Arson cases concern Aspen police
Aspen police are investigating a rash of vandalism cases during the past month that include two cars someone apparently tried to ignite using wicks stuffed into gas tanks.
“Obviously we’re concerned,” said Aspen police Sgt. Rob Fabrocini. “It could be kids doing stupid things. We just don’t know at this point.”
The other incidents involve damage to parked cars, including broken windows and taillights, according to Fabrocini and police reports. However, the arson cases are clearly more serious than those more typical vandalism incidents, he said.
The first arson case was reported March 13 in the 700 block of West Bleeker Street, and likely occurred the Saturday before, according to a police report. The officer who responded discovered a 2005 Ford SUV with an open gas tank door and the gas cap lying in the snow about three feet away, the report states.
The officer also noticed a type of cord singed into the car’s paint near the gas tank door, a burn on the driver’s side bumper and pieces of burnt cord inside the gas cap area, according to the report.
While the officer was investigating that case, a man approached him and reported a similar incident that occurred about the same time, the report states. The man’s Dodge van was parked down the street at the intersection of Bleeker and North Fifth Street, and found with the gas tank door open and the gas cap off, according to the police report.
Again, some of the cord was singed into the van’s paint and there was a burn mark near the driver’s side rear bumper. The officer also found more of the unburned cord on the ground and singe marks in a circular pattern on the pavement below the gas tank, the report states.
Fabrocini said it appeared the cord had been stuffed into the gas nozzle opening in both cases.
Aspen Fire Marshal Parker Lathrop said the cord looked like nylon rope and may have been soaked in some kind of accelerant. The remains found by police are currently being tested at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, he said.
Putting a wick into a gas tank and lighting it is unlikely to blow up a car, Lathrop said. In warmer weather, it might have ignited gas vapors coming up from the gas tank, but probably wouldn’t have traveled down into the tank and blown up the car, he said.
That’s because fires burn with just the right combination of accelerant and air, and the mix inside the tank would probably have been too rich to ignite, Lathrop said.
Still, the case is unusual, he said.
“We just don’t see that up here, especially two cars parked within two blocks of each other,” he said. “Definitely there’s some concern with that one.”
Other fire marshals from around the state also have told him such incidents are rare in their jurisdictions too, Lathrop said.
The first vandalism incidents occurred the weekend before the arson cases, Fabrocini said. Headlights and taillights on four cars parked in the area of the 400 block of West North Street — also located in Aspen’s West End — were broken out, he said.
The latest incidents took place last weekend in the downtown area, Fabrocini said. Windows in three cars parked behind the Aspen Square Hotel were broken out, though nothing was stolen from them, he said. Another car parked down the street in the 500 block of East Cooper Avenue also had a window broken out, but again nothing was stolen, he said.
Fabrocini said he doubted the downtown incidents were related to the other two.
“It almost looks like someone drunk was walking through the area,” he said.
Police also don’t know if the first two incidents, including the arson cases, are related but think they could be because they both occurred in the West End, Fabrocini said.
Anyone with any information about the vandalism incidents can call Aspen police at 970-920-5310.
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