Steamboat Springs Agents for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation believe the Aug. 28 arson fire at The Ridge townhomes was started in at least three places in Unit 7 a bed, a stairway and in the carpet immediately outside a bedroom door.
Steamboat Springs police and fire officials received more detailed information about the fire in a preliminary report from CBI. The report also concludes that the arson was committed to cover up a burglary.
The fire was set in the early morning darkness on a Monday, with 16 people sleeping in neighboring townhomes in the eight-unit complex. All 16 people were evacuated without injury. Unit 7 was unoccupied at the time. But police found a white Chevrolet Suburban belonging to Unit 7 owner Robert Egizii less than a mile away. It was parked at the Clocktower building and contained some of Egizii's belongings, including a mountain lion trophy mount and a television.
"The absence of many of the items described by Mr. Egizii being in the residence, along with the discovery of Mr. Egizii's Suburban almost a mile away from the residence, filled with items from the residence, indicates the fire was deliberately set by persons unknown to cover up the burglary of the residence," the CBI concluded.
Steamboat Fire Marshall Jay Muhme wasn't surprised to get confirmation that the fire was arson. He said he was immediately suspicious as soon as he got his first good look at the fire, and saw how quickly it had become fully involved in flames.
"As soon as I rounded the corner I thought, something's not right here," Muhme said. "That one was absolutely abnormal."
Speaking from his home in Springfield, Ill., Egizii was outraged.
"These bums that are burglars and arsonists, with 16 people in there, and some of them kids, could very well be murderers," Egizii said. "I don't think they understand the consequences of what they did."
Muhme said his office will still have to wait 60 to 90 days to get the results of lab tests the CBI will perform on evidence collected at the scene of the fire. The lab work should determine what fire accelerants, if any, the arsonist or arsonists used.
The preliminary report did confirm the arsonist set the fire in at least three places and linked two of them together with some kind of combustible substance, Muhme said.
The CBI report describes burn patterns on walls that indicate where a fire was set and how intensely it burned.
"The degree to which the fire had spread during the short span of time from alarm to arrival of the fire department indicates a fast-moving and unusually hot fire," the CBI reported.
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