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Pueblo church fears asbestos exposure from burned house next door

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Leaders of a Pueblo church fear they and their congregation may be at risk of exposure to asbestos after a run-down house next door was recently destroyed by fire.  The fire early last week happened in the overnight hours at a triplex at East 8th Street and North Kingston Avenue, bordering the parking lot for Full Gospel Christian Assembly.

The house at 1124 East 8th Street has been problematic for several years.  In December 2016, an electrical fire killed a dog and displaced 13 people.  In the aftermath, the home and its grounds were trashed with waste and debris, then in April 2017 it burned once again.  The home was bought in October for just $5,000 by a man in Falcon who tells News 5 he planned to have the house renovated and prepped for reoccupancy.  A cause for last week's fire has not been determined.

Amid the firefight, some of the materials from the home drained into the church's parking lot, where they sat until this week when Pastor Josie Garcia's daughter, Michelle, took it upon herself to try to clean up.  "Got a face cover and some scrubs and started to clean it up the best I can," Garcia said.  "I was using a broom, I was using bottled water, and that was all I had to try to clean up this whole parking lot."

Materials in the parking lot included what appeared to be insulation from the burned home, which now has a fence around it with a signs affixed to it indicating presence of asbestos.  "If that says asbestos, I'm assuming that the parking lot and the sidewalk and the alley is full of asbestos," Pastor Garcia said.  It is unclear who put up the signs indicating asbestos.  The Pueblo Health Department and Pueblo Fire Department say neither of their agencies placed the signs.  The Pueblo Health Department took samples from the materials in the church parking lot for testing, results of which could take a week or more to be returned.  "I am absolutely worried because I was fully exposed to all this, so absolutely I'm worried about my health," Garcia said.

"If this truly is what this is -- asbestos -- this area should be blocked off so that the people around this area are safe, that children aren't riding their bikes or walking down the sidewalks with it," Garcia said.

Wednesday Bible Study was canceled and the affected parking lot will be closed off.  The owner of the house told News 5 he will work with the church on cleanup of the parking lot.

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