Amoco, bowling alley completely destroyed in Rifle
garfield county correspondent
RIFLE – Jack Bowles, owner of the Rifle Fireside Lanes in north Rifle, literally watched his dreams go up in smoke in the early morning hours on Labor Day.
Both the Rifle Fireside Lanes on Highway 325 and the Rifle Amoco service station at 100 Railroad Ave. were destroyed by fire early Monday morning. Police believe the fires were the result of arson.
Bowles, 61, of Silt, had purchased the bowling alley in June from longtime owner and Garfield County Commissioner Larry McCown, of Rifle. Bowles has spent countless hours since then remodeling and refurbishing the building and was hoping to re-open it for business next week.
But he was awakened by a call at 3:30 a.m. Monday and told that his building was on fire. He rushed to the scene and spent the next four hours watching it burn to the ground.
“It’s another one of them dreams gone down the tubes,” Bowles said dejectedly. “The fire took it all.”
There was a smaller fire at a condominium complex at 26th Street and Meadow Circle, and Mi Hacienda restaurant at 2030 Railroad Ave. in north Rifle, near Kentucky Fried Chicken, also sustained some damage from an attempted fire. Both are believed to be due to arson.
Garfield County Emergency Communications received the first report of a fire at the Fireside Lanes at 3:07 a.m. Upon arrival, fire personnel found half the structure engulfed in flames.
At 3:53 a.m., a fire was reported off Highway 13 at 26th Street and Meadow Circle at a condominium complex that is partially constructed. That fire was quickly extinguished.
At 4:37 a.m. authorities received a report of an explosion, followed by a fire at the Rifle Amoco station and found it fully engulfed in flames upon their arrival.
David Valencia, of Rifle, has owned the Rifle Amoco station for the past 25 years. He was informed of the fire at 4:50 a.m. The black and charred station was “totaled,” he said.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Valencia. “I’ll deal with the insurance company and maybe rebuild and reopen – I don’t know.”
With three fires going within an hour and a half, emergency crews were called from Grand Junction to Meeker and Carbondale to Glenwood Springs to assist in putting out the blazes.
“We were literally overwhelmed with the amount of fire we were seeing,” said Rifle fire chief Mike Morgan.
No injuries were reported as a result of the fires.
At a press conference held by the Rifle Police Department, Rifle Fire Protection District and Rifle city staff on Monday afternoon, officials said there were no known suspects for the fires at the time, but there were leads. The location and timing of the fires leads officials to believe they are related.
“We’ve got a lot of leads, but it’s way too premature to say,” said Rifle police chief Daryl Meisner. “Whether it’s the same individual or a group, is too early to speculate. But right now, we suspect arson because of the proximity of time and place.”
The Amoco fire also caused a power outage in the downtown area and east of the city from about 4:30 a.m. until shortly after 7 a.m.
Damage from the fires has not yet been determined but is estimated to be in the “hundreds of thousands,” according to Meisner and Morgan.
Both Bowles and Valencia say they will see what happens with their insurance companies before deciding if they will rebuild and re-open their businesses.
Police say they intend to step up patrol in the fire areas and around town. A task force involving members of the Rifle Police Department, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the Rifle Fire protection District, will be investigating the fires.
Anyone with any information is urged to call the Rifle Police Department at 625-2271.
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