A large pile of cut down trees at the Loretto Heights campus in Harvey Park caught fire Thursday morning, leaving the area full of smoke on an already unbreathable day.
Denver Fire Department Captain Greg Pixley said the fire was reported before 9 a.m. Thursday. There were no injuries or damage to the school.
The pile of wood chunks were left on the grassy knoll in front of the campus after more than 200 trees were cut down to make way for new development.
Councilman Kevin Flynn said the developer of the Loretto Heights renovation, Westside Investment Partners, purposefully set the wood aside to donate to residents, woodworkers and others as a way to keep a piece of Loretto Heights history alive.
“This fire is distressing,” Flynn said. “That wood was set aside to be recycled. Some people wanted Loretto timber to build benches, some of the wood was going to be donated to saw mills. This is regrettable.”
Photos of the blaze sparked strong reactions on social media from residents, who are already divided on the issue of tree cutting at the campus.
Pixley initially said the blaze was a brush fire, which “isn’t uncommon in 100 degree weather,” and some residents called the fire “a controlled burn.” But Flynn clarified that the city doesn’t allow for burns of that nature. He believes the blaze was caused by an arsonist and has asked the fire department to investigate the area.
Pixley confirmed that the arsonist team was on the scene and the fire is currently under investigation.
“I don’t know if it was arson,” Flynn said. “It could have spontaneously combusted. But there are a lot of other piles of wood around the city that haven’t caught fire. Why did this one catch fire today?”