The investigation into the cause of a fire that engulfed 1111 Camino del Rio just before midnight Sunday was ongoing Tuesday.
“It’s a huge scene to process,” said Deputy Chief Randy Black with the Durango Fire Protection District.
Investigators were working through the vacated building room by room, and he did not know how long the work might take.
“We want a good, thorough and complete job,” he said.
About a dozen businesses had moved out of the building by mid-May to make way for a new 86-room hotel.
Durango Police and fire officials believe the fire was “likely not accidental” because all power and utilities to the building had been turned off in anticipation of its demolition in early June, Black said on Monday.
On Tuesday, five agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were working with a Durango fire investigator and the Durango Police Department to process evidence, Black said.
A dog from the Colorado Bureau of Investigations trained to sniff out accelerants arrived Tuesday to help as well, he said.
A small storage shed toward the back of the same property at 1111 Camino del Rio was set on fire last week, causing damage to the interior of the structure. Black was unaware if there were any suspects in that fire.
Black said no one could benefit from the blaze, and he expects the investigation could slow the developer’s plans to begin construction.
Vagrants had been using the area as a hangout in recent weeks, possibly living in the recently abandoned structure.
“Basically, we’ve heard there were vagrants living in there, but we’ve heard a lot of things,” Black said.
“That’s why we investigate: to separate the myth from fact.”
Firefighters arrived less than two minutes after the fire was reported to find much of the structure ablaze. Black said it would be unusual for a fire in that location to have been burning long without being noticed because of its proximity to the highway, Animas River Trail and downtown.
Because the building was mostly empty, the fire was burning the structure itself, which was built in the mid-1960s, he said. The building would likely be considered a total loss.
Durango fire had 45 firefighters at the scene, as well as three chief officers, two investigators, two ladder trucks, four engines and four ambulances, Black said.