Owner thinks arsonists 'cleaned out' condo first

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— Robert Egizii recovered his 1999 Chevrolet Suburban, a life-sized mounted cougar and a pile of clothes. But most of his possessions are missing from Unit 7 at The Ridge.

The condo on Storm Meadows Drive burned in the predawn of Aug. 28. But Egizii said it's apparent most of his possessions weren't consumed by flames.

"They stole my truck and everything in (the unit)," Egizii said. "It was cleaned out, because I've been through it."

An agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in Montrose said Friday the fire was arson, and Steamboat Springs Director of Public Safety Services JD Hays said Monday it was set in several locations.

Egizii believes more than one person was busy before the fire alarm sounded, using his own vehicle to clean out his luxury condo unit. He theorized the people responsible abandoned his Suburban and fled when they saw police and fire vehicles approaching from a distance.

Egizii, a contractor based in Springfield, Ill., said Tuesday he has owned Unit 7 for more than five years and his family enjoys visits to Steamboat often. He can't recall all of the items he lost in what Steamboat police are investigating as arson and a burglary. But numerous big-game trophy mounts, including elk, deer and antelope, as well as Native American artifacts and many other possessions, were removed from the condo before it was burned, Egizii said.

He had just returned to Springfield Monday night after his second trip to Steamboat in a week to deal with the aftermath of the fire.

Egizii said his Suburban was found parked in a parking lot halfway down "the hill" from his condo.

Hays confirmed the Suburban was found in a parking lot at the Clocktower, less than a mile down Burgess Creek Road from the scene of the fire. However, Hays said police are not assuming that the presence of Egizii's belongings in the Suburban means the person or persons responsible for the fire stole them. Police searched the Suburban for evidence with Egizii's consent and returned it and the contents to him, Hays said.

Steamboat police issued a three-sentence press release Friday saying in an investigation related to the arson case, they were probing a burglary that took place at one of The Ridge units some time immediately prior to the fire. Hays said Tuesday police are presuming the arsonist had to improperly enter the condo in order to start the fire, and that would constitute burglary. He said the crime of burglary does not necessarily imply anything was stolen, or even that there was forcible entry.

"We're investigating a burglary because there was a crime of arson (committed inside the unit), not to mention the stuff in the car," Hays said.

Hays added police are still completing a list of the items missing from the condo. He said his investigators do not have suspects in the case, nor do they have leads at this point.

Egizii said he doesn't have any theories on why his unit was targeted. But he hopes police find the arsonist.

"I can replace silverware and dishes," Egizii said. "We don't rent the place out and there were some things in there that can't be replaced. But I had the six grandkids there Aug. 3, and when you think of that"

Although Egizii's family was not visiting the condo Aug. 28, 16 people were asleep inside other condos in the building when the fire alarm sounded just after 3:30 a.m. All of the occupants were evacuated safely.

Firefighters from Steamboat and Hayden found flames leaping out of the roof of the eight-unit building when they arrived on the scene.

They were able to confine the damage to four of the units. Only two were destroyed.

Egizii praised the Steamboat police for their actions thus far.

"I'm really impressed with your police department and the way they're investigating this," Egizii said.

The results of the CBI's investigation into how the fire was started could take several weeks to complete.

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