CBI: Fire was arson


— The Colorado Bureau of Investigation confirmed Friday that Monday's condominium fire at The Ridge was arson.
"It's a major case because it may not just be arson. There may be another crime involved," said CBI agent Roy Taylor, who investigated the fire near the Steamboat Ski Area.
He would not speculate on how the fire was started.
Also Friday, the Steamboat Springs Police Department announced that it is investigating a burglary in connection with the fire, which destroyed two condo units and damaged two others.
None of the 16 people staying in the eight-condo building at the time was injured.
Fire Marshall Jay Muhme and the police issued a press release concurrently on Friday.
"In a related investigation, Steamboat Springs Police Department has determined that there was a burglary at one of the units some time immediately prior to the fire and is currently investigating that offense," the four-sentence press release reads.
Detective Ross Kelley declined to say whether anything had been stolen from the condominium complex.
Taylor said he took samples at the scene of the fire which will now be analyzed by a CBI laboratory. A work backlog could mean the analysis will take as long as 30 days, Taylor said.
"All we do is determine cause and origin," Taylor said. "The criminal investigation is up to the Steamboat police."
Although the press release specifically says the burglary is being investigated "in connection" with the fire, it did not go as far as saying the fire might have been set to cover up the burglary.
Steamboat Springs criminal lawyer Randy Klauzer said Friday the fact that police are investigating a burglary in connection with the arson does not necessarily imply that a theft took place. Klauzer said it's not uncommon for a burglar to commit a theft, then commit arson to cover the theft. But it is also possible for someone to commit burglary in order to gain access to a building, and then commit arson.
"Burglary is the forcible entry," Klauzer explained. "It is entering into a building for the purposes of committing a crime therein."
John Shipley of Johnston Shipley Management said the building has been released to his care and he has already arranged for demolition of two upstairs units, including Unit 7, the one most heavily damaged by flames. Shipley said he's hopeful that two other units are structurally sound and will only need to be gutted down to framing lumber. However, an engineer will make that determination.
Muhme said on Tuesday that it was apparent the fire had broken out in Unit 7. But Friday's press release did not specify if the burglary took place there also. Bob Egizii, the owner of Unit 7, could not be reached at his Chicago business for comment.
An automatic alarm system first alerted Western Security Systems of the fire shortly after 3:30 a.m. Monday. Fire fighters from both Steamboat Springs and Hayden were confronted with tall flames leaping from the building when they arrived at the site on Storm Meadows Drive.
Fire Chief Bob Struble said they were able to confine most of the flame damage to Unit 7 by taking apart the roof and attacking the flames.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail tomross@amigo.net


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