Allison Marcus, 22, and Richard Miller, 23, surrendered to authorities on Sunday, July 15, more than ten days after being accused of starting the Lake Christine fire near Basalt, which has destroyed three homes to date and resulted in hundreds of evacuations.
The pair are being held on suspicion of fourth-degree arson and firing woods or prairie, both felonies, related to their alleged use of tracer bullets at the Basalt SWA shooting range maintained by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which closed additional facilities in the state as a cautionary measure.
According to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, the blaze was sparked on the evening of July 3 and by 8:07 p.m. on July 5, it had grown to more than 5,000 acres, with 0 percent containment.
By then, 1,793 residents had been evacuated from 664 homes and, as noted above, three residences were lost.
The situation has improved markedly since then. The latest update on the Inciweb page devoted to the Lake Christine fire, time-stamped at 5:55 p.m. on the 15th, estimates the involved acreage at 6,822 and containment at 59 percent.
Moreover, all evacuees have been cleared to return to the area.
Another good sign: At 6 a.m. this morning, command of the firefighting effort was transferred from a federal incident management team to what's known as an IMT3 unit — an indication of growing confidence that the worst of the conflagration is in the past.
Not that all concerns are over.
The page's author points out that "a return to a dry pattern continues into next week. This could result in continued burnout in the timber stringers likely spreading by creeping and isolated torching."
Nonetheless, complete containment is predicted to be accomplished by July 31.
In the meantime, the presumed actions of Marcus and Miller have led to broader actions.
As CPW pointed out in an Independence Day news release, the use of tracer bullets, which contain a "pyrotechnic charge," is illegal whether fire restrictions are in place or not.
However, the extreme drought conditions inspired the agency to broaden shooting range closures beyond the one in Basalt. Here's a list of other ranges shut down by CPW as of July 4:
Byers Canyon Rifle Range — Grand County
Basalt State Wildlife Area shooting range — Eagle County
Plateau Creek State Wildlife Area — Mesa County
Cameo Temporary Shooting Range — Mesa County
West Rifle Creek State Wildlife Area — Garfield County
Hayden Range — Routt County
Yampa Range — Routt County
Marcus and Miller turned themselves in to the ECSO at just after midnight on Sunday. Shortly thereafter, they were placed under individual $7,500 bonds.
Conviction for fourth-degree arson, a Class 4 felony, carries possible imprisonment of two to six years and fines from $2,000 to $500,000 in Colorado. Firing woods or prairie, a Class 6 felony, is punishable by from one year to eighteen months behind bars and fines from $1,000 to $100,000.
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