Investigators: Arson destroyed the historic Windsor Mill | MyWindsorNow.com
Emily Wenger
ewenger@mywindsornow.com

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Investigators: Arson destroyed the historic Windsor Mill

Arson was the cause of a fire that destroyed the historic Windsor Mill in what officials say was the largest fire in the town's recent history.

Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives held a news conference Sunday morning in Windsor, along with officials from Windsor-Severance Fire Rescue and the Windsor Police Department.

"Someone intentionally set this fire and caused (millions) of dollars in damages, as well as harm to the people and town of Windsor," said ATF Denver Field Division Special Agent in Charge Debora Livingston.

Authorities said they do not have any suspects, but they are offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

Windsor Mayor Kristie Melendez expressed anger after hearing the news that someone intentionally set fire to the historic building. Melendez said she felt almost as if the tragedy was occurring a second time.

"It's one thing to have something like that — so devastating — happen, but then to know that it was intentional I think makes it even worse," she said. "So for me it's very emotional today, more so than initially at the fire, to think that somebody would have done that intentionally."

Melendez said she hopes the community can receive closure on the incident, and encouraged residents to step forward with any information that could help in the investigation.

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The fire in the mill began before 2 a.m. Aug. 6, with flames appearing to reach 50 feet, according to images provided by Windsor-Severance Fire Rescue. Smaller flames continued to lap at the charred debris through mid-morning that day, smoldering and filling downtown Windsor with smoke while residents spoke in hushed tones of both history and future lost.

Livingston said investigators ruled out many accidental causes, such as lightning and fireworks, during the course of the investigation.

Specific details of the fire and investigation would not be released, said Livingston, because of the nature of the ongoing investigation. Livingston said investigators have determined where the fire in the building started, but were not prepared to publicly disclose the origin.

The ATF is working to complete the full report on the cause and origin of the fire, which will be released in 30 days, according to Livingston. The Windsor Police Department and Windsor Severance Fire Rescue will continue to assist in the investigation.

Windsor Police Chief Richard Klimek said the news also upset him.

"It's unfathomable to think that somebody would want to damage somebody else's property, especially in such a horrific fashion," he said. "It affects a lot of people in the Windsor community."

The mill, at 301 Main St., was built in 1899 and set for rebirth nine years after being devastated by a large tornado. At the time of the fire, the building was going through extensive renovation, led by Blue Ocean Inc. The business has said it remains committed to the project and it will continue to consider options as more information becomes available.

Steve Schroyer, director of real estate for Blue Ocean, was not immediately available for comment Sunday.

The ATF is the only federal agency tasked with investigating structure fires and arson. Investigators with the ATF have been on scene since Aug. 9, working with Windsor investigators to conduct interviews, review photos and videos, analyze debris and reconstruct the scene, according to a news release from the ATF.

Investigators concluded their on-site work Aug. 12.

"You never know why somebody does something like this … it's a horrid act," Livingston said.

— Tribune reporter Katarina Velazquez contributed to this report.

Officials asking public’s assistance

Anyone with information on the Windsor Mill fire, which officials announced Sunday was caused by arson, is encouraged to call Windsor Police Department investigators Sgt. Robert Shainline or Detective Brent Hogsett at (970) 674-6400; Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477); or email windsormilltips@wsfr.us, according to a news release from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A tip can also submit a tip through ATF’s new reportit app available at http://www.reportit.com and at Google Play and the Apple App Store. The ATF has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. All tips to the app are confidential and tipsters can remain anonymous.