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Denver police suspect arson in fire that killed 3 adults, 2 children in Green Valley Ranch home


Sam Tabachnik and Matt Sebastian
The Denver Post

One by one, members of Colorado’s Senegalese community arrived in Green Valley Ranch. They came from down the street, across town and as far as away as the mountains, carrying water and folding chairs. They hugged, they talked quietly, they wept as fire investigators walked through the scorched rubble that once housed a young family.

And despite the oppressive Denver sun, the community would not budge.

They came to support their brother, their friend, their community after an overnight house fire killed Djibril Diol, his wife, daughter, sister and niece. Denver police opened a homicide investigation, saying there was evidence the 2:40 a.m. Wednesday fire was intentionally set. Three other residents managed to jump from the second story and survived without life-threatening injuries, fire officials said.

But community members on Wednesday were left with a question nobody could answer: Why?

“What would our community do to be a target?” Ousman Ba said.

The fire was reported after a Denver police officer in the area noticed smoke, and neighbors started calling 911.

Police were first on scene and tried to save people, but the flames and heat were too intense, said Capt. Greg Pixley, spokesman for the Denver Fire Department.

“Officers quickly determined there were people in the home,” Joe Montoya, chief of the Denver Police Department’s investigations division, said at a morning news conference. “There was a valiant effort to try to pull people from the home. They were unable to save some of the individuals that perished in the fire.”

Diol and his family immigrated from Senegal in recent years, and they were staying at the 5312 N. Truckee St. home with another family until they could find their own, Ba said. That’s what this community does, he said. They look out for one another.

Diol was an engineer with Kiewit working on the I-70 project, Ibrahim Ndiaye, a friend, said. His wife and sister worked at Amazon. Diol loved soccer and his family. Friday was Eid, a holy day for their community, and Ndiaye said his friend went house to house to give greetings.

“He was a good person, a good worker and a good Muslim,” Diol’s brother, Abou Djibril, said.

Papa Dia, executive director of the African Leadership Group, would not speculate why the house may have been targeted, but he said their community needs support.

“We are part of Colorado,” he said. “We are citizens. We want to contribute.”

Throughout the day, more and more people showed up. Neighbors brought over tents and folding chairs. Others offered iced coffee and snacks for community members who sat in groups and talked for hours.

“We don’t want to go home because then we’ll just be thinking about it,” Ndiaye said. “When something hits one person, it hits everybody.”

Mohamed Ly, who knew the family, drove from Summit County after hearing the news. “You can die anytime,” he said. “You just have to keep doing what you can do till it’s time.”

In the afternoon, dozens of people congregated silently behind yellow police tape to watch officials carry the bodies from inside the house.

Ba created a fundraiser so the family could have a proper funeral and pay for other costs, raising nearly $7,000 in the first few hours.

Police and fire investigators did not report what started the fire or what motive someone would have for burning the house. Montoya said they have evidence of arson.

Fire investigators will work with the Denver Police Department’s homicide unit to determine “the true story of this fire,” Pixley said.

No injuries were reported among firefighters or responding police officers.

The fire itself was intense, Pixley said. He credited firefighters with preventing it from spreading farther into the neighborhood, though two adjacent homes had significant damage from the heat.

“This is a devastating time for Denver, for this community, and our hearts and our prayers go out to this community,” Pixley said. “We really want people to understand that we do feel for them right now.”.


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