Residents ask for help rebuilding after West Colfax apartment fire

Person of interest in case turned himself over to authorities

Corinne Westeman
cwesteman@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 9/16/22

Golden's Heidi Jansen and her neighbors are looking for resources to rebuild their lives after a Sept. 16 apartment fire destroyed their homes.

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Residents ask for help rebuilding after West Colfax apartment fire

Person of interest in case turned himself over to authorities

Posted

When Golden’s Heidi Jansen had a heart attack five years ago, she thought it was the worst day of her life. 

“It turned out that it’s only the second hardest day of my life,” Jansen stated on Facebook.

Jansen and her neighbors are looking for resources to rebuild their lives after a Sept. 16 apartment fire destroyed their homes.

Early that morning, police responded to reports of felony menacing at an apartment building in the 17200 block of West Colfax Avenue. The situation escalated to a fire, which impacted all seven units in the building.

While no injuries were reported, at least three of the building’s seven units are destroyed.

Over the weekend, these households asked for help on Facebook, hoping to find new living situations, clothing, dishes, and other day-to-day necessities. Several Goldenites replied with offers to help however they could.

Jansen, who was traveling in Missouri, described how her boyfriend called her at 3:42 a.m. Sept. 16 to say “our lives are going up in flames.” While he was able to grab their dog before evacuating the apartment, their two cats wouldn’t go with him. They were later found, scared but seemingly unharmed.

Fellow resident Amelia Davenport LeCompte described how she, her husband, and their guests were all fast asleep and didn’t hear or smell anything. A Golden police officer knocked on their door for about a minute, yelling that there was a fire and they needed to evacuate.

Thanks to that officer’s efforts, all the people and pets were able to get out safely.

LeCompte recalled how, as all the building’s tenants were sitting outside and watching the building burn, their neighbors brought them water, warm clothes, shoes, pet food, and anything they needed.

She said the first responders were amazing. The firefighters handled a harrowing situation with expertise, and were able to go in and retrieve a few items once the flames were knocked down. LeCompte described how one took her to get oxygen and sat by her side the whole time.

Overall, she was grateful for all the first responders’ efforts, saying situation likely would’ve been very different if they weren’t there.

‘The hard part has just started’

As they begin to sift through the ashes and collect what remains, the greatest need now is finding a new living situation. LeCompte, Jansen and fellow resident Josiah McCloud all asked their fellow Goldenites for leads on new homes, preferably in the Golden area.

“We now have to start rebuilding, and we have no idea where to start,” Jansen stated on GoFundMe. “... All we have is each other in this life, and together we will be whole again.”

As of 10 p.m. Sept. 18, more than a dozen people had donated $2,020 toward Jansen’s $10,000 goal.

Likewise, Josiah McCloud’s GoFundMe had received 22 donations totaling $1,525 toward his $8,500 goal. His mom, Carol, organized it, describing how Josiah and his two dogs “barely made it out of the apartment before it was engulfed in flames and everything he owned was burned.”

Josiah and his mom were thankful he was alive and well, but described how “the hard part has just started.”

LeCompte described how neighbors throughout the apartment complex have been incredibly helpful through the recovery process, helping her family move their remaining items out of their unit on short notice.

Others in the community have also responded, donating clothes, household goods and pet supplies to her and her neighbors.

“I have said ‘thank you’ probably 800 times over the last two days,” she said on Sept. 18. “Those two words do not even begin to describe the gratitude I feel toward those who have helped.

“There is so much tragedy, evil and pain in this situation,” she continued. “But (there’s) also an overwhelming amount of beauty and support. You really get to see the best side of people when things like this happen.”

Person of interest turns himself in

Regarding the entire incident, police named 48-year-old resident James Gambrell Jr. as a person of interest in the case. Gambrell was not located at the scene on Sept. 16, but turned himself into police several hours later.

Around 3:30 a.m. that morning, police responded to reports of felony menacing at Gambrell’s apartment complex. The officers found a hole knocked through the wall from his apartment and a gun sticking through the hole into his neighbor’s unit, according to a Golden Police Department press release.

The officers knocked on Gambrell’s apartment, but there was no answer. Officers then reportedly saw an orange glow coming from the apartment and saw curtains beginning to melt.

As they backed away, they heard an explosion and could see smoke and flames, GPD stated. Officers evacuated the building and firefighters arrived at 3:35 a.m.

GPD hadn’t announced any charges filed in the case, as of 2 p.m. Sept. 19. More information is expected in the coming days.

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