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Heather Gardens identifies victim killed in retirement community fire as 82-year-old woman

Posted: 11:43 AM, Nov 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-18 16:37:05-05

AURORA, Colo. -- A woman is dead following an explosion and fire at a retirement community in Aurora Friday night, city officials confirmed Saturday. 

"After an extensive search process it has been confirmed that one person has died in an explosion and fire in Aurora last night," said Sherri Jo Stowell, a spokesperson with the City of Aurora. 

She continued, "After initial searches were completed, it was determined that one resident was still unaccounted for. At that time Aurora Fire Rescue called for canine search support from Colorado Task Force One, an urban search and rescue team. In the early morning hours of Saturday, Nov. 17 a deceased victim was discovered in one of the patio home units."

City officials said they would not be releasing the woman's identity until the family of the victim was notified, adding victim support services will be offered to family members. 

On Saturday afternoon, however, Craig Baldwin, the director and president of the Heather Gardens Metropolitan District, identified the woman was 82-year-old Carol Ross.   

"This is a tragic loss and as friends and neighbors, members of the HGA and HGMD Boards want to express our deepest sympathy to her family and friends." 

The Aurora fire chief also released the following statement: 

“Our hearts go out to the many residents who are impacted by this tragedy and our department offers our deepest condolences to the family of the victim on this very sad day,” said Aurora Fire Chief Fernando Gray Sr. “We will continue to investigate the cause of this incident.”

At least two other people, including a firefighter, were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. By Saturday, the firefighter had been released, according to Stowell. 

PHOTOS:  Images of the fire at Heather Gardens   

The fire began when neighbors reported hearing a loud bang before flames appeared around 5:30 p.m. at Heather Gardens, located on East Linvale Place off Interstate 225. 

Firefighters have yet to confirm what caused the explosion. However, Laure Bridges, a spokesperson for the Aurora Fire Department, described it as a "gas fed" fire. 

In a statement from Heather Gardens obtained by Denver7 on Saturday, Baldwin said that "while there was a gas leak between CP-V and Building 223 Wednesday, the leak was unrelated and resolved from the leak in CP-IV," the latter being the location where the gas leak which caused the explosion originated from. 

Baldwin also said the Public Utilities Commission has requested "that all Comcast work on installation of fiber optics cables be suspended until further notice."  

Prior to the explosion, Bridges said construction crews in the area called 911 to report that they smelled gas. Lines supplying gas to the area are shut off as crews continue clean-up efforts.

A Heather Gardens resident told Denver7 that their house shook and windows rattled before they heard fire and police sirens.

A witness told Denver7 reporter Jason Gruenauer that an explosion knocked her over and blew in her patio door. She said she smelled gas before the blast and fire crews were already on scene checking the air quality. 

Xcel Energy, who had crews on scene investigating the incident, could not say if one of their gas lines were compromised.  

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