Denver Forced to Contend with Combustible Construction Once Again

Fire at townhouses under construction destroys two buildings.


Early this morning, firefighters were called to the scene of what quickly became a three-alarm fire at a wood-framed townhouse complex under construction in Denver. Two buildings were destroyed, and a third, which was occupied by a family at the time of the fire, was damaged. Fortunately, there were no reports of injuries.

The fire comes two months after Denver was forced to contend with tragedy when two construction workers were killed in a massive fire that destroyed a wood-framed, five-story apartment complex under construction.

“The recent spate of fires in combustible buildings is no coincidence,” says Kevin Lawlor, spokesperson for Build with Strength, a coalition of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association consisting of community organizations, fire safety professionals, engineers, architects and industry experts committed to strengthening the nation’s building codes and ensuring greater access to secure housing. “The fact is, wood, as compared to concrete and steel, burns, and its use in multi-family residential buildings – occupied or not – presents inherent dangers to any community that builds them.  Denver was fortunate this time in that no one was injured, but the city may not be as lucky next time. It’s vital that local lawmakers recognize this growing problem before further tragedy strikes.”

Over the last few years, there have been dozens of fires in wood-frame, multi-family residential structures – both occupied and under construction – fueled by the combustible materials in the buildings in question. The latest this year have been located in: Centreville, Va.; and Greenbelt, Md.; Tucker, Ga.; Concord, Calif.; Willingboro, N.J.; Manteca, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; and Los Angeles, Calif.

In order to address the vulnerabilities that exist in combustible structures, Build with Strength has stepped up efforts to mitigate the dangers of fire for communities across the country.  In reviewing current building and fire safety codes, the coalition is working to identify areas in need of improvement, particularly in updating building codes by including the use of non-combustible materials to minimize the risk of fires.