Today's Denver Post features an editorial that questions the harshness of the fourth-degree arson charge faced by Joel Ledermann, the man accused of accidentally starting the Reservoir Road fire near Loveland.
But at the very least, the arrest affidavit suggests that he engaged in some seriously dubious behavior.
According to the Joel Ledermann affidavit for arrest warrant, Ledermann and his attorney, Marco Saclise, spoke with a representative of Larimer County on September 13, the day after the fire started. At that time, the document says, he admitted that he'd been burning some brush at his Reservoir Road home -- something he didn't think would be a problem despite fire danger so severe that the Fourmile Canyon fire near Boulder was blazing out of control because "it was a calm morning with no wind."
Maybe so, but after Ledermann lit the brush using some paper, he reportedly said "some of the leaves in the pile started burning and it became very hot and then the fire started spreading very fast" -- so much so that neither he nor neighbors who tried to help were able to extinguish it.
By the way, Ledermann didn't have a permit for the burn,and neither did he wet down the area before burning the brush. However, the affidavit states, his wife "had mowed a circle around where they were going to burn" two weeks earlier.
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The document uses information like this to establish probable cause for arrest via passages like these:
That YOUR AFFIANT knows that the fire became severe enough that the area had to be evacuated, that MATILDA PEACOCK, mother of CHRISTINE RONCKA, has heart problems was one of the persons who was endangered by the fire as RONCKA had stated the fire was headed toward her house, where her mother was, and that she quit fighting the fire to leave to assist her.
That YOUR AFFIANT believes that since the fire started approximately 10:15 a.m., that many folks, including, but not limited to the GOODALL'S, the RONKA'S, the PROCTORS, the CHRISTENSEN'S, MICHAEL MOORE and LEIGH VITASEK were at home with the fire headed toward their property, and in fact, the CHRISTENSEN'S and MOORE and VITASEK'S home burnt to the ground.
The very personal nature of this document makes the jailtime argument an even more difficult call. Page down to read the entire affidavit: