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Josh Shepperd woke to a pounding on the door and the smell of smoke around 5 a.m. on the morning of March 25. The building across from his at the Magwood Apartments on the 2800 block of Kalmia Avenue was engulfed in flames.
“Fire was shooting out of the roof of the building, which was only 15 feet across from us,” he said. “So it was very, very close to our apartment.”
Shepperd’s home was spared, but 24 households were displaced by the early-morning blaze that damaged two of the complex’s nine residential buildings, according to Boulder Police Public Information Officer Dionne Waugh. As to whether those displacements will be temporary or permanent, she said that was still being determined.
“The buildings suffered severe fire, smoke and water damage so it will depend on the particular unit,” Waugh wrote in an email to Boulder Reporting Lab.
Waugh said the first call came in at 4:53 a.m. Authorities believe the blaze started in the upper level of one of the buildings. Despite a functioning sprinkler system, the fire spread quickly through the attic, burning the area above where the water could reach.
At least fifteen Boulder Fire-Rescue and Mutual Aid firefighting units, along with Boulder Police, were quick to respond. Waugh said firefighters had some trouble extinguishing flames underneath a solar panel on the roof, but she said the fire is contained.
“We’re just grateful to the fire department for their work,” said Shepperd, 44, an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. He says many of his neighbors in the complex were also professionals and academics.
“This fire started to rage out of control in ways that apartment fires don’t,” he said. “It really seemed, especially after the last couple of months, like we could be in pretty big trouble.”
None of the residents or first responders were injured. The American Red Cross was on the scene to help those affected by offering food, money and housing.
Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.
It’s the second blaze at a Boulder apartment complex in fewer than six months, after a fire destroyed 81 units at the Whittier Place Condominiums at 2301 Pearl St. on Oct. 19, 2021. At the end of January 2022, Boulder Fire-Rescue closed its portion of the city’s investigation into that fire, declaring the cause “undetermined” and finding no evidence of intentional fire setting.
Displaced residents needing more information can contact the Red Cross at 1-800-417-0495. This article will be updated with new information as it becomes available.