Gypsum structure fire displaces residents
One family of five, whose unit was most impacted, is looking to find a new home and replace all that was lost
The morning of Sept. 18 started out like any other Saturday morning for the Lopez family — with the family getting ready for their 13-year-old son’s football game. But just after 9 a.m., Delsey Lopez received a call that would make the day anything but ordinary.
Lopez’s sister-in-law had called her to let her know there was a fire at the family’s apartment in Gypsum. Her sister-in-law lives just below the family in another unit.
Sure enough, when Lopez left her son’s football game and rushed home, the fire department was already on the scene working on putting out the fire.
“It was terrible to see that everything that we worked so hard for, we lost,” she said. “We lost everything. It was a really hard day for all of us, especially the kids.”
Gypsum Fire Protection District Chief Justin Kirkland said that crews from Gypsum Fire were on scene at the structure fire — located near Red Hill Drive and First Street — around 9:04 a.m. after receiving a dispatch from Vail Public Safety Communications. Shortly, the crews were joined by the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, Eagle River Fire Protection District, Eagle County Paramedic Services and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
Immediately, crews on the scene “reported a working structure fire and could visibly see the whole front deck on fire on the second floor,” Kirkland said.
This unit was the one being rented by Lopez and her husband and is where most of the damage occurred. Kirkland said that this unit was “heavily damaged” and the one above it sustained minor damage.
Within just under an hour and a half, crews were able to get the fire under control and just over four hours later, investigators were allowed into the building.
“I’m really proud of the team and the work they did,” Kirkland said. “Our teams did a great job stopping the fire.”
Kirkland said the building is likely one of the oldest buildings in the town. Assessor records, he said, have the built date at 1900. And although he expressed some hesitation around the accuracy of that number, he said it was likely sometime around then.
“It’s not an official historic (building), but everyone knows it as a long historic building,” he said.
Lopez said that when the fire department allowed her to re-enter the building later that day to retrieve some items, that the fire had touched nearly everything in the apartment.
“There was nothing in there anymore,” Lopez said of the kid’s bedroom and the family’s living room. “The only thing that wasn’t damaged was our master bedroom, which was on the opposite side (from the balcony) by the entrance, but the police officer and fire department said, ‘I wouldn’t take anything with you.”’
All residents of the building — including the Lopez family — have been displaced for a short period of time while the building department and other entities assess the building and determine that it’s safe for residents to occupy the building again.
Currently, the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Rebuilding a life
Lopez and her husband, Estevan, have lived in Eagle County for their entire lives. The couple met at Eagle Valley High School, and they now have three children — ages 13, 7 and 5.
“He’s my high school sweetheart,” Lopez said.
Two years ago, the family moved into a new rental apartment in Gypsum. Lopez said that they had had some issues with the building before, citing a missing piece of the ceiling in the bathroom, bats and periods of time when the heat was broken.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” she said.
So far, however, Lopez and her family have received great support from local organizations and community members in the wake of the fire. The Salvation Army helped with gift cards and food; the Red Cross helped with gift cards, a couple nights at a hotel as well as help in their search for housing; and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office has been in touch to offer support to the family.
However, Lopez said that the biggest support has come from her boss, Summer Kassmel, who she’s worked for for three years at Castle Peak Dental. Kassmel, Lopez said, has helped put the family — including her mother and sister in-law who lived in the building — up in a hotel for a few weeks while they find another place to live.
“She is just a blessing to all of us. Thanks to her, we have somewhere to stay right now,” Lopez said.
Currently, the family’s “most important need” is housing, she said.
“I know how hard it is in Eagle County to find housing,” Lopez said. “There’s options, but everything two bedrooms is $2,500 a month.”
Plus, the family is looking to replace all that was lost.
“We lost everything — we don’t have clothes, we don’t have shoes, we don’t have furniture, everything was lost,” she said. “It’s like starting all over again.”
The family has a GoFundMe page — ‘Help the Lopez Family Rehome’ — and are figuring out the best way to accept donations for clothing, toys and furniture.
Already, Lopez has expressed gratitude for all their community has done to support the family.
“This community has really shown me how people just really have a big heart,” Lopez said. “It’s amazing how the community can come together.”
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at email@example.com.