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Arson the cause of PLPOA fire

A fire that occurred late last week at the Pagosa Lakes Property Owners Association (PLPOA) and Colorado State Patrol (CSP) offices, located at 230 Port Avenue, has been chalked up to arson.

The fire occurred in the early morning hours of Friday, Nov. 3, with the page for a response sent out shortly before 3 a.m. The fire was detected by the building’s alarm system, which includes fire and smoke detection.

The Pagosa Fire Protection District responded with two attack engines and 16 firefighters. Mutual aid was received from the Pine River Fire District.

PFPD Chief Diane Bower said the fire was contained to a storage area in the building and to interior portions of the attic and some walls, primarily in the CSP portion of the building. Most items in the building’s PLPOA offices were saved.

PLPOA staff provided food for those working on scene that morning.

Bower said department personnel did an “amazing job” saving the building’s offices.

Fire personnel began clearing the scene by 10:30 a.m. Thursday and PLPOA staff members began removing items from the offices in the building.

“Our staff was tremendous in this whole event,” PLPOA General Manager Chip Munday said. “Most everybody was here starting when the fire was first reported.”

Munday said no records were lost in the blaze and, as soon as the go-ahead was given from the PFPD, staff members began to move items from the office into the neighboring clubhouse.

Munday said CenturyLink rewired the entity’s phones to ring at the clubhouse, and PLPOA’s IT personnel ensured that the server was operational.

Munday said PLPOA was mostly operational by Friday and considered fully operational Monday morning.

PLPOA is also in the process of leasing a temporary location until the 40-year-old building, which is in the process of insurance, environmental and engineering checks, is repaired. Munday said one major, weight-bearing beam in the office was on fire throughout the incident, but that the current intent is to repair the building.

It is not currently clear how long PLPOA will have to work out of the temporary office.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Munday said PLPOA was in the process of leasing a ground-floor office near City Market in order to be accessible to its residents.

Doug Wiersma, CSP spokesman, said the majority of the CSP offices and items housed therein were destroyed, but that any records destroyed were backup copies of records stored either electronically or in the Durango CSP office.

Some items, such as tires, that were stored in the attic were burned, Wiersma said.

Wiersma said the damage to the office was primarily from the smoke and water, though some of the office burned.

CSP is currently looking for new office space, Wiersma noted.

While not releasing the exact method used to start the fire, Bower said it was evident the fire was set on purpose.

“It was definitely a set fire,” she said.

“Whoever was trying to send a message, we’re not clear on what it was,” Munday said, adding that the organization is working to make covenant compliance work friendlier and more “neighborly.”

“Of course we want to know if it was aimed at us,” Wiersma said, adding that the CSP would want to follow up on the matter if the fire were aimed toward CSP.

Wiersma added that, because the fire was started between the two offices, it is difficult to know who was targeted.

The investigation into the blaze continues with a search for possible suspects.

Bower said the PFPD is working with the District Attorney’s office (via the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office), and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation on the investigation, including using a CBI canine.

Bower said there is currently no indication if the fire specifically targeted either the CSP or PLPOA offices.

The one known witness to the incident remains mum on the subject — Murphy, the PLPOA office cat, who was in the building for about five hours during the fire, Munday said.

Murphy is currently Munday’s house guest and is showing no ill effects from the incident, Munday reported.

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