Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

Results have yet to come back from tests for lead and asbestos in the pile of debris that used to be the “pink hotel” in Smith River.

In May, a late-night fire destroyed two businesses and the hotel, as well as damaged a tavern across the street.

Since then, a giant pile of pink-painted rubble and burned boards sits while the two neighboring property owners have cleaned up all fire debris.

In August, County Hearing Officer William B. Cater declared the property a public nuisance, triggering an abatement process for the building.

Del Norte County Code Enforcement Officer Dominic Mello said tests were recently done to determine if there are hazardous amounts of lead or asbestos in the rubble. Since tests typically take a couple weeks to provide results, Mello said he expected to know by week’s end.

Mello said any cleanup of the debris would far exceed his code enforcement budget and an administrative decision will have to be made as to how that will happen.

Mello noted that in a typical abatement, the county will seek to recover costs through a lien process.

Mello said he last spoke to Saffan Panahi, the hotel’s owner, in August.

“He’s since ceased communication with me,” said Mello.

A neighbor affected

Across the street from the location Tuesday, workers could be seen taking plywood from windows the side of the Bank Tavern, which were blown out by the intense heat and flames. Owner Pete Hartley said that while the fire occurred in May, he’s still making repairs and waiting for building materials.

“We’ve had the new windows for about three weeks,” he said, noting that he still has to repair other windows and the roof. Asked if he had insurance, Hartley said it’s become a legal hassle because the insurance money would have to come from the building where the fire began.

Investigators determined the fire started in the former market building, next to Alta’s Burger Bar and spread to the pink building.

“They have a responsibility,” Hartley said. “Our building caught fire because of theirs. Now we have to get attorneys involved.”

However, Hartley said he wants to get his repairs done and see the area cleaned up.

“We’ll put it together,” he said. “It needs to happen. Smith River is a derelict town otherwise.”

Several attempts to reach Alta’s Burger Bar owner Vanda Reichlin for comment were not successful.

Reach Tony Reed at treed@triplicate.com

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