Investigators believe exploding propane canisters may have been what prompted reports of gunshots to the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office Thursday morning. Deputies and fire crews responding to those calls soon made a grim discovery in the Mill Creek area just west of Telluride: a passenger car ablaze and a deceased man inside.
The man, who was the only person found in the vehicle, has not been officially identified. Cause and manner of death are pending.
“There is no indication of anything but an accident, but we’re going to continue to investigate,” San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said.
He said investigators have a good idea of who the man was and believed the deceased had been living in his vehicle. Masters said it appears as though the individual had several small propane bottles with him.
The weather at the time of the vehicle fire was cold and snowy; the propane may have been a heating or cooking source.
The sheriff’s office and Telluride Fire Department responded about 2 a.m. Dec. 9 to a location several hundred yards from the road going up to Mill Creek, where crews found the vehicle on fire. When the fire department put out the flames, the remains of the man were found inside the car.
The San Miguel County Coroner’s Office then responded and the Telluride Marshal’s Office also assisted.
Masters did not know the circumstances that led to the man living out of his car, but said the “entry fee” of living in Telluride is often too high for the working poor.
“There’s no place for them to live. If you are a working person and not making enough, it’s a problem,” said Masters.
“It’s a problem. We need some form of shelter for these people who are working here. I don’t think it’s a lifestyle choice. Some people choose that, but those are not usually our working poor.”
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.