Loveland's Reservoir Road alleged firestarters' case goes to DA, Fourmile investigation goes on

This just in: At noon today, all areas impacted by the Fourmile Canyon fire near Boulder will be repopened to residents (get more info below). Meanwhile, crews continue to fight the Reservoir Road fire outside Loveland -- and the case against the two people suspected of starting it has been sent to the district attorney.

That's the word from Deputy Kathy Messick, assistant press information officer with the Larimer County Sheriff's Office. According to Messick, "We've completed our investigation and turned it over" to the district attorney for the 8th Judicial District, whose jurisdiction covers the burn area.

The Reservoir Road fire at its peak.
The Reservoir Road fire at its peak.

"They want to staff it," Messick continues, "which means they're going to have some of their people look into it. They want video and more details and facts before they make a decision on charges" -- likely sometime next week.

The prime suspects? Messick describes them as two people "who were attempting to burn a small pile of debris -- branches, foliage -- and it got away."

Man, did it ever.

Linda Jensen, public information officer for the 8th Judicial District, adds that the DA's office personnel "will take our time to review everything before we make a decision," including any changes in the law regarding fourth-degree arson, the most likely charge to arise from the incident.

The situation may be even trickier in respect to Fourmile, as Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett pointed out in a post yesterday. The suspect is a longtime firefighter who last used his fire pit three days before the blaze started, suggesting that embers he thought he'd properly extinguished lingered for a long period of time before being stirred to life by the wind.

Nonetheless, Boulder County Sheriff's Office spokesman Commander Rick Brough wants to make it clear that the BCSO isn't leaning one way or the other regarding potential criminal counts Garnett's office will consider.


Smoke from the Fourmile Canyon fire when it was at its hottest.
Smoke from the Fourmile Canyon fire when it was at its hottest.

According to Brough, the BCSO release about the still-unnamed suspect was meant to appear "open-minded. We're not out to lynch somebody for this because of the magnitude of the fire. We wanted to say that we're going to complete the investigation -- and the DA's office has already been working with us. They're aware of a lot of the facts of the case. And we'll look at it to see if there's something we can charge -- look at it to see if we feel it was done on purpose, if we feel he was reckless, if we feel he was negligent, or if we think it was just an accident."

As for the BCSO's decision to confirm reports about the fire pit as a potential cause mere hours after saying authorities wouldn't do so until after the investigation was complete, Brough maintains that "we wanted to dispel some of the rumors and get out what we knew at that point. There were still stories about a car backing into a propane tank as well as the fire pit. It's normally something we don't do on an open investigation, but we had to take the magnitude of this whole thing into consideration."

Brough doesn't know if the sympathy shown to the fire-pit firefighter in numerous television reports is universally held, having not spoken directly to residents about the subject. But he says the investigation won't be delayed to let emotions ease.

"We're trying to move things along as fast as we can," he says. "We want to get it done, pass it on, and go from there."

Page down to see the release about the reopening of the Fourmile Canyon fire zone:


Updated Fourmile fire neighborhood re-entry information

Boulder County, Colo. -- As of noon today, the entire area affected by the Fourmile fire will be reopened to returning residents.

While significant safety issues still exist within the burn area, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office is restricting access only to returning residents and their designated parties. Residents will continue to need to get passes to gain entry into their neighborhoods until the entire area is opened to the public. Form (PDF) to register for an access pass. Passes are available at the Boulder County Justice Center at 1777 Sixth St. (Sixth and Canyon) and will be distributed throughout the week during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Roads reopening on Wednesday, Sept. 15:

Effective at 12 noon today the entire fire area will be open to residents. Dixon Rd past Rim Rd will remain closed until 2 p.m. while crews work on installing new utility poles in that area.

As of noon today, the following Access Point locations will require a pass for entry:

• Lickskillet at Lefthand Rd.

• 10100 Goldhill Rd.

• 8200 Fourmile Canyon

• 4100 Fourmile Canyon

• 4221 Sunshine Canyon

Residents should be advised that some areas continue to have no power or phone service. Emergency officials have placed a satellite phone at the Sunshine Canyon Fire station located at 311 CR 83 should emergency phone service become necessary. Victims' advocates will be in the neighborhood to assist residents as they return.

Residents of the evacuated areas and contractors working with residents in the area are advised that, while the fire line has been completely 'contained,' many hazards and health & safety concerns remain within the fire perimeter area. The primary concern at this time is the safety and security of residents going into areas that have sustained significant infrastructure losses from the fire.

The Sheriff's Office also wants to maintain open access for emergency personnel and firefighters still working in the area. Fire recovery efforts are actively underway, and emergency personnel and firefighters appreciate having unobstructed access to those areas that pose a risk for further fire activity.

While active fire conditions have been mostly extinguished, much of the scorched ground is still warm or hot to the touch, and there remain many obstacles and dangers within the entire burned area. These include: downed power lines and poles, fire hot spots, infrastructure damage to roads and rights of way, lack of working utilities (phone, water, electricity), concerns about potable water quality and propane tank integrity, and exposed mine shafts.

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