Arson suspected in U-Haul fire

Couple's belongings destroyed in blaze shortly before moving

— An early-morning fire Thursday destroyed a U-Haul moving van and the belongings of a Routt County family.

Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae said the family's U-Haul was parked outside Cugino's Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant in the first block of Eighth Street when it caught fire at about 3 a.m. Thursday.

Cugino's Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant is accepting food, clothing and monetary donations to help an employee and his family who lost their possessions in a fire Thursday. The couple has a 4-year-old daughter. Donations can be dropped off from 2 to 5 p.m. daily at Cugino's, 41 Eighth St.

A security company employee reported the fire at 3:18 a.m. and told police the U-Haul's cab was engulfed in smoke and flames, Rae said.

Steamboat Springs firefighters put out the fire, and no injuries were reported. The fire did not cause damage to any of the surrounding buildings, Rae said.

However, the blaze destroyed the belongings of a young couple and their 4-year-old daughter. Rae said Steamboat Springs Fire-Rescue investigators suspect arson. Investigator Jay Muhme was not available for comment Friday.

Rae said the fire apparently started near the rear of the U-Haul, were the family's possessions were being stored.

Cugino's employees said the U-Haul belonged to one of the restaurant's managers and his family. The family apparently was living in a residential unit above Cugino's and was preparing to move to Oak Creek.

The U-Haul's owner told police he shut the U-Haul's sliding door before leaving the truck in the alley behind Cugino's. The rear sliding door had been opened when the fire began, Rae said.

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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