Gas leak could be cause of fire |

Gas leak could be cause of fire

Julie Sutor and Ryan SlabaughSummit County correspondents
Summit Daily/Reid Williams Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue Lt. Kim McDonald stands beside the burned out wreckage of an RV in the Frisco Loaf-N-Jug parking lot Thursday. McDonald, along with other firefighters and the Colorado Burea of Investigation spent most of the night and day following the fire sifting through the embers to determine the fire's cause.

FRISCO – Investigators believe a fuel leak at a gasoline pump may have contributed to the fire at the Loaf-N-Jug Conoco gas pump island on Frisco’s Main Street that injured seven people Wednesday evening.Loaf-N-Jug employees had received customer complaints as early as Tuesday that pump No. 4 was filling slowly, according to Rachel Flood, public information officer for Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.The fuel leak developed while an employee was performing maintenance on the pump to address the problem, according to Flood.”We do not believe it was routine maintenance that led to this incident,” Frisco Town Manager Michael Penny said. “Loaf-N-Jug’s maintenance requirements and activities are part of the investigation. The leak was unrelated to someone filling their tank.” Normally, certified technicians perform maintenance on gas pumps, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue Assistant Chief Jeff Berino said. “We found it a little unusual that an employee would be servicing pumps,” he added.

The leaked fuel ignited just before 6 p.m., setting an RV and two other vehicles on fire and damaging a fourth vehicle. The canopy above the pumps was also destroyed.Surrounding buildings were not damaged.”We were standing with our backs to [the pumps],” said Texas resident Roy Ziegelgruber, owner of one of the damaged vehicles. “We heard the first explosion, and, initially, I just thought lightning had hit close. But then I turned around, and I felt the heat instantly on my arms. I turned to my wife and said, ‘Let’s run.'”Mike Lover, a 28-year-old Dillon resident, was parked at a nearby pump when the RV ignited. On Wednesday, he said he saw pump No. 4 malfunction and spill gasoline on the side of the RV. Lover escaped from the scene unharmed, but his 1998 Jeep Cherokee was badly damaged. He had specifically made the trip to Frisco because he had a 20-cents-per-gallon coupon from City Market. Loaf-N-Jug is owned by Kroger, also the parent company of City Market.Breckenridge resident Rachael Frickis was in a nearby salon when she heard the first explosion.”I was just sitting getting my hair done when we heard the noise,” Frickis said. “We ran outside, and we saw a lady on fire and she got worked on in front of us. She was crying. That was very scary.”

Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue responded to the scene five minutes after 911 dispatch received the first call. With the help of the Red White and Blue Fire Protection District, the firefighters had the fire contained within 25 minutes.The RV, which had stopped at the store to refuel, was carrying a group of 12 Lakewood residents, six of whom were taken from the scene by Summit County ambulance to medical facilities in Vail, Summit County and Denver. The seventh victim was the gas station employee who was working on the pump.All seven victims are stable and improving, including the Loaf-N-Jug employee, who was in critical condition and was taken to University of Colorado Hospital Wednesday night, Flood said.Investigators have not yet determined what caused the fuel to ignite.”There are any number of ignition sources present at a gas station: static electricity, cell phones, pagers, cigarettes,” Berino said. “The list is lengthy, so we have our work cut out for us as we try to rule things out.”The investigation continued Thursday as representatives from Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, local law enforcement, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the State Oil Inspection Division sifted through ashes and inspected charred gas pumps and vehicles.

“We routinely use [CBI] for additional expertise. They’re an additional resource we find very helpful, and we’re not afraid to ask for help,” Berino said. “This is very high-profile – right on Main Street in the middle of tourist season – so we want to get this wrapped up as quickly as possible.”Two CBI investigators and an arson dog are part of the investigation task force.”It’s pretty routine that we get called in for fires, whether it’s criminal or not,” said Pete Mang, CBI deputy director. “If it is criminal, that would be the focus of our attention. But we’re there to help the local law enforcement. Obviously, we want to rule out as many sources of the fire as possible.”The local investigation task force will turn over the scene to insurance companies’ investigators as soon as they arrive in Frisco, but it will continue to offer assistance.Local Conoco representatives declined to comment on the situation.At one point, town officials were concerned about possible contamination of local water supplies, but the Frisco Public Works Department and the Frisco Sanitation Department has since concluded that there are no such problems.

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