Greg Cobb and his team spent four and a half days sifting through the scorched husk of a mobile home in the 800 block of 26th Avenue in January 2015.
The ground was covered in snow and the temperatures were below zero, so cold police and firefighters had to work in shifts.
At the time, Cobb was not yet the Greeley Fire Department’s lead fire investigator, a title he now holds. But he had spent almost two decades investigating fires to determine whether they were caused by criminal activity.
Even after almost 20 years of doing the job, though, that fire stood out to him. It killed 3-year-old Lileigh Kellenaers, who was alone in the home late that January night when the fire started.
“It was one of those cases where you know you have to exercise due diligence and speak on her behalf,” Cobb said. “It hit a lot of people and weighed on them pretty hard.”
In December of that year, the girl’s mother was sentenced to four years in prison, and her boyfriend was found guilty of manslaughter a few months later.
The Greeley Fire Department has a seven-person team of fire investigators charged with determining whether blazes such as the January 2015 fire were criminal acts or accidents. They work with the Greeley Police Department, which has two fire investigators. Cobb said the approach allows firefighters to handle the technical side of the investigation, such as determining the cause and origin of the fire, and frees up police to interview witnesses and establish possible motives. The two-pronged approach works well and can sometimes yield results within days, as was the case in an Aug. 16 garage fire in central Greeley that left one man dead. That investigation led to the…
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