Fire closes Westside fish shop, for time being

       A Westside fish and ponds business may not reopen, in the wake of an early-morning fire Feb. 25 that ruined interior upgrades and killed nearly 200 small creatures.
       “It's [reopening] up in the air at this point,” said a still-stunned Terry Rudolph, one of the three owners of Colorado Living Ponds (formerly Fish & Feather Ponds), at 3427 W. Colorado Ave. Once they get a chance to find out what can be salvaged, they will have a better idea what to do, she said.
       For the present, the owners are at least able to keep filling orders for wood pellets (although payment is currently not possible with credit cards). Their customer list for that product survived the fire, as did the pellet containers, which are stored outside the building, Rudolph said. For more information, the business number still works: 636-3475.
       “I'm tired of crying,” said Deb Kopchak, another of the Colorado Living Ponds owners. Going into their third year, “we were all excited about this season. We were getting more customers all the time.”
       El Paso County Fire investigators have determined the cause was accidental, according to a county spokesperson.
       Fire officials told the owners that the fire was caused by either a space heater or a small TV in the lower rear office, Rudolph said. The fire spread from there to the rest of the lower part of the building. Some of the flames also charred the upstairs. Smoke damage occurred throughout.
       A neighbor called in the fire at 6:05 a.m. Feb. 25. Colorado Springs Fire crews put it out, while county hazardous materials and investigation crews got involved later, the spokesperson said.
       Animal losses included 20 to 30 tadpoles and frogs, 15 tropical fish, 6 goldfish and 100 crickets; expected not to live are 5 Japanese koi fish (valued at $125 each), Rudolph said.
       Some koi and goldfish survived, she added.
       Throughout the retail area, “we had just gotten through remodeling,” Rudolph said. “It doesn't look like it now.”
       The business has been leasing the space. It is not known how much work will be required to renovate the building. The owners' insurance would help them relocate, but Rudolph thinks it will be hard to find another spot as strategically located (near the city, but in an unincorporated area where customers don't have to pay city sales taxes).
       One bright side has been the support they've received. “We've been getting calls from customers and friends,” Kopchak said, mentioning a former customer who walked up to her in the Wal-Mart parking lot and offered to help. “Until something like this happens, you don't know how many friends you have.”

Westside Pioneer article