Cortez fire and police investigators are not revealing the cause of the Family Dollar Store fire last week until further notice.
“The fire is under investigation and that is all I can say right now,” said Cortez Fire Chief Jeff Vandevoorde. “All the evidence has been collected.”
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation was called in to assist in the case, reported Cortez Police Chief Roy Lane. He added that the CBI is brought in “when we have concerns” about a fire’s cause.
“They have come and left, and samples from hot spots are being analyzed,” Lane said. “No charges have been filed at this point.”
Vandevoorde said the CBI sent an arson dog through the scene, a standard procedure. He said the fire, which started in the back, nearly caught the entire mall on fire.
“We nearly had to back out, but were able to knock it down just in time,” he said. “I had not seen that much heat and smoke in a long time. It could have easily spread to the whole mall.”
Thirty firefighters battled the blaze, including crews from Cortez, Mancos, Dolores, Lewis, and the Ute Mountain Tribe. Five engine units, a ladder truck, two rescue squads and ambulances from Southwest Memorial were on scene.
There were no injuries, and one shopper from Bealls was evacuated.
The interior was heavily damaged, but the structure is salvageable, officials said.
“The roof sustained damage, and the metal bar joists melted from the heat, so there would be some repairs needed,” Vandevoorde said.
Bealls, a clothing store next door, sustained significant smoke damage due to the fire, officials report. A sign on the door says it will be closed for weeks. Osprey Packs, is also adjacent to the Family Dollar, but smoke damage there was reported to be minimal.
Tom Maley, owner of the building leased to Family Dollar, reported that the commercial venue will be saved.
“We will rebuild the space for them — the damage was contained to the interior,” he said. “I want to acknowledge the excellent response of the fire, rescue, and police departments. I was very, very impressed, and we are very fortunate to have these professionals in our community.”