Fire aftermath: Prove your structure wasn’t toxic


Skipping one more hassle during an already bad time may be tempting, but doing so could cost big bucks and expand hazardous-waste landfills.

When fire damages or destroys a building, the state of Colorado assumes that asbestos is present and requires clean-up be dealt with accordingly.

Unless you have acceptable documentation that no asbestos was included in the building — or that the site passes certified asbestos testing — expect clean-up costs to be much higher for hazardous-waste removal. Don’t assume your policy covers it.

Some insurance companies — such as State Farm — have a clause that addresses additional costs required by governmental ordinances or laws. It may be only minimal coverage, such as 10 percent of the house’s value. Unless you ask for that specific coverage to be increased, you’ll be stuck with expenses well above that.

Granted, testing can take time, says Loren York, co-owner of Weecycle Environmental Consulting Inc. in Boulder. York performed asbestos testing for many sites after last fall’s Fourmile Canyon fire.

“Colorado’s requirements seemed general enough when I first read them,” she says. “But you have to submit a plan for testing, and then you find out how exacting the requirements are. It took two to three months to get one plan approved. That was my learning curve; I know now what they want. But the state does not make it simple.”

Many people, when faced with an estimate of even less than $100, are so impatient to get on with rebuilding that they skip the asbestos test. “I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve had to practically beg to get their place tested before we do the clean-up,” says Jim Clark, president of American Abatement in Denver. “To do a complete hazardous clean-up of just a small house damaged by fire could easily cost $25,000. That cost rises with a bigger structure, or one located where it takes longer for us to get to and truck the waste out.”

Without testing, what could be harmless debris ends up in a certified hazardous-waste landfill. Longterm, that means more such space will be needed.

“Eventually, the [landfill] owners will ask for permission to expand,” Clark says. “They’ll get it. There aren’t a lot of options.”

Harlequin’s Gardens offers classes

A favorite sign of spring is coming up in April: the season’s opening of Harlequin’s Gardens in Boulder. Run by Mikl Brawner, wife Eve Reshetnik Brawner, and a passel of other savvy folks, the garden center/nursery grows many Colorado-hardy plants and formulates its own organic potting mixes.

The center also offers a reference library and one-day classes starting Sunday, April 3, at $15 each.

Subjects include raising backyard chickens, small-space permaculture, foraging for wild edibles and medicinals, and growing greener lawns sans chemicals.

Harlequin’s Gardens is located at 4795 26th St., 303-939-9403. For hours and more information see


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