Airport fire remains under investigation

PINEDALE – While the official cause of an Oct. 12 fire at the Pinedale Airport remains undetermined, Airport Manager Jim Parker told council members at their Oct. 22 meeting that he believes it was intentional.

The fire was in a shop used to store the town’s equipment including two tractors and a snowblower.

Quick action by Parker, who ran into the burning building, saved two pieces of equipment before the heat caused overhead garage doors to collapse.

“I’m putting money on the fact that it was an intentional fire,” Parker told the council.

Sublette County Sheriff KC Lehr said the cause is “undetermined at this time.”

In describing the events, Parker told council members someone passing by on U.S. Highway 191 apparently reported smoke about 7 p.m. Another person who saw the fire called her father, who maintains a hangar, and that is when Parker was notified.

Parker said he arrived at 7:21 p.m. and only found a tractor burning. By the time he removed the two pieces of equipment and the fire department arrived, “The fire was very involved.”

The focus then was to keep neighboring facilities cooled down.

Parker said before he left work, he had winterized equipment in the building for storage. He parked the tractor, leaving it in gear, and closed the garage doors. When he responded to the flames, the tractor was moved about 20 feet from where he parked it and the overhead door was open.

The fire is under investigation by the State Fire Marshal, local investigators and the insurance company.

Since the fire, Parker said repairs were made to reconnect hydraulic gates to power, because they had been powered out of the burned building. A Kodiak snowblower will go to the manufacturer in Burley, Idaho, to determine the extent of damages.

He said inspectors still haven’t released the scene so debris can be removed. He said he will try to get at least three bids. He added he doesn’t know if cement needs to be removed.

Parker said cameras at the hangar were not functioning at the time of the fire.

Council member Tyler Swafford asked if Josh Wilson, who maintains the town’s security cameras, could help get the security cameras as well as key cards working in the future.

Town Clerk Maureen Rudnick said the town’s insurance covers the equipment at replacement value, even though some of the listed values are very low. The town has a $10,000 deductible. n

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