Colorado Department of Local Affairs investigating complaint into Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park

Residents at Sleepy Bear will be without electricity and gas for at least several more weeks. (Photo by John F. Russell)

The Colorado Department of Local Affairs has launched an investigation after two fires broke out at Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park on Steamboat’s west end June 16, according to Brett McPherson, department spokesperson.

McPherson said he could not elaborate on the complaint’s specifics while the department is investigating but stated the Mobile Home Park Act holds a landlord responsible for damage costs or reimbursing impacted tenants if the landlord or their agent damaged a park electrical line.

Residents at Sleepy Bear will be without electricity and gas for at least several more weeks until Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue and the Routt County Regional Building Department are able to complete their investigation into what caused the two fires.

“There has to be an investigation before anything can move forward,” said Todd Carr, an official with the building department.

Chuck Cerasoli, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue chief, said a maintenance worker attempting to fix a water leak accidentally cut an electrical line that feeds electricity to several different mobile homes in the area. While the maintenance worker was attempting to repair the severed electrical line, two fires broke out at separate homes. Fire crews were able to take care of the immediate danger, though Cerasoli said 15 trailers on the side of the park closest to the Yampa River would be out of power for at least several weeks.

Sleepy Bear resident Efrain Farias said he was “really afraid” when he arrived home from work last week and saw fire crews, Steamboat Springs Police Department officers and deputies with the Routt County Sheriff’s Office. His immediate concern was that a neighbor or family member had suffered a tragic accident or illness.

Farias, who has lived at Sleepy Bear since 2005, said he has consistently been frustrated with the infrastructure and management at the park.

“I’ve spoken with the manager several times,” Farias said. “He typically doesn’t respond to requests for information, and when I do get responses, I usually get told it’s the city’s responsibility and not the park’s.”

Before the fire, Farias said he frequently had water leaks, and overgrown trees with falling branches have damaged his roof and walls, adding to his concerns about the park.

“I’m concerned about that continuing to happen and someone getting hurt,” Farias said.

Mary Carmen Sanchez, who has lived at the park for four months, said she has not received any communication from the property manager or owner, and has struggled to live without electricity.

“I feel frustrated because there really hasn’t been much communication at all,” Sanchez said. “It just seems like the management could have at least told us they were working on this and trying to get it resolved.”

The mobile home park’s owner Thomas Morgan said he has been working with city, county and state agencies to assist residents and added that all residents have his cellphone number but claimed only three have reached out.

“There have been a lot of accusations and a lot of rumors, and I’ve told people they can call me,” Morgan said. “This whole thing about us not maintaining or not keeping things up is not true.”

Morgan said in the meantime, he has suspended rent payments for those without power.

Norma Ruth Ryan, a Sleepy Bear resident who has coordinated efforts to help the park get batteries, nonperishable foods and other needs, said she and other residents feel the park and its residents are not valued in the community, due in part to its tucked away geographical location and the lower socioeconomic status of many of its residents.

“People that can’t afford to live in other places go to these mobile home parks,” Ruth Ryan said. “We’re very out-of-sight-out-of-mind in that park being on that corner, and I think that’s a pretty apt metaphor for everything going on with us.”

Sanchez, who is pregnant, has had to bathe at neighbor’s houses and said she has run into extra expenses because her family has eaten out more often than preparing food at home, which she said is nearly impossible to do without power.

“It’s really increased the workload in the house,” Sanchez said.

Community members are invited to bring batteries, nonperishable food and other items to 3725 Lincoln Ave., Unit 22.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.