Paul Shockley
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

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January 21, 2008
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Feds help probe KREX-TV blaze

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. " Federal agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrived Monday to help investigate the gutted remains of KREX-TV in Grand Junction. The station was destroyed in a fire on Sunday.

Grand Junction fire investigator Doug Lucas said local authorities yesterday accepted an offer of assistance from the feds.

"They're supplementing our investigation and they have some of the best forensic examination capability in the country," Lucas said.

Lucas said he expects he'll need about two days to examine the scene. The cause of the blaze appears to be accidental, he added.

On Monday morning, firefighters kept a lone fire engine at the television station site for possible flareups " Lucas said sections of the building collapsed on itself, retaining heat.

KREX staffers and management were expected to meet late Monday morning to hash out the station's short-term plans.

The fire raced through the offices of KREX-TV on Sunday, knocking programming off the air and leaving the station's short-term broadcasting future in limbo.

The decades-old building at 345 Hillcrest Drive appears to be a total loss.

Damage to the facility and equipment was expected to top $6 million, among the more significant local fire losses in recent memory, said Grand Junction Fire Department spokesman Mike Page.

Witnesses said a neighbor noticed smoke billowing from the building's roof at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

KREX General Manager Ron Tillery said four employees were inside at the time, but no one could pinpoint the probably cause of the blaze. Page said it appeared to be accidental in nature.

"We just don't know," Tillery said. "Employees were saying the furnace had kicked on right around that time."

The building " sections of which dated back to the 1930s " had no fire sprinkler system and proved difficult for crews to access, Page said.

Firefighters arriving first on scene, at about 8:50 a.m., were able to get inside the building, before retreating outside for a "defensive" effort against the blaze.

"The fire spread pretty rapidly," Page said.

Shortly after pulling out of the building, Page said a series of smoke explosions spread flames that consumed the entire building.

Although the fire was considered under control by about 10:45 a.m., flames were visible some five hours after firefighters arrived.

There were no injuries.

It wasn't clear when the station will resume local broadcasts " Tillery said that largely depends on fire or water damage to a lower-level room housing the transmitter.

"When the investigation's completed, we'll demolish the building to get to the transmitter area," Tillery said.

"If it's damaged, I can't estimate how long it will take."

pshockley@gjfreepress.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Jan 21, 2008 01:51PM Published Jan 21, 2008 01:39PM Copyright 2008 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.