Arsonist sought in Grand Junction fires |

Arsonist sought in Grand Junction fires

Emily Anderson
Grand Junction Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado – Grand Junction police and fire investigators are seeking a male arsonist in connection with 16 fires set downtown since January.

Investigators believe he travels by foot or bicycle and starts most of his fires with accelerants he carries in a backpack.

The home, building, shed and vehicle fires took place between Jan. 8 and now.

Five fires were set downtown between Sunday and Wednesday morning at 1450 Bunting Ave., 1018 White Ave., 1220 and 1230 Ouray Ave., 1040 Hill Ave. and 1325 Bunting Ave. One of this week’s victims saw the arsonist.

Grand Junction Police Chief Bill Gardner and Fire Chief Ken Watkins released a video to members of the media Wednesday of what appears to be a man setting one of the earlier fires. Police and fire investigators are not sure if the person on the tape has set all the fires or set other ones with accomplices.

The arsonist is not behind bars. If caught, the person could face third- and fourth-degree arson, and criminal trespass and burglary charges.

“We’ll be there in minutes,” Gardner said.

An arson task force formed to conduct surveillance and investigate the fires in February. Gardner said the task force of investigators and watch dogs has expanded to an “unprecedented level” in the wake of new fires. The task force will, in part, increase surveillance in the area south of Orchard Avenue, north of Riverside Parkway, east of 28 Road and west of First Street.

Other police and fire efforts to catch the person or people responsible for the fires include talking with a behavioral scientist and appealing to the public for information.

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. Asking people to present identification when they buy accelerants isn’t an option, he said.

“Probably the most common accelerant is gasoline, so if we did that we would have to look at every person filling up their car or lawn mower,” Watkins said.

Investigators have, however, talked to gas station attendants about watching for people who buy a small amount of gas or a person on a bicycle who buys gasoline.

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