A historic building in Pueblo that has served as a venue for the past two decades was ravaged by fire on Monday and is considered a “total loss” according to the Pueblo Fire Department.
The devastating fire at the 134-year-old Albany of Pueblo Event Center, 125 E. Seventh St., destroyed most of the building and caused the roof to collapse, according to Woody Percival, Pueblo Fire’s public information officer.
Percival said the fire caused an estimated $ 1 million property damage.
Robert O’Callaghan, one of the company’s owners, said the fire appears to have been caused by construction work in the building.
O’Callaghan was not present in the building when the fire broke out. He said the news of its destruction was “utterly surprising and shocking”.
“I’m still trying to process it,” said O’Callaghan on Tuesday.
“We’ve owned the building for over 20 years and it was a pretty amazing building. I put my heart and soul into it and I am devastated. At this point I am trying to sort all of the pieces. I’m just glad no one was hurt. “
According to Percival, the firefighters were called to the fire around 2:45 p.m., at which point there was only light smoke from the building. But the fire grew quickly.
“So far it appears that at the time the building was undergoing some construction, some renovation, which may have contributed to the outbreak of the fire,” Percival said.
“That has not been fully confirmed, and may not be, based solely on the current condition of the building.”
O’Callaghan confirmed that a lone construction worker was doing some light renovation work in the building that appears to have started the fire.
The construction worker made it out of the building unharmed.
Percival said the worker told the firefighters that he tried to put out the fire as soon as he found it, but failed.
“When we got there, (the fire) seemed to have run up the inside of a wall into the attic, and when that happened we couldn’t do much more than try to contain the fire in the building,” Percival said.
“Of course we tried to put it out, but this building is 130 years old and not built to the building codes that usually help us stop a fire. So unfortunately it came up in these hidden attic spaces and just attacked us. “
The fire in Albany of Pueblo leads to the evacuation of 200 from nearby properties
Firefighters successfully contained the fire in the Albany of Pueblo building, Percival said, preventing it from spreading to nearby buildings, including a four-plexi apartment building and the Santa Fe Inn and Suites Pueblo Hotel. However, around 200 people had to be evacuated from the area.
Both buildings suffered some smoke damage and Percival said the apartment complex may be closed “for a while” due to the damage. However, the Santa Fe Inn and Suites Pueblo reopened to business on Tuesday.
Electricity in the area was also turned off by Black Hills Energy while firefighters worked the scene, but Black Hills restored electricity to the area Monday night, according to spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez.
To help those displaced by fire-fighting operations on Monday evening, the Southeast Colorado Red Cross set up makeshift housing at Pueblo Central High School, where 10 of the evacuees took refuge on Monday evening.
Catie Ballenger, regional communications specialist for the Red Cross, said two evacuees stayed at the shelter on Tuesday morning. She noted that the Red Cross was working with these individuals to “make some long-term recovery effort for them to find temporary accommodation before they can return home.”
The shelter is due to cease operations on Tuesday morning.
Ballenger said that because the homes people were evacuated from weren’t destroyed, the Red Cross doesn’t anticipate long-term evictions, but she said residents of the area who might need additional help or resources are staying on the 24-hour basis – Red Cross Response Line can contact 800-417-0495.
Pueblo firefighters continue to monitor hotspots, Albany owners unsure of what’s next
While most of the firefighting work was completed on Monday, Percival said the department will need to continue monitoring the site and clearing hotspots in the coming days.
“It’s going to be a smoldering situation for some time,” said Percival.
“In these types of roof-top collapses, there are things hidden that we can’t quite get to … We had a crew there on the first day (Tuesday) morning doing more hotspots and things, and nature becomes that be here for a while until we can get it fully out.
“So we’ll just keep watching it to make sure it doesn’t get fully back on its feet. That will probably take a few more days. “
O’Callaghan said he wasn’t sure what the company’s ownership group, Albany Partners LLC, will do with the property once the fire is out and the extent of the damage assessed.
He said since the fire he had tried other arrangements for people who had booked events at the Albany in the coming days and weeks.
“I don’t know what else to do right now other than try to help the people who had bookings, so that’s my goal,” said O’Callaghan.
“I know a lot of people have had events there over the years and I’m sorry for the people who booked events. I just want to make sure that I can somehow find a facility or work something out with them. But I’m just glad that everyone is safe. “
Chieftain reporter Zach Hillstrom can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ZachHillstrom