Arson destroys buildings in Rifle |

Arson destroys buildings in Rifle

Heidi RiceRifle correspondent

A firefighter from the Gypsum Fire Department shoots water into the smoldering remains of the Amoco gas station in Rifle on Monday morning. (Kelley Cox/Glenwood Springs Post Independent)

Jack Bowles, owner of the Rifle Fireside Lanes in north Rifle, literally watched his dreams go up in smoke early on the morning of Labor Day.Fire destroyed the Rifle Fireside Lanes on Highway 325 and the Rifle Amoco service station at 100 Railroad Ave. Police believe the blazes were the result of arson.Bowles, 61, of Silt, had purchased the bowling alley in June from longtime owner and Garfield County Commissioner Larry McCown. Bowles has spent countless hours since then remodeling and refurbishing the building, and was hoping to reopen it for business next week.But a call awakened him at 3:30 a.m. Monday and told his building was on fire. He rushed to the scene and spent the next four hours watching the business burn to the ground.”It’s another one of them dreams gone down the tubes,” Bowles said. “The fire took it all.”

There was a smaller fire at a condominium complex at 26th Street and Meadow Circle; Mi Hacienda restaurant at 2030 Railroad Ave. in north Rifle, near KFC, also sustained some damage. Officials believe both are the result of arson.Garfield County Emergency Communications received the first report of a fire at the Fireside Lanes at 3:07 a.m. Upon arrival, fire personnel found half the structure engulfed in flames.At 3:53 a.m., a fire was reported off Highway 13 at 26th Street and Meadow Circle at a condominium complex under construction. That fire was quickly extinguished.At 4:37 a.m. authorities received a report of an explosion, followed by a fire at the Rifle Amoco station and found it fully engulfed in flames upon their arrival.David Valencia of Rifle has owned the Rifle Amoco station for the past 25 years. He was informed of the fire at 4:50 a.m. The black and charred station was “totaled,” he said.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Valencia said. “I’ll deal with the insurance company, and maybe rebuild and reopen – I don’t know.”With three fires within an hour and a half, emergency crews responded from Grand Junction to Meeker, and Carbondale to Glenwood Springs to assist in putting out the blazes.”We were literally overwhelmed with the amount of fire we were seeing,” said Rifle Fire Chief Mike Morgan.No injuries were reported as a result of the fires.At a press conference the Rifle Police Department, Rifle Fire Protection District and Rifle city staff held Monday afternoon, officials said there were no known suspects for the fires, but there were leads. The location and timing of the fires led officials to believe they are related.

“We’ve got a lot of leads, but it’s way too premature to say,” said Rifle police chief Daryl Meisner. “Whether it’s the same individual or a group, is too early to speculate. But right now, we suspect arson because of the proximity of time and place.”The Amoco fire also caused a power outage downtown and east of the city from about 4:30 a.m. until shortly after 7 a.m.Damage from the fires has not yet been determined, but is estimated to be in the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars, Meisner and Morgan said.Both Bowles and Valencia say they will see what happens with their insurance companies before deciding if they will rebuild and reopen their businesses.Police say they intend to step up patrol in the fire areas and around town. A task force involving members of the Rifle Police Department, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the Rifle Fire Protection District, will investigate the fires.The Rifle Police Department urges anyone with any information to call 625-2271.

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