Debris from fire contains asbestos |

Debris from fire contains asbestos

Plastic covers the site of two demolished cabins that were set on fire by a property owner in the Three Lakes region in late March. The fires were set in violation of state and local fire regulations and later tested positive for asbestos. The plastic coverings were part of asbestos abatement work undertaken after state officials opened an investigation into the matter.
Courtesy photo

A late March fire on a pair of demolished cabins near Cutthroat Bay sparked more than just flames for one local property owner who ended up on the wrong side of state regulators after debris from the site tested positive for asbestos.

On March 24 firefighters from Grand Lake Fire District responded to a property located near the intersection of County Road 652 and County Road 64 after a firefighter driving home at the time noticed a large fire on the property. According to Fire Chief Mike Long firefighters at the scene determined the fire was made up of two separate cabins that were previously demolished before being set on fire.

“We spoke with to the property owner and found out he was aware a permit was required,” Chief Long said. “He told us he chose not to obtain one.”

After firefighters from the district put the fire out the issue was referred to Grand County’s Division of Natural Resources, which oversees the county’s open burn regulatory regime including the issuance of burn permits. Further investigation into the issue revealed no permits were issued for the demolition of the two cabins.

Officials from Grand County’s Natural Resources said the incident was referred the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division. Amy Sidener with Grand County Natural Resources said the issue fell under the jurisdiction of the state rather than the county because structures, rather than slash piles, were burned in the incident.

According to Chief Long tests of the debris at the burn site tested positive for asbestos. Officials from the Air Pollution Control Division of the state health department also confirmed the material at the site tested positive for asbestos. Jeremy Neustifter, an Air Quality Planner for the Air Pollution Control Division, said there was relatively little the state could divulge about the open case.

“The certified inspector determined that asbestos was present in amounts greater than the trigger levels,” Neustifter stated. “The removal of the remaining ash and debris was required to be conducted by a certified General Abatement Contractor under an abatement permit issued by the state. This work was recently completed and the site cleared by a certified Air Monitoring Specialist.”

Neustifter pointed out state regulations require building inspections prior to renovation or demolition work on any structure suspected of containing asbestos in specified amounts. If inspections reveal the presence of asbestos at “trigger levels” additional steps must be taken regarding abatement.

Neustifter could not comment on any penalties related to the ongoing investigation and was not able to release the name of the property owner involved in the investigation. He stated Colorado law allows for fines of up to $25,000 per day for violations of Colorado’s asbestos regulation and up to $10,000 per day for violations of the state’s open burning regulations.

Chief Long said the late March fire was not the first incident his department has encountered wherein citizens burn substances other than natural, untreated wood such as building materials. Long estimated his department has received approximately five such calls in the last two months alone.

“It is either burning trash or treated wood,” Long said. “Both of which are illegal.”

Chief Long said his department often encounters another type of illegal burning activity, bonfires. According to Long the county allows fires up to three-feet in diameter but anything larger requires a permit be obtained.

“There are renters that may not be aware (of the laws),” Long explained. “We try to educate folks. Most folks are pretty receptive to being educated. We do a warning letter if we’re well received. If not, or if it is a second warning, we work with the Sheriff’s Office to produce a citation.”

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