Grand Junction on lookout for arsonist
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Grand Junction police and fire investigators are seeking a man in connection with 16 fires set downtown since January.
Investigators believe he travels by foot or bicycle and starts most of the fires with accelerants he carries in a backpack.
Five fires set in downtown Grand Junction, in far western Colorado, between Sunday and Wednesday were the latest in series of blazes involving homes, sheds and other buildings, and vehicles, that have occurred since Jan. 8.
One of this week’s victims spotted the arsonist, according to authorites.
Grand Junction Police Chief Bill Gardner and Fire Chief Ken Watkins released a video to members of the media Wednesday, showing what appears to be a man setting one of the earlier fires. Police and fire investigators aren’t sure if the person on the tape set all the fires by himself or ignited some with accomplices.
The arsonist could face charges of third- and fourth-degree arson, criminal trespass and burglary.
An arson task force was formed in February to conduct surveillance and investigate the fires. Gardner said the group of watch dogs has expanded to an “unprecedented level” in the wake of latest blazes and has expanded its surveillance efforts.
Anyone with information about the fires can call an arson hotline at 244-3777. Crime Stoppers is offering at least $1,000 for information. Anyone who sees or hears something suspicious should call 911.
Watkins suggested people in the downtown area clear debris or bushes that could be lit on fire from the front of their homes, leave outdoor areas well-lit and pay attention if their dogs bark.
Watkins said the accelerants used to ignite some of the fires have not been identified, but investigators have alerted gas station attendants to be on the lookout for anyone buying a small amount of gas or a person on a bicycle who buys gasoline.
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Another hot, dry month in the Roaring Fork Valley has got firefighting officials on high alert.