“It could have been bad…”
An arson in the area is not very common. An arson on a government building is even more rare but such an incident took place last weekend at the Bureau of Land Management offices near the airport on 11th Street in Gunnison.
According to Gunnison police detective Chris Danos, the police and fire departments were notified of the fire at the BLM building about 3:45 a.m. on Saturday, November 30. “There is an apartment on the second floor of that building and it was the tenant who heard something and woke up,” explained Danos. “When he realized there was a fire, he called the fire department. It was fortunate for him that he woke up before the fire got too big.”
The fire department extinguished the fire pretty quickly in under an hour. No one was hurt and there doesn’t appear to have been any structural damage to the building.
“It’s pretty different,” agreed Gunnison fire marshal Dennis Spritzer. Whoever started the fire “broke a window to get in and then vandalized the offices before setting the office area on fire.”
Spritzer said the office area has several cubicles and it was the main office area that was damaged by significant smoke. A few of the cubicles where the fire was started had some bad fire damage.
While the fire was manageable when the department arrived, Spritzer said, “It was starting to get big pretty quickly. There is a lot of paper in that office. It could have been bad.”
“We are all doing okay, all things considered,” said BLM Gunnison Field Office manager Brian St. George. “We’re obviously not occupying the office now or probably anytime in the near future. At the moment we’re just at the office doing a little bit of essential inventory. We are doing work assessments and things like that.”
Danos did say that a stolen BLM vehicle was located a few blocks from the BLM building. “A truck with a trailer was stolen, then abandoned,” he explained.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation was called in to help with the investigation. “Given the complexity of the case, the CBI can provide expertise for the fire elements,” said Danos. Thus far, there are no suspects and no known motive.
“Hopefully somebody saw something that night,” Spritzer said. “I can’t recall an arson of this type in the past. This situation is very odd to us.”
“Most important, everyone is safe and accounted for,” concluded St. George. “As for the future, we’re trying to sort that out right now. We’re bringing in an incident command team to help us determine our tech support needs and our work support needs to find a location or locations. We are borrowing a little bit of space here and there. The Forest Service has been incredibly generous in letting us meet in their conference room today.”
If you saw something that might be related to the case or have information, call Gunnison Crime Stoppers at 641-8280 or the Arson Hotline at 1-877-89-ARSON.