A reward has been issued for information about the Country Mall fire, which occurred late last year. Danger signs around the ashen building lets onlookers know of asbestos issues in the remains.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

A reward has been issued for information about the Country Mall fire, which occurred late last year. Danger signs around the ashen building lets onlookers know of asbestos issues in the remains.

Country Mall cleanup begins


Story at a glance

• The Country Mall, 356 Ranney St., burned Nov. 25, 2007, and subsequent tests showed asbestos contamination.

• The Country Mall owners were waiting to hear if Continental Divide Insurance would pay for environmental cleanup before hiring contractors.

• The Colorado Department of Health told the owners they had to clean the site soon, regardless of the insurance company.

• One owner, Veldon Behrman, said the site is not badly contaminated, though he and his partner, Marvin Cortner, contracted a cleanup crew to start this week. The owners are paying out of pocket.

• The Craig Police Department deemed the fire a result of arson. The investigation has not progressed beyond previous reports.

— Veldon "Lop" Behrman remembers being confused the December 2007 day he saw "Danger: Asbestos" signs wrapped around the Country Mall, a property he owns with Marvin "Red" Cortner.

The Country Mall, at 356 Ranney St., burned Nov. 25, 2007. Craig firefighters termed the blaze "a total loss."

Craig Police Department officials deemed the fire was a result of arson, but no arrests have been made.

After the fire, Sunrise Environmental LLC conducted a hazardous materials investigation and found the property was contaminated with asbestos, which requires special cleanup procedures.

Those procedures started this weekend.

Behrman and Cortner contracted Kingston Environmental Services, of Denver, for asbestos removal.

The job could take about two to three weeks to complete, said Roy White, Kingston western regional manager.

"It really depends on the weather, though," White said. "If the wind gets over 20 miles per hour, we have to shut down. The job would take longer if we had a lot of problems with that."

Kingston crews sprayed down the site with water to keep wind from spreading the asbestos, which is a potential health concern.

Kingston will put a wind tent across the fencing now surrounding the Country Mall to help contain any asbestos.

Then, crews will transport contaminated material in lined dumpsters to the Milner Landfill. White said the Moffat County Landfill does not accept asbestos-contaminated debris.

After Kingston is done, Cowboy Excavating, an area company, will demolish the building and take everything away, including the foundation, said Andy Volk, Cowboy Excavating secretary.

Behrman said he is not happy with the way the Country Mall's cleanup has been handled so far.

He said he received the Sunrise Environmental report Thursday, about four months after the initial investigation, adding the proof of asbestos contamination was less than compelling.

According to the Sunrise study report, two out of 38 debris samples tested contained asbestos.

Although the linoleum flooring in the surgery room of the High Country Veterinary Clinic - a mall tenant - was shown to be 25 percent asbestos, Behrman said it was only dangerous because it was burned.

The state sets a limit of 1 percent asbestos in a material's composition before it is deemed hazardous.

Ceiling tiles in the building's southern end showed a 3 percent asbestos composition.

"There isn't enough asbestos in there to hurt anybody," Behrman said. "If the fire hadn't gotten into that floor tile, it's nonpliable, which means it could be bagged up and taken to any landfill."

State regulations require site-wide cleanup when asbestos is found after a fire, White said, because the fire and winds blowing through a destroyed site can spread the material.

As of Monday, Behrman said Continental Divide Insurance has not made a decision whether it would pay for fire damages at the Country Mall or any environmental cleanup.

He and Cortner were waiting to hear what compensation they would receive for the building before hiring contractors, Behrman said in a previous interview.

However, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told Behrman and Cortner to clean the site regardless after recent complaints from residents, said Chris Dann, Air Pollution Control Division information officer.

"So far we're paying for it out of our own pocket," Behrman said, at a cost of about $200,000.

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said the department's arson investigation has not progressed beyond previous reports. There remains a $10,000 reward from Continental Divide Insurance and a $2,000 reward from CrimeStoppers for any information leading to an arrest and a conviction.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com


lonelyone 9 years ago

Native, I guess your right..........darn it!! lol I think I may have taken your thank you as a sarcastiic comment and never thought you were serious about it. You also make some very good points about asbestos. That is some bad doo-doo! I find it so strange that there are so many things out there that were put in place years ago to protect us and now we are finding that they are a real danger to us in certain situations. And this burnt out mall is the right situation along with all the wind we've had. I don't have the need that you do to see it cleaned up, but it does need to be done and the sooner the better it will be for everyone, except those that have to shell out the big bucks to get'er done!! ;o)


lonelyone 9 years ago

Two Hundred Thousand Dollars is alot of money no matter who you are. And before it's to late for what???


STANHATHHORN 9 years ago

Native, Where on earth do you get your information, the GOB table at the Golden Cavvy? How can you pretend to know the financial positions of others? Sounds like pure jealousy to me. As far as demolition of the building, if they had started any sooner you would have been the first to claim they were destroying evidence! Your "chicken little" assessment of minute traces of asbestos is absurd. As a child I and others played in several attics filled with loose asbestos and in another abandoned building with the stuff falling out of the walls. We're all still alive 60 years later. I also contour ground asbestos compound brake linings without a mask. To say that a few transient fibers blowing in the wind is lethal is paranoia.

 I find it amazing that you admittedly wouldn't report a dangerous driver for fear of retaliation, but continue to spout off under your veil of anonymity!! Accusations by a nameless ?? don't carry much weight. What a role model for your children.

davesanrn 9 years ago

What are the winds going to kick up and do, dilute the asbestos, spread it over so large an area it is not detectable? What?


lonelyone 9 years ago

Native, I was going to say calm down, I just asked what you meant it was going to be to late for, because I was not thinking along the same lines as you. However, thanks to the two other post, I believe War has been declared again!! Stan does make one point that I have to agree with. These guys may own alot of property around town. But that doesn't give them ready cash to shell out 200 hundred thousand dollars for this clean up. Owning lots of property around town has probably tied up much of their cash flow in many different ways. I'm not saying these guys don't have money, but it sounds to me like they are rich on paper, but not in the bank so to speak. I agree the site needs to be cleaned up and even a little bit of asbestos can be very bad in the right circumstance. But it seems to me that you must really dislike these guys because of the way your bashing them on this issue and the fire. Do you really dislike them that badly or are you just an overly concerned citizen?


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