Erin Udell can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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