Arson leaves lingering burn
RIFLE – Hell.That’s how the former Rifle Amoco service station owner describes the nine months since an arsonist burned his business to the ground on Labor Day 2005.David Valencia, 45, a Rifle native and graduate of Rifle High School, had operated the station in the 100 block of Railroad Avenue for the past 25 years.But in the early morning hours of Sept. 5, 2005, everything he had went up in smoke.
“It’s been hell,” Valencia said, honestly. “It’s been a complete change of lifestyle.”Luckily, the Columbine Ford dealership in north Rifle offered to let Valencia operate out of their service department, gave him office space and allowed him to run his towing business. “We were blessed that Columbine Ford put us to work, and we can’t thank them enough,” Valencia said. “But it was a complete change after being self-employed for 25 years. My family wasn’t able to come and visit like they used to after all these years. It was a personal, financial and daily lifestyle change.”Not only did he lose his way of life and business income, Valencia lost countless pictures, pieces of information and material possessions.”Everything we knew we had is gone,” he said. “Irreplaceable memorabilia, paperwork, customer histories, tools, awards … to know it was all gone in a few hours is unbelievable.”
One thing Valencia has learned from the tragedy is that life can change in a moment.”You can lose everything in a heartbeat,” he said. “I go to look for something I know I had, and I don’t have it anymore.”Valencia lost three-quarters of a million dollars in the fire and was reimbursed only 40 percent of his loss by insurance.But he is thankful that no human life was sacrificed in the fire, and he is grateful for the help and support he has received from the community, which put on a spaghetti dinner benefit and wine-tasting event to help the victims of the fires.
“I appreciate that we do still have some community left in our growing town,” Valencia said.On a positive note, Valencia is building and getting ready to open a new station at the same site sometime in July.”We’re shooting for the first week in July,” he said. “We’re starting over, and I know we’ll have a good customer base. But it’s all different – it’s not the same shop or the same system. We’re starting from scratch.”A silver lining to the tragedy?”When all is said and done, I don’t know that there is,” Valencia said, shaking his head. “I guess if there’s a silver lining somewhere, it’s that you know who your friends are.”
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AS OF THURSDAY, APRIL 22