Early morning fire destroys Inside Out Youth Services' new home

By: Ned B. Hunter ned.hunter@gazette.com
September 27, 2013 Updated: September 27, 2013 at 8:02 pm
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A Colorado Springs firefighter douses a hot spot on the second story of an office building off Potter Drive that was completely engulfed in flames early Friday, September 27, 2013 . Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

A building that was the new home of the nonprofit Inside Out Youth Services and also housed at least two small businesses was destroyed by fire early Friday.

The 3 a.m. fire at 1409 Potter Drive collapsed the roof, blew out windows and consumed everything the nonprofit owned inside the building, said Chris Robertson, executive director of Inside Out. The organization works with gay/lesbian/transgender/bisexual/intersex and questioning youths, he said. Inside Out serves about 500 youth each year, he said.
The organization moved into the building on Aug. 12. It was renting the space from a supporter, he said.
Inside Out had planned an open house at its new place on Friday, but that event was cancelled and instead held an impromptu gathering to support the groups volunteers and youth involved with the organization. At 5 p.m., about 10 youth and four adults had gathered in a parking lot across the street from the burned building, singing in a circle and supporting each other with cake and sodas under a small nearby tent.
“It took us three months to find this space,” Robertson said, “Now we have to find another viable location that is close to public transportation.”
Firefighters remained at the site at 5 p.m. Friday, accessing the damage and drowning whatever hot spots remained within the building. Fire investigators likely won’t know the cause of the early morning fire that appeared to start in the northeast corner of the building before the middle of next week, said Sunny Smaldino, spokesperson for the Colorado Springs Fire Department.
“With the size of the space, it (the investigation) will take a long time,” she said.
The building also was home to a beauty salon and a massage therapist. Neither the names of those business nor the owners were known by fire officials or Robertson on Friday. Fire officials were not certain if the building contained a fourth business,  Smaldino said.
 Inside Out Youth Services started 23 years ago as a part of the El Paso County Department of Health as the Community Council for Adolescent Development. It became a separate nonprofit in the mid-1990s, Robertson said.
He said he is pleased and relieved at the amount of community support he has received on his organization’s Facebook page and from phone messages.
“This sets us back a bit,” he said, “but it is not fatal.”

Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

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