Basalt fire chief says Lazy Glen fire was arson
A fire that destroyed a mobile home in Lazy Glen subdivision Saturday night is considered arson, Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson said Monday.
A fire investigator from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in Denver was brought to the scene Monday morning at the request of the Fire Department and Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office because of suspicious circumstances. The investigator visited the scene with a specially trained dog.
“We found evidence of an accelerant. We could smell it,” Thompson said. “It’s definitely labeled an arson fire.”
The findings will be turned over to the Sheriff’s Office, he said.
Thompson said the fire started on the outside of the unoccupied structure at 94 Lazy Glen Drive. The entire rear wall and about one-quarter of a wall along the length of the trailer collapsed. The interior was gutted. A detached shed also was destroyed.
“It was a very neglected trailer that nobody lived in,” said a neighbor who wouldn’t provide his name. That person and other neighbors said the owner hasn’t lived there in some time. The trailer has been rented at times but it was unoccupied recently and listed for sale.
The owner is listed as Omar Merlos in the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office database. The property lot is owned by the Lazy Glen Homeowners Association. No contact information could be found for Merlos.
Fire reported at midnight
The initial report came into the emergency dispatch center at 11:56 p.m. The reporting party said the flames were shooting 25 feet high from the mobile home, according to Basalt Fire Department Division Chief Richard Cornelius. The first firefighters from the El Jebel and Basalt fire stations arrived 13 minutes later and found the residence engulfed in flames with heavy smoke rolling out, he said.
There were neighboring residences about 15 feet away on either side of the burning structure. Firefighters scrambled to prevent the fire from spreading, Cornelius said. The adjacent trailers were not damaged, he said. A neighbor reported damage to a trailer skirt. Cornelius said it was fortunate that other structures didn’t catch on fire.
“It certainly had its challenges, but the crews did a great job,” Cornelius said. The fire was extinguished within minutes but firefighters remained on scene in related activities for several hours.
Eighteen firefighters responded with three fire trucks and two ambulances. Carbondale Fire Department responded, as well. They were redirected to stage in El Jebel in case other emergency calls came in.
Neighbor noticed earlier glow
Peter Mullery, who rents a room in a trailer that shares a backyard fence with the one that burned, said he came home Friday between 10 and 11 p.m. and noticed the orange glow of what he assumed was a bonfire in the neighboring space. He noticed the glow beneath the shared fence but didn’t think anything of it, he said. The trailer wasn’t on fire at that time.
Later that night, close to midnight, he and his landlord took off their headphones when there was a disruption in Internet service and heard someone screaming “fire” and “call 911.” They called, but officials had already been notified.
Next they went to the corner of their trailer closest to the flames and started spraying it in hopes of preventing the spread of the fire or damage from the heat. However, they noticed there were several gas meters on the shared fence so they decided to vacate the area, Mullery said. At about that time, law enforcement officers were evacuating people from the residences surrounding the trail on fire.
Mullery said the shed wasn’t initially part of the blaze but “was just suddenly on fire.”
Odd weekend at Lazy Glen
Tom Stom, who lives across the street from the burned residence, said he was awakened by people yelling at around midnight.
“The flames were already up 20 feet,” he said.
He said there was a lot of unusual activity in the quiet neighborhood over the weekend. On Friday night, a vehicle was broken into and a pellet gun was used to shoot out the windows of three vehicles and one residence. In addition, a Jeep Cherokee was broken into and several items — including a saddle, stereo and Jeep parts — were reported stolen.
Stom said he has owned a residence at Lazy Glen since 1990 and lived there “off and on” over the years. He always felt secure there but acknowledged that now, “I feel like I’m in danger.”
He believes there is an “obvious connection” between the events of Friday and Saturday night.
“There were windows shot out Friday night. Saturday night a trailer was burned down,” he said.
Officials with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office acknowledged that they are investigating reports of criminal mischief and damage to property. They are trying to determine if there was a link with Saturday’s fire.
Anyone with information about the fire or criminal mischief is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 970-920-5310.
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The skier, who was on vacation with his family, was found unresponsive at the base of a tree and “was pronounced deceased at the Sunlight ski patrol first-aid room.”