The yin and yang of Rifle citizenry
Rifle Fire Protection District firefighters Rob Jones and Kevin Whelen weren’t able to get to the fires that erupted at three different locations in Rifle early Monday morning, destroying two businesses and quarantining off two structures where arson is suspected. That’s because the two Rifle firefighters were down south, offering their services to help in relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina. So, let’s get this straight. While Rob and Kevin were risking their lives helping to rescue and aid people caught in the crossfire of one of the country’s worst natural disasters, a person or a group of people allegedly set fire to four structures in Rifle. It makes you wonder. At this point, nothing is for certain, but investigators are ruling the Rifle fires as suspected arson. It seems fairly impossible that three fires could spontaneously ignite in the span of an hour and a half in a city that’s only a couple of miles long, end to end. Here’s yin and yang, good and evil, right here, right now. On one side, you have minds that would think up the kind of destruction that occurred in Rifle on Monday. Sick.And on the other, you have men like Rob and Kevin who dedicate their lives helping people. Who would you rather be like? Is that a no-brainer or what?This isn’t the first time Rifle has experienced fire’s devastation. In 1902, half of Rifle’s business section was destroyed when a fire broke out about 11:20 p.m. at Hugus & Co., a big, newly constructed mercantile store right downtown. No cause for the fire was determined. Back then, Rifle wasn’t yet incorporated, so there wasn’t a fire department. But people rallied. They formed bucket brigades from irrigation ditches, hoisting and passing water buckets hand to hand to douse the flames. It took until 4 a.m. to put that fire out, but the destruction it caused changed Rifle forever (and motivated Rifleites to incorporate as soon as possible). This time, we still don’t know the cause of the fires – not yet, anyway. There’s a sick, sad story here, but also a story about the good people can do. When the first call went out about the bowling alley just after 3 a.m. Monday morning, Rifle’s firefighters responded. They got blindsided less than an hour later, when Rifle’s Amoco went up in flames, and then a north Rifle construction site. There was also an apparent arson attempt at Mi Hacienda.Crews came from all over the region to help: Palisade, Grand Valley, Battlement Mesa, Glenwood, Carbondale and Gypsum. Rifleites did, too. The high school volleyball team went to the fire station and helped clean and roll up hoses. Other folks served up food and water to tired firefighters.Immediately came the genuine heartfelt sentiments for David Valencia, who’s owned and operated the Rifle Amoco for more than 25 years, and for Jack and Ava Bowles. The couple had just purchased the Fireside Lanes bowling alley, and had spent hours remodeling, getting ready to re-open it this week. Disasters have a way of making things clear and cloudy at the same time.What’s cloudy is what would compel anyone to do something so destructive and hurtful. What’s clear is that when facing destruction, the dominant force that overrides it all is plain and simple benevolence. Carrie Click is the editor and general manager of The Citizen Telegram, Rifle’s weekly newspaper. If you’d like to help make the Bowles’ and the Valencias’ lives better, reach Carrie at 625-3245, ext. 101, email@example.com and let’s see what we can come up with.
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