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A mobile home fire on Uncompahgre Road last week was arson, as well as an attempt to kill the woman inside, Montrose County Sheriff Gene Lillard alleged.

The MCSO arrested Bruce Steele, who was already in custody on another matter. Lillard said Steele is suspected of attempted first-degree murder; first-degree arson; domestic violence; two counts of aggravated witness intimidation; four counts of aggravated animal cruelty over four dogs that have not been found since the fire and are presumed dead; reckless endangerment and menacing.

Steele was allegedly seen in possession of a fire-starting agent while near the fire on Oct. 23, and had allegedly threatened to kill a woman who lived in the home before also reportedly threatening to harm witnesses, Lillard said.

Steele’s arrest affidavit was not available Tuesday, when his bond was set at $50,000, cash-only. Formal charges are due by Nov. 14.

“We were pleased with the bond amount that was set on Mr. Steele. We are very grateful that nobody was hurt or killed during this incident.

It was a severe fire that resulted in the loss of a lot of personal items and the possible loss of four innocent animals,” Lillard said.

“It was a horrific fire.”

The fire broke out on Oct. 23, burning a mobile home in the 21000 block of Uncompahgre Road, as well as nearby vehicles, outbuildings and a second dwelling that was being used for storage. The fire burned through the night, with the Montrose Fire Protection District working it until 5:30 a.m. Oct. 24.

The singlewide mobile home was fully aflame when an MCSO investigator made the scene.

“It was pretty much a raging inferno when investigators got there,” Lillard said.

The investigation quickly pointed to a fire of suspicious origin. Although Lillard could not divulge much Tuesday, he said an investigation revealed Steele had reportedly talked about killing a woman who lived in the home. Steele was spotted on scene during the fire and appeared out of breath when he spoke to a witness there, Lillard said.

A witness also reported Steele appeared to have an accelerant agent with him and the investigation yielded allegations that he had threatened people in the area of the fire with harm if they said anything, the sheriff also said.

The sheriff’s High Impact Target Team arrested Steele Oct. 24, one day before he turned 38, on outstanding warrants. As the fire investigation continued, investigators attempted to interview him, advising him of his right to remain silent, which he then invoked.

According to Colorado Bureau of Investigation public records, Steele’s recent criminal history includes arrests this year for traffic violations; violation of bond conditions; contempt of court; failures to appear; drug possession; protection order violation; second-degree assault; felony menacing; misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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