Suspected Arson Fire Hits Colorado Retirement Home

Several fires were set in the two buildings; Aspen police say the fires started at multiple points and it appears an accelerant was used to help fuel the blazes.


ASPEN, Colo. (AP) -- A suspected arson fire at a retirement home early Monday forced residents out into the pre-dawn cold, authorities said. A man's body was found at the home, though it was unclear whether the death was related to the fire.

Several fires were set in the two buildings that comprise the Aspen Country Inn, police Detective Jim Crowley told The Aspen Times. The fires started at multiple points and it appears an accelerant was used to help fuel the blazes.

''It's pretty straightforward, but we've got a lot of investigating to do yet,'' he said.

Authorities declined to comment on the nature of the resident's death. Officials with the police and fire departments did not immediately return calls seeking additional comment.

The inn is a former motel that was converted to a senior center in 1999. Officials said the fires set off the sprinkler system and the alarms about 3:30 a.m.

Residents scrambled outside in pajamas and bathrobes. A Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus was summoned to the scene, giving them a heated place to sit, until they were provided with access to a Red Cross shelter.

''We were all asleep and all of a sudden the fire alarm went off,'' said Ruth McIntyre, who moved into the complex when it opened. ''We all opened our doors and were saying, 'What should we do?'

''I called 911 and apparently a lot of other people did, too,'' she said. ''The operator said, 'Get out of the building.'''

Bill Leonard, a three-year resident, said he stayed in bed until fire crews arrived.

''The hall was heavy with smoke when I left,'' he said.

Resident Helen Roberts said she spotted cushions ablaze on sofas in the lobby and another fire in the manager's office as she exited her building.

''The sprinklers were activated and put the sofas out as I was passing,'' she said. ''It was definitely purposefully set.''

Most of the 40 units at the home were not affected and residents were expected to be allowed back inside as early as Monday afternoon, Crowley said.