City: Burnt Pioneer Trail house must be made safe |

City: Burnt Pioneer Trail house must be made safe

Axie Navas
The house at 3120 Pioneer Trail is shown Friday. Axie Navas / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Peter Darvas, the owner of the Pioneer Trail house that burned in September, has until the end of the month to make the structure safe before the city forces compliance, according to building officials.

South Lake Tahoe Building Official Dave Walker met with a structural engineer this week to walk through 3120 Pioneer Trail and discuss safety issues. While Walker won’t have the written report until Monday, he said portions of the roof with definitely have to come down. He estimated about a third of the building could be salvaged.

If Darvas doesn’t remove dangerous portions of the structure, Walker said the city will hire a licensed contractor to demolish the house and send the bill to Darvas.

The insurance company advised Darvas to tear down the building since restoration could cost three times as much as building a new house, according to Walker.

“I’m trying to get that building demolished … He wants to leave his legacy and that’s fine, but what remains is not safe. My main concern is life and safety,” Walker said. “It’s something that has to be dealt with because of the safety issue. We have to act.”

Darvas could not be reached for comment and his voicemail inbox was full.

The September fire also gutted the adjacent house at 3568 April Drive. General Contractor John Lowe said his crew demolished the structure for $10,000 shortly after the fire and he anticipates the owner will have a new house within five to six months. The cost to rebuild is much cheaper than trying to restore a burnt building, according to Lowe.

“It’s an eyesore. I don’t know what to do about it,” Lowe said, gesturing toward 3120 Pioneer Trail.

The Sept. 18 fire destroyed large potions of 3120 Pioneer Trail and was caused by an antique wood-burning stove Darvas kept in his studio. The watercolor artist was transported to Barton Memorial Hospital after suffering severe burns to his hands and face trying to extinguish the flames with a garden hose.

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