Police: No timetable on cause | CraigDailyPress.com

Police: No timetable on cause

Authorities sifting through charred remains of Country Mall

Joshua Roberts

— Craig firefighters, police and a Colorado Bureau of Investigation fire investigator remained at the charred scene of one of the biggest fires in Craig’s nearly 100-year history Tuesday.

Authorities said there is no timetable for when a cause behind the fire that consumed the Country Mall, at Fourth and Ranney streets, would be uncovered.

“Whenever it gets done,” Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said. “It’s very painstaking work.”

The fire began late Sunday night and destroyed the mall, which housed 12 offices, including Horizons Specialized Services, the Yampa Valley Pregnancy Center and the Moffat County Farm Service Agency, among others.

More than 50 people worked at the mall.

Vanatta said the Police Department requested a CBI fire investigator Monday to assist with the probe into the fire’s origin. The request is not an indicator that police believe the fire was the work of arson, Vanatta said.

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It’s too early to tell what the cause may be, he said.

“Just because of the sheer magnitude of the fire, we want to cover all of our bases,” the police chief said. “We’re going to make no assumptions.

“We just don’t have that kind of expertise (as a fire investigator), and we wanted someone who did.”

Chief Chris Nichols, of Craig Fire/Rescue, said investigators are sifting through a large amount of debris in a big building. That makes finding an answer more difficult and time consuming, he said.

“The size and scope of the building, and the damage, is extending the process,” Nichols said. “It’s going to take a little bit of time. That’s how this investigation has to happen.

“You have to go through the whole process to weed out all causes.”

Authorities have described the 22,048-square-foot mall, which was built in 1945, as a total loss.

Firefighters were called back to the scene Tuesday to dampen down potential flareups inside the mall’s burnt remains. Morning winds rekindled hot spots, Nichols said.

“That’s not atypical of a structure fire,” he said.

The investigation is continuing today.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.