Earth-mover fire thought to be arson
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Mark Gould isn’t one to speculate about the potential that an apparent arson incident Wednesday night — which destroyed one of his construction company’s large earth-movers — might have been an act of “eco-terrorism.”
But some who commented on a thread of Facebook posts after the incident weren’t so shy, suggesting that it’s no small coincidence the victim was Gould Construction, the lead contractor on a fairly controversial project to rebuild a small section of Four Mile Road southwest of Glenwood Springs.
“I don’t have an opinion on that myself,” Gould said Friday as he was still assessing the damage to one of his four Caterpillar 627 scrapers that was torched at a storage yard along Garfield County Road 154 shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday, in what authorities are investigating as a possible arson.
“I do know that it was published in the paper earlier this week the fact that we were starting that job,” Gould said of a Garfield County press release announcing that the road work was commencing, and that Gould is the lead on the $3.75 million project.
Gould began work this week to realign the so-called “dead man’s curve” section of Four Mile Road, and to build a new bridge and intersection at Black Diamond Mine Road.
The project has been somewhat controversial, as residents of the area have sparred with Garfield County commissioners over the need and purpose for the road improvements, especially as energy interests eye natural gas drilling in the Thompson Divide area.
One energy company has proposed using the Four Mile route to access proposed exploratory wells in the area beyond Sunlight Mountain Resort.
The commissioners contend the road improvements are for safety purposes only and that the project has been planned for years.
In any case, the piece of machinery involved in the Wednesday fire incident at the storage yard several miles away was not one that would have been used on that project, Gould said.
“That’s one of our heavy earth-moving pieces of equipment that we use on really big projects where we have to move a half or three-quarter million yards of dirt,” Gould said.
By comparison, the Four Mile project will involve about 6,000 yards of dirt moving, he said.
According to Bill Gavette, deputy fire chief for the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District, firefighters arrived shortly after receiving the call Wednesday to find the cab section and the front end of the scraper fully engulfed in flames.
It took firefighters about 30 minutes to bring the blaze under control. The fire was kept to the front section of the machine, though the damage was still “extensive,” Gavette said.
No one was injured in the incident, he said.
Gould said his insurance company will determine whether it’s a total loss, or if the machine can be salvaged in some way.
Because of the suspicious nature of the fire, the case was turned over to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office for an investigation into the cause. Sheriff’s spokesman Walt Stowe said Friday that the investigation is ongoing but that there was no more information to release at that time.
Gould said the machine hadn’t been moved “for at least four months.”
“There’s absolutely no way that it started itself on fire,” he said. “It’s an arson.”
However, there are few if any apparent leads, he said.
“It’s probably one of those that’s going to go unsolved, until somebody bolts out at a party with friends or something and says they did it,” Gould said.
“It happened, no one got hurt, and I’ve got insurance. I just hope it doesn’t happen again.”
Gould’s Facebook page included all sorts of theories after he posted a photo of the charred Cat on Thursday, ranging from pinning it on anti-drilling activists, to a possible disgruntled ex-employee or subcontractor, or even someone who didn’t get hired for failing the company’s drug-screening test.
Gould penned a guest opinion in the Post Independent on Wednesday explaining that, even though recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Colorado, his company’s policy is to screen for marijuana use, per federal regulations for jobs involving federal dollars.
“This is really only a small part of our business,” Gould said of the need for the larger earth movers he has as part of the Gould Construction fleet. “We’re really more into backhoes and bulldozers.”
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Imagine Glenwood and The City of Glenwood Springs is slated to host a virtual town hall at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11.