Photos: Did Michael Maher play dress-up at both High Park and Lower North Fork Fire?
Update: In our original post about Michael Maher, who's accused of impersonating a firefighter tackling the ultra-destructive High Park blaze (see our earlier coverage below), we noted that his alleged impersonation suggested that he'd been trying something new in comparison with his previous criminal gambits. Wrong, says the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, whose investigators believe he pulled the exact some scheme during the Lower North Fork Fire in March -- and there are photos aplenty to bolster the argument.
During the earlier blaze, what a JCSO release describes as a "firefighter," complete with quotes, was issued a chainsaw, two Pulaski firefighting tools, a portable radio, a portable fire shelter, goggles, some ready-to-eat meals and a few other items valued at $2,400.
Shockingly enough, this gear wasn't returned after the fire was extinguished -- but some of it turned up a few months later, in a different location.
As we reported below, Maher, whose record includes sexual assault on a child charges, a disorderly conduct conviction and a DUI bust, was nabbed for masquerading as a High Park firefighter after his truck, with a missing government license plate affixed, was eyeballed in LaPorte. Authorities noted that some stolen doodads were found inside it -- and one of them turned out to be a radio snatched from Jeffco.
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Yesterday, a search of Maher's residence turned up more stuff: the chainsaw, the Pulaski tools and some of the MREs, plus several Nomex pants and shirts, miscellaneous U.S. Forest Service outfits, a USFS qualification card and the sort of red-and-blue bubble-light rig capable of making his ride seem like an emergency vehicle.
Jeffco hasn't formally filed against Maher yet, but charges against him could include felony theft, felony criminal impersonation and misdemeanor impersonation of a public servant. Of course, readers can also accuse him of being a douchebag, but that's entirely up to them.
One more thing: 9News interviewed two women who say Maher raped them when they were teens -- hence the sexual assault on a child accusations noted above, which date back to 2003. (He was originally charged with a felony, but he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor the following year.) According to them, Maher used to drive around with a firefighter's helmet in his truck. Hmmmm.
Here the 9News report, followed by photos of the recovered Lower North Fork booty and more, plus our previous reportage.
Original post, 3:59 p.m. June 19: Thanks to the High Park fire, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office doesn't really have time to spend dealing with guys playing dress-up -- like, for instance, Michael Maher, who's accused of masquerading as a firefighter, apparently to soak up some of the attention (from Governor John Hickenlooper, among others) that's richly deserved by others.
According to 7News, Maher, who's thirty, has a hefty record that includes 2004 sexual assault on a child charges (he eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor), a 2005 probation violation, a 2010 disorderly conduct conviction in regard to discharging a firearm and a false report, plus a DUI bust reduced to driving while ability impaired that same year.
This time around, though, he seems to have tried something new. According to the LCSO, he was spotted early Sunday morning in the vicinity of the blaze in a truck with a government license plate stolen from the Glenwood Springs area. The vehicle, which is said to have contained other stolen goods as well, was subsequently tracked down in the community of LaPorte. This discovery led to Maher's arrest for obstructing fire and police officers, impersonating same, and attempting to influence a public servant.
Afterward, 7News accessed Maher's Facebook page, which featured a number of photos like the shot above, with him mugging alongside Hickenlooper, and this image, in which he posed inside a helicopter used to fight the fire:
At this writing, the page continues to list Maher as an "environmental consultant" and features the logo for the U.S. Forest Service, but most of the photos have been removed. An exception: a profile pic of Maher in firefighting duds set against the backdrop of a smoldering northern Colorado landscape:
Fortunately, the LCSO has presented Maher with a new photo -- of the booking variety. Here it is:
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More from our News archive: "High Park fire update: 92 square miles destroyed, CSU turned into support camp."