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Casey Cumley, son of Bennett-Watkins Fire Rescue chief, charged with arson after hotel incident

Son of Bennett-Watkins fire chief, Casey Cumley, charged with arson
Son of Bennett-Watkins fire chief, Casey Cumley, charged with arson 00:41

A night shift manager at a hotel east of Denver has been arrested on felony arson charges after an early morning blaze endangered more than three dozen people staying at the facility last month. Casey Cumley, 30, is accused of starting the small fire in one of the two stairwells at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Bennett. 

Cumley is the son of Bennett-Watkins Fire Rescue Chief Earl Cumley. 

Casey Cumley following his arrest Tuesday. Adams County Sheriff's Office

Fire personnel from that department were called to the hotel just before 1 a.m. May 23, according to the arrest affidavit in the case. Adams County Sheriff's Office deputies also responded. 

First responders found no active fire, but did find scorched carpeting and walls in the hotel's south stairwell.

Casey Cumley told deputies he smelled smoke in the area earlier, "investigated" and did a "360" around the stairwell, but found no fire at first. Then, he said, a guest entered the lobby and also smelled smoke. The pair ventured back to that area. It was then that Casey Cumley found the fire on the south stairwell, "stomped it out," and called 9-1-1. 

Casey Cumley also pulled a fire alarm, initiating the evacuation of the building. 

The fire burned a section of carpeting and scorched the walls of the stairwell. 

A sheriff's deputy interviewing Casey Cumley that night noted the scorch marks on Casey Cumley's shoes. 

The next day, deputies and fire personnel reviewed surveillance video from three cameras at the hotel. The videos supported Casey Cumley's version of events.

But it also raised suspicions that he was the one who started the fire. 

Per the affidavit, one camera recorded Casey Cumley walking from the south stairwell approximately seven minutes before the 9-1-1 call was made. A minute later, another camera in the lobby shows Casey Cumley looking directly at the camera, then walking behind the front desk and placing an item from his right pocket into a backpack. Cumley then left the front desk, walked back up the south stairwell, and was not seen on any cameras for two minutes, according to the affidavit. 

"Based on this evidence," a sheriff's office investigator stated in the affidavit, "Cumley was the only building occupant near or in the area of fire origin nearest to the suspected time of ignition."  

ACSO investigators visited the Cumley residence two days after the fire to interview Casey Cumley. Cumley initially stuck to his story. When pressed, Cumley offered to take a polygraph test, then rescinded the offer because he suffers panic attacks, the affidavit reads.

The investigator brought up a previous false reporting charge against Casey Cumley from 2009, then asked why Casey had a "torch" in the stairwell. Cumley eventually admitted he was smoking a dab pipe when a titanium nail fell from the device and started the fire. 

A fire investigator from the Strasburg Department who was shown the investigator's bodycam recording of Cumley's interview later that day responded, "Casey's story about what caused the fire was not consistent with the evidence on scene," as stated in the affidavit.

That investigator said the titanium nail was capable of melting carpet but not starting a fire. 

Fire investigators also determined what didn't start the fire - natural causes, electrical causes, improper use of smoking material and heat source/open flame were eliminated. From this, they deduced it was human-caused. Two samples of the carpet were removed for forensic testing. It is not known if the results of that testing have been returned to authorities.

Investigators also interview one of the 38 registered hotel guests from the night of the fire, according to the affidavit. The woman was sleeping her car when the scene was cleared at 2:30 a.m. but refused to return to her 4th floor room. With no one in custody and only one useable stairwell on the north side, the woman balked at the safety situation. "If somebody was crazy enough to set one in one stairwell," she said, "who's to say they don't come back in 30 minutes after we're all back in and set it on the other one. And then we're stuck."  

Contacted Sunday, Bridgett Cumley, spokesperson for Bennett-Watkin Fire Rescue, wife of Chief Cumley and a retired firefighter herself, said the Cumley family had no comment.

Similar, Royce Pindell, President of Bennett-Watkins Fire Rescue Board of Directors, withheld judgement.

"We are aware of it. I have no comment until the we see the results of the investigation," he said Monday.  

Casey Cumley was arrested May 6 and posted a $25,000 surety bond. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing July 20.

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