Arson may be cause of blaze

Late-night fire at training facility deemed suspicious

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A fire that destroyed a fire department's office trailer Tuesday is most likely the result of arson, Routt County Undersheriff Dan Taylor said.

An investigation being conducted by the Sheriff's Office is leading officials to think the fire at the West Routt Fire Protection District's training facility is "99 percent (likely to be) arson."

A Seneca Coal Mine employee was driving home on Routt County Road 53 just after midnight Tuesday when he saw the fire and called 911. The training facility is on C.R. 53, about 1.5 miles south of U.S. Highway 40.

West Routt Fire Protection District Fire Chief Bryan Rickman said the fire started in an office trailer that the fire district uses as a classroom and office space for its

"burn building" -- a specially constructed cement structure the department uses for a variety of training sessions, including live fires and ropes training.

The burn building is about 150 feet from where the fire started and was not damaged. However, several couches and chairs sitting outside the trailer were burned. The couches and chairs were going to be used for the trainings held in the burn building.

"When we got there, the trailer was fully engulfed, and there were flames coming out the windows and doors," Rickman said.

It took 10 to 15 minutes to extinguish the fire once firefighters arrived on the scene, Rickman said.

Also at the training site are tanks of water used in the livefire trainings at the burn building. Rickman said it helped to have the hydrants and water supply readily available.

"We didn't have to haul water to the fire, and you bet that helped us out," he said.

The fire was reported at 12:19 a.m., and four fire trucks and one ambulance were dispatched minutes later.

Rickman said there had been a ropes-training class at the burn building the night of the fire. When the session ended at 9:30 p.m. Monday, there was nothing suspicious about the trailer or the premises.

There are no homes near the site of the fire, and the only damage reported was to the burned office trailer. There were no injuries. The trailer was valued at about $5,000.

Sgt. Kurtis Luster of the Sheriff's Office is leading the investigation. Although he could not comment about a possible motive for the fire, he said his department has several leads and several suspects they are investigating.

"We are hoping that we can have something resolved by the end of the week," he said.

Investigators collected fingerprints and other evidence at the scene of the fire that is being used to help determine specifics about the fire.

Taylor said that there is evidence that accelerants were used, and that could be used as evidence of arson. Accelerants are substances such as gas or diesel fuel that help start a fire and keep it burning.

--To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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