Investigators await lab results in Grand Lake motel fire
June 29, 2011
GRAND LAKE – Fire investigators are awaiting laboratory results from several samples taken from the scene of a June 13 fire at JJ’s Isolation Peaks Motel near Grand Lake.
“These test results are crucial to the investigation and we are waiting to see what the results are,” said Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson.
Responding to rumors that an arrest had been made related to the fire, Johnson explained that John E. Waller Jr. was issued a summons at the scene of the second fire at the motel that day for obstructing a peace officer. Waller was released at the scene after calming down.
The motel caught fire at about 4 p.m. that day. After that fire was extinguished, crews were called back to the scene about seven hours later to respond to a second blaze in the motel. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation was among the agencies investigating evidence at the scene.
According to the incident report filed by Deputy Chris Carroll, young Waller, who owns the motel, arrived on the scene of the second fire “highly agitated” and was attempting to approach firefighters as they were busy fighting the fire, complaining that they were letting his place burn down.
Waller disregarded Deputy Carroll’s multiple orders to stop approaching the fire, according to the report. The deputy had to threaten to use his Taser in order to keep Waller from interfering with the firefighters, according to his report.
Carroll also noted in his report that “Waller said he has a lawsuit against Chief Mike Long and the Grand Lake Fire Department for burning down his place last year. Waller went on to say Chief Long makes $80,000 a year salary and Waller was upset about it.”
(Chief Long later clarified that he has received a letter of intent regarding a possible lawsuit, but the case has yet to be filed with the court. Waller was referring to a June 2010 fire at Waller’s storage shop on Highway 34.)
Chief Long told Deputy Carroll at the scene that, judging from this incident, he believed Waller of being capable of causing harm to him or one of the firefighters on scene and requested law enforcement stay on scene until all firefighters had left, the report states.
When Sheriff’s Investigator John Stein arrived at the scene and Carroll briefed him about the situation with Waller, he advised Carroll that the fire could have been caused by arson and requested that Carroll place yellow crime scene tape around the area of the motel, which he did, according to the report.
Sheriff Johnson said he doesn’t have any timeframe for the return of the laboratory results.
The sheriff also said rumors that John Waller senior had been arrested in connection with the motel fire are also false. However, the rumor may have started because the elder Waller was served a summons on June 16 for serving alcohol to a minor during a compliance check in the area, Johnson said.
Reid Armstrong can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610