Medical pot shop blaze ‘suspicious’

Grand Junction fire investigator Joe Cordova tapes shut some automotive paint cans that he took into evidence Monday at the scene of an early-morning fire in the 1500 block of North Avenue.

A charred sign explains how money and marijuana are not kept in the store overnight.

Firefighters atop Blue Mesa Alternatives, a medical marijuana dispensary along North Avenue, aim a hose at a fire in a courtyard behind the building early Monday.

Jake Sheridan probably figured he and other medical marijuana dispensary owners had absorbed the biggest blow they could take when the Grand Junction City Council voted last fall to shutter their shops.

Then a phone call roused Sheridan, the co-owner of Blue Mesa Alternatives, from bed early Monday morning.

” ‘Your store is on fire’ is all I was told,” Sheridan said of his brief conversation with his sister, who was tending the store when she smelled smoke, then heard a crackling sound through the wall. “We pretty much just lost everything, I think.”

A fire ripped through a small commercial complex and house at 1550 and 1560 North Ave., torching thousands of dollars worth of medical marijuana products and cash at the dispensary, damaging two other businesses and leaving three adults without a home for at least a few days. Investigators had not yet determined a cause but indicated at the scene Monday afternoon that the fire was “suspicious.”

The fire broke out around 1:30 a.m. in a small courtyard between the businesses and the house. It took 18 firefighters about 25 minutes to bring it under control.

Sheridan estimated he and the shop’s two other owners lost about $10,000 worth of medical marijuana, cash and products such as salves and sodas. Standing outside the business Monday afternoon, he wasn’t sure whether the fire also had consumed patient records.

The two other businesses, Pete’s House of Spirits and Marley’s Emporium, which sells glass smoking pipes, received primarily smoke damage.

Sheridan said Blue Mesa didn’t have insurance, and Greg Tamburello, the owner of the house and the building containing the three businesses, said he didn’t think Marley’s Emporium had insurance, either, despite a stipulation in their leases requiring them to have it.

Sheridan said he and the other owners of his business were having trouble finding any agents willing to insure medical marijuana.

Pete’s House of Spirits owner Pete Martinez said he and his wife drove to the liquor store about 2 a.m. after another business owner alerted him to the fire. He said the liquor store will be closed for at least a week while they clean the tile and carpet.

A man who indicated he lives at the house with his girlfriend and father said his cat alerted him to the fire. The man, who declined to give his name, said he was a few minutes away from turning in for the night when he noticed his cat acting strangely and then scamper upstairs.

“I came upstairs and it was glowing orange and I was like, ‘Uh oh,’ ” the man said. He awakened his girlfriend and father, and the three, along with the cat, got out unharmed.

“That cat literally saved our lives,” the man said. “I totally owe that cat so many fish. That cat can have whatever she wants.”

The house had about $30,000 in fire and smoke damage. The man said the American Red Cross paid for a room across the street at the Monument Inn for him, his girlfriend and his father for a few days.

Tamburello said investigators took samples of an accelerant to determine whether it was involved in the fire.


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