3 Grand Lake buildings burn down in fire

Blaze may have started in woodpile, destroys uninsured property

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— John Waller was back at his home Thursday “in shock” as firefighters worked to put out the blaze at his 2,800 square-foot Express Tire shop, which contained his son’s collector’s Mustang and “tens of thousands of dollars” worth of restaurant equipment, plus other tools and belongings. Waller guessed his backhoe and Bobcat also were caught in the fire.

“I couldn’t put a list together in a month,” he said about the items he may have lost. “I don’t even want to think about it. I don’t have insurance on any of it.”

As far as Waller knew, everyone who lived in other buildings near the shop, including the individual who lived in the apartment in the shop, had long evacuated.

Waller — who runs a demolition and excavation operation, owns JR’s Liquor, a shed-building business and runs a sawmill — was in Tabernash “running a tree job” when he received the phone call about a fire at his buildings, thought to have started in a woodpile behind the shop.

“How it caught on fire, I don’t know,” Waller said.

Waller is also the president of the Grand Lake Fireworks Committee, and in just two more days, the fireworks for the Grand Lake Fourth of July show would have been stored in the warehouse, he said.

Grand Lake, Granby and U.S. Forest Service firefighters were called to the scene, which was reported to dispatch around noon.

There were no fireworks, but gas tanks and oil in Waller’s shop created explosions of their own, and the stored tires made it difficult for firefighters to fight the blaze.

Just that morning at 9 a.m., a federal inspector had inspected Waller’s storage of dynamite for his rock-demolition business, Waller said. Since it is stored in a large steel vault underground, there was little chance the explosives would get hot enough to go off, and if they did, they would “blow inside the container,” he said.

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