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Investigation Into Suspicious Lakewood Fires Begins With Burned Cars

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Mark Watson, a former arson investigator with the Denver Fire Department, talks with CBS4's Howard Nathan (credit: CBS)

Mark Watson, a former arson investigator with the Denver Fire Department, talks with CBS4’s Howard Nathan (credit: CBS)

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Fire investigators are trying to figure out who started five destructive fires on Tuesday morning.

At this point there are multiple investigations and investigators are still trying to determine if they’re connected.

The first fire started around 3:30 a.m. on Quebec near Iliff in Arapahoe County. Four more fires were started in Lakewood between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. In Lakewood the investigation started with more than a dozen cars that burned.

Just one blazing car will reach temperatures topping 1,200 degrees, and at those temperatures it’s hard for investigators to learn where the fire began.

“It does pose a challenge,” said Mark Watson, a former arson investigator with the Denver Fire Department.

Watson said while challenging, it is possible to pinpoint the origin. The key is looking for rust, but not the obvious rust.

“If you still have paint down here, then you know the fire wasn’t as intense down here as it was here where it’s already starting to rust because it’s burned off all the paint and it’s starting to oxidize right away,” Watson said while showing CBS4’s Howard Nathan a burned training car.

West Metro Fire said four cars from each of Tuesday’s fires are being analyzed for evidence. Investigators hope to find a sample of what was used to spread the fire, such as gasoline.

“If you take those samples, take them to the lab, you’re going to find remnants of that; it’s not going to be completely gone,” Watson said.

Tuesday’s first Lakewood fire was reported approximately 50 minutes after the fire near Aurora on Quebec Street. Arson investigators are now trying to learn if a fire started on the 3rd floor at the Woodhaven Apartments is connected to the cars fires in Lakewood.

“It could take weeks, months, especially when you’re waiting for samples to come back from the lab,” Watson said. “It could take some time.”

West Metro Fire is hoping to learn some results from the lab in two weeks. In the meantime West Metro Fire and Lakewood police have interviewed about 20 people so far as the search continues for a firebug.

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