Investigating the Windsor Mill fire: ‘A game of pick-up sticks’ | MyWindsorNow.com
Emily Wenger
ewenger@greeleytribune.com

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Investigating the Windsor Mill fire: ‘A game of pick-up sticks’

Debris from the historic Windsor Mill is being shifted as investigators continue to work to determine the cause of the fire that decimated the Windsor Mill early Sunday morning.

Windsor Severance Fire Rescue received the call to the fire shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday, and crews have remained at the Windsor Mill site at all hours monitoring and battling hot spots.

About 20 investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and two Windsor Severance Fire Rescue investigators — Fire Marshall Sandi Friedrichsen and Lt. Dave Godbold — have been working to determine the cause of the blaze.

On Wednesday, construction equipment could be seen moving large pieces of the rubble, from wood to the corrugated steel, which Lisa Meiman, ATF public information officer, said was mostly part of the building's roof.

The ATF has been working from the outside in, Meiman said, and began cautiously moving debris with cranes after photographing the site from above.

Meiman said crane operators have been picking up debris one piece at a time, allowing investigators to photograph the area, before picking up another piece.

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"It's like a game of pick-up sticks because you want to make sure you're not going to pick up a piece that will then cause more collapse into the scene," Meiman said. "So it's a very methodical process because we don't want to ruin any of the evidence, but also, at the same time, we do have to get in there and take a look around."

The debris will be kept within the site, Meiman said, "so it's not going to be in your streets."

Although afternoon rains have presented some challenges for the investigation, Meiman said the weather has been mostly helpful as investigators work to examine the scene of the blaze.

If lightning accompanies the rain Colorado often sees on summer afternoons, investigators will have to stop on-site work earlier in the day.

"It's just a reality that we face and a challenge that we face when we're working on these scenes," she said. "But we work around it, just like anyone does when being faced with inclement weather."

The cool temperatures, which have hovered with highs just above 70 degrees this week, have been helpful to the investigators, Meiman said, especially because many are not from Colorado.

"They're not used to the altitude either, so they have to be very careful about dehydration," she said. "So not having the high temperatures helps them stay hydrated."

Windsor Severance Fire Rescue will continue to monitor the fire, although Battalion Chief Todd Vess said they likely will soon not need to monitor the scene for hot spots 24/7. Smoke plumes coming from the debris have gotten smaller in the four days since the fire, and Vess said firefighters have been able to more easily reach hot spots as debris was shifted.

"Obviously, we'll still have a lot of resources out here because this is our scene, just not as many," he said.

You can help

Anyone with photos or video footage of the mill fire is asked to take them to Fire Station 1 at 100 N. 7th St. between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or email to info1@wsfr.us.