By Mark Esper
An early-morning fire that badly damaged a T-shirt shop in a historic structure at 1269 Greene St. on May 31 was a case of arson, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
CBI investigator Jeff Brown said an arson investigator from Denver determined the fire was intentionally set. Brown said the CBI has no suspects at this point, and is asking for the public’s help.
“If anyone has any information that could lead to the development of a suspect, please call the Colorado Bureau of Investigation,” Brown said Tuesday.
The fire, reported at 6:15 a.m. May 31, burnt a hole through the floor of the newly opened Del Sol T-shirt shop. Neighboring shops were filled with smoke.
Officials at the time said the fire, if discovered just a few minutes later, might have threatened the entire historic block, which includes the Grand Imperial Hotel.
The fire occurred in the Posey and Wingate Building, which was built in 1880 and is probably the oldest commercial brick building in western Colorado, at the corner of 13th and Greene streets. The building also houses San Juan Sweets, Handlebars restaurant and the Storyteller Indian Store.
San Juan County Deputy John Jacobs said he was driving down Greene Street shortly after 6 a .m. on Tuesday, May 31, when he saw Patti Blackmore checking out the T-shirt shop. She told him there was smoke in the Del Sol shop and Jacobs immediately called it in.
San Juan Sweets, Handlebars, Storyteller Indian Store and the upstairs apartments — which were unoccupied — were filled with smoke, along with the Del Sol shop. But Handlebars and Storyteller opened later that morning.
Fire Chief Gilbert Archuleta said Wednesday that whoever set the fire is a “lowlife” who needs to be brought to justice.
“Whoever did that put our firefighters at risk. It could have destroyed the whole block,” Archuleta said. “We’re very fortunate that Patti Blackmore saw it when she did. We were about 10 minutes out from having a really serious problem.
“I hope they catch who did it and throw the book at him,” Archuleta said.
“We need the public’s help, really,” said San Juan County Undersheriff Kristine Burns. “Anyone with information should just contact the CBI right away so we can find the people responsible. We really would like to find out who did this and hold them accountable.”
The May 31 fire was the second in downtown Silverton this spring. An April 6 fire badly damaged the Pride of the West bar and the adjacent Adelaide’s Antiques building.
Brown said the CBI does not see that earlier fire as linked to the May 31 arson.
Brown said “it’s my understanding that (POW) fire was completely accidental.”
Anyone with information on the Del Sol fire is asked to contact Jeff Brown at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, (970) 375-1646.