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Fire destroys El Paso County home overnight

By: ANDREA SINCLAIR
March 28, 2013
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photo - Lt. Matt Rasdall with the Cimarron Hills Fire Dept. and CBI Agent Brett Ellis look over the scene of house fire which started on Wednesday night. Ellis came to investigate for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and was waiting for a warrant on Thursday, March 28, 2013. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT,  THE GAZETTE
Lt. Matt Rasdall with the Cimarron Hills Fire Dept. and CBI Agent Brett Ellis look over the scene of house fire which started on Wednesday night. Ellis came to investigate for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and was waiting for a warrant on Thursday, March 28, 2013. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE 

The latest in a string of fires to hit Cimarron Hills may have been started accidentally, but it still added to local worries.

“This neighborhood is cursed,” said Clay Cline, who watched his home of nearly two decades — and everything he owned — burn Wednesday night.

Cline said the blaze at 1099 Kachina Drive, east of Powers Boulevard, may have started accidentally.

He had been dozing on his living room sofa, using an oil lamp as a source of light Wednesday night.

“I may have knocked it over while I slept,” Cline said.

“The heat from the flames woke me up and I got out as quickly as I could,” he said.

The blaze, which drew firefighters from three departments and took 20 minutes to knock down, is the latest of several in the neighborhood.

In May 2011 the house next door to Cline’s place was severely damaged by an early morning blaze that left a woman displaced.

In December 2012 a modular home on the same block of Kachina Drive caught on fire twice within 24 hours in blazes deemed “suspicious” by arson investigators.

The same week, three more fires were reported in the neighborhood — in nearby bushes, and in a portable toilet.

“We can’t say with certainty that these fires are linked,” said El Paso County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Joe Roybal, whose agency was investigating the Wednesday night fire.

“But the possibility and the circumstances of each incident are being considered by the arson investigators,” Roybal said.

Arson investigators with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office waited until mid-morning to enter Cline’s smoldering home.

Roybal said the Cimarron Hills Fire Department was called about the fire at about 10:50 p.m. It had engulfed the house by the time fire crews arrived.

“The flames traveled quickly to the top of the house, so getting inside to extinguish them was impossible in the beginning,” Cimarron Hills Fire Lt. Matt Rasdall said. “We had to fight the fire defensively.”

An agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation Fire Unit was at the scene speaking with Cline and Cimarron Hills firefighters.

Neighbors expressed their fear over the series of fires.

Cimarron Hills Fire Chief Matt Love said the fire departments involved, as well as the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, certainly recognize the severity of the situation.

“It very well could be that the nature of these fires is malicious and intentional,” Love said.

“We are all taking it seriously and the arson investigators are dedicated to finding out the cause of each incident.”

Breanna Cornell, 16, and Sierra Smith, 18, live a few houses away from Cline’s. They said the whole neighborhood is constantly on edge over the fires.

The cul-de-sac where Cline’s home is located, they said, seems to have the most problems.

There have been five fires in the last couple of months, Cornell and Smith said. Neighbors’ garbage was set on fire and so were leaves in a nearby field, they said.

The teens said they found a lit candle tilted against a neighbor’s fence that was starting to burn.

Cline was glad his situation wasn’t worse.

“I’m all right and so are my dogs,” Cline said. “That’s what really matters.”

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