Joint Investigation Rules Estes Park Mall Fire Accidental
The joint fire investigative team consisting of members from the Estes Park Police Department (EPPD), Estes Park Fire Department (EPFD), National Response Team (NRT) from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), ATF Denver Field Division, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have completed their on-scene origin and cause investigation into the October 19 blaze at the Park Theatre Mall. The fire destroyed approximately 24,000 sq. ft. of the Park Theater Mall building located on 116 E. Elkhorn Avenue, in the historic downtown area of Estes Park, Colorado.
Special Agent in Charge Richard E. Chase of the ATF Denver Field Division, Mayor Bill Pinkham of the Town of Estes Park, Town Administrator Jacquie Halburnt, Chief Wes Kufeld of the EPPD, and Chief Scott Dorman of the EPFD, jointly announced today that the fire which resulted in extensive damage to Park Theatre Mall has been determined to be accidental in nature.
Through a process of elimination of possible failures of electrical, natural gas, and heating systems; as well as the evaluation of fire patterns within the structure, the examination of the evidence, and interviews conducted, the team of investigators determined that the cause of this fire was accidental. Investigators were able to conclude that a natural gas water heater located inside a small closet ignited available combustible materials resulting in the spread of the fire throughout the building.
“Combining federal, state and local resources resulted in an expeditious determination of the fire’s origin and cause. The information and evidence developed by investigators was reviewed and analyzed to assist in determining the accidental cause of the fire” said Chase.
The responding ATF NRT component for this particular fire investigation consists of 21 members, including veteran special agents who have post-blast and fire origin-and-cause expertise; forensic chemists; explosives enforcement officers; fire protection engineers; electrical engineers, computer forensic specialists and intelligence specialists. In addition, a cadre of investigators from the Estes Park Police Department, ATF Special Agents from the Denver Field Division, and a Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) accelerant detection K-9 team worked together with the NRT to bring this investigation to a quick resolution.
According to Town of Estes Park building officials, the cleanup will begin this weekend. “Everyone is working hard to clean-up the site and make the area look esthetically pleasing, in preparation for Estes Park’s annual Halloween celebration downtown. The annual Halloween celebration will be held as scheduled,” said Police Incident Commander Eric Rose.
The sidewalk area will be a covered, shingled walkway built to American Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications. The walkway also will be lighted to allow safe pedestrian use during nighttime hours. Reconstruction efforts, including the demolition and the removal of construction debris are highly regulated by state health department and Environmental Protection Agency regulations to ensure that safety of the local community. Chief Building Official Will Birchfield stated that no demolition permits will be issued until companies involved have received approval of their abatement plans from state and federal authorities.