South Routt County investigators feel confident they know how the fire on Lynx Pass started last week, but they still aren't sure exactly whose fault it is.
Deposits at the suspected origin of the blaze, land owned by Eugene Germain, indicate a brush fire that was started intentionally, Routt County Undersheriff Dan Taylor said.
He believes the fire was started to clear a path for a fence and then the flames went out of control.
"We still have to prove it was the origin, but it was pretty obvious that's where it started," Taylor said.
What's not obvious is who started it.
Investigators identified and contacted some people who may have been responsible, but no one has admitted to lighting the fire and no one has been identified as the fire starter, Taylor said.
If found, that person could face charges of fourth-degree arson, he said. But, the sheriff's department won't know if an arson charge is even warranted until it further investigates the area.
"I don't know if we're going to file charges," Taylor said. "If we think that we can prove that was the origin and someone was acting irresponsibly, then we'll file charges."
Fourth-degree arson is charged in circumstances when a controlled burn is started under conditions where the fire could potentially get out of control, Taylor said.
Meanwhile, a 20-person crew from the Midwestern region of the National Parks Service is still working to extinguish all the hot spots from the fire.
The crew was called to Routt County to help local firefighters on May 17, the day after the fire started. The firefighters had been in South Dakota, working with the U.S. Forest Service there.
"We'll probably have some people out there throughout the week," acting Yampa District Ranger Kent Foster said.
The snow last week helped with the workers' effort, but a fire that size can smolder for days, Foster said.
The Oak Creek Fire Protection District was called on Saturday to relieve the crew for a day.
"We found half a dozen hot spots," Oak Creek Fire Chief Chuck Wisecup said.
After going through the charred areas, Wisecup estimated the fire burned about 90 acres. Officials had previously estimated that 200 acres had burned.
However, because the fire jumped around to different spots, the fire line that was cut to surround all the affected areas enclosed 200 acres, Wisecup said.
Either way, the fire was still a handful for local crews who have most of their experience fighting open-range fires.
"This was a forest fire," Wisecup said. "We're used to fighting oak and sagebrush fires."
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