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No suspects yet in apparent arsons

Post Independen/Kelley Cox
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RIFLE ” As of 3:30 p.m. police, city and fire officials do not have anyone in custody regarding the suspected arson fires that torched two Rifle businesses early this morning.

The Amoco service station at the south entrance to Rifle, at First Street

and Railroad Avenue, and the Fireside Lanes bowling alley, located just north of city limits on Highway 13, are considered total losses at this point.



A row of townhouses under construction and Mi Hacienda, a saloon and dance hall, both in north Rifle, are also suspected to have been set fire intentionally. Both those fires were extinguished before they could cause extensive damage.

Losses are expected to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,



according to Rifle Fire chief Mike Morgan.

The investigation was “progressing well” Monday afternoon, according to Rifle Police chief Daryl Meisner.

“We’ve received an incredible number of calls and tips,” said Meisner,

speaking at a 2 p.m. press conference at Rifle City Hall Monday. “People are giving us wonderful information, but we do not have anyone in custody yet.”

Rumors were flying fast and furious around Rifle as people reacted to the news of the fires, but Meisner would not confirm or deny any reports.

“We have a lot of leads, but at this point it’s premature to speculate,”

he said. “That’s why we’ve called in the experts.”

Meisner said that a task force composed of the Rifle Police Department, Rifle Fire Protection District, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, were at the crime scenes Monday investigating the four cases.

As news helicopters circled the burned out shells of Fireside Lanes and the Amoco station, people in town reacted to what was to have been a relaxing Labor Day.

Instead, they rallied support for fire fighters, called in leads, and expressed sympathy towards Jack and Ava Bowles, who had just purchased the bowling alley and were set to re-open it this week, and for David Valencia, who’s owned and operated the Amoco station for more than 25 years.

“I know Jack,” said Tyler McMillan, who works at the Shell service station directly across the street from the burned-out Amoco. “He was just getting ready to start league bowling. And it’s so sad for David. He’s had the Amoco for such a long time.”

Rifle Fire Protection chief Mike Morgan commended the efforts of his paid and volunteer staff and out-of-town fire agencies that came to help, from Gypsum to Carbondale to Palisade to Meeker, and to townspeople who were offering food and water to tired fire crews.

“The support has been incredible,” Morgan said. “The volleyball team is at the station right now helping to clean and wind up hoses.”

Mayor Lambert said he wasn’t at liberty to discuss the investigation, but complemented townspeople for rallying support and “the professionals” as he called them for their hard work in battling the blazes and investigating the fires.

“I don’t think people realize what’s taken place,” said Lambert around 3 p.m. Monday. “They will when this story comes out, but I don’t know if people have pieced together that something might be connected here. “


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