Anger flares after State Bridge fire | AspenTimes.com

Anger flares after State Bridge fire

Steve Lynn
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

BOND, Colo. ” Jeff Gibson’s business, Rancho del Rio, will suffer from the State Bridge Lodge fire that police believe was arson.

State Bridge no longer brings people to fish, kayak, canoe and whitewater raft at Rancho del Rio, Gibson said.

“We’re not going to see those people until State Bridge reopens,” he said.

Locals expressed their disgust, anger and sadness about the fire investigators said was intentionally set after the lodge was burglarized June 2.

Built in 1890, the main building that burned at State Bridge River Resort in Bond early June 2 contained a bar, office, bedroom, store and stage, where concerts were held.

Mitch Garfinkel owned the resort for more than one year. Weeks ago, Garfinkel placed State Bridge River Resort on the real estate market for $2.2 million.

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“What are we going to do? I don’t really know. Scotty and I were shaken by the thing,” he said, referring to general manager Scott Stoughton.

“Hopefully it’s not somebody we know, as that would hurt ten times as much,” Garfinkel said.

Michael Arnett played music there in the 1970s and has rafted on the upper Colorado River with his son since he was a baby, he said.

“We have so little long-term history in this valley, that when something of that magnitude occurs, it’s truly a sad thing,” said Arnett, Vail resident.

The lodge once hosted President Theodore Roosevelt and a hunting party. At some points in its history, it was a brothel. In the 1920s, it was a speakeasy and gambling den, said Scott Stoughton, general manager of the resort who has researched its history.

Tom Boyd recalled when hippies, bikers, bankers, ranchers and kayakers used to gather at State Bridge Lodge any day, he said.

“State bridge really represented everything that was the upper Colorado River,” said Tom Boyd, Vail resident who has visited State Bridge since he was 12. “To burn it down, that’s despicable.”

Like others, Gibson is concerned about other things beside his business. He wondered why someone would commit such a “low-ball” act, he said.

“It’s kind of making people a little angry that someone would do this,” Gibson said. “They must have known people were inside.”

State Bridge manager John Ryder was sleeping inside when his dog woke him up at 4:28 a.m. He escaped with his dog, Tatiana, and the clothes on his back, he said.

The first fire department arrived a half hour after Ryder called 911 from a phone four miles away at 4:54 a.m., said Brandon Beaudette of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

The State Bridge fire burned for a long time and destroyed a great deal of evidence, said Special Agent Tom Mangan of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Investigators found an “area of origin” where the fire started in the northeast corner in part by measuring the sizes of wood burned. Wood located farther from the fire was larger, because it didn’t have as much time to burn, investigators said.

A dog also indicated that it found materials that made the fire burn faster, Beaudette said.

Dogs’ strong senses of smell can identify ignitable fluids, or accelerants. Dogs probably found hydrocarbons ” compounds found in petroleum ” concentrated in certain areas of the State Bridge Lodge fire, Beaudette said.

Dogs’ senses of smell are so strong, scientists need a greater quantity of a chemical than a dog needs for identification, he said.

Investigators do not know whether they will be able identify what accelerants were used, he said. Samples have been sent to a lab for confirmation of the presence of accelerants.