Glenwood Springs A 17-year-old male from Glenwood Springs faces a charge of fourth-degree arson after allegedly setting off a brush fire with a sparkler along the Roaring Fork River below the Glenwood Park subdivision Wednesday evening.
The fire started at about 6 p.m. and rapidly spread up the hillside toward several houses along Valley View Road before firefighters were able to get it under control. No structures were damaged and no one was injured in the blaze, which burned about two acres.
Two juveniles were initially implicated in the incident, but only one was cited, Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson said.
“From what I understand, several people saw them in the area trying to put the fire out,” Wilson said.
They were then escorted up the hill on the trail to where a police officer was waiting. Police ultimately determined that only one of the youths was to blame, Wilson said.
In addition to the arson charge, the juvenile also was cited for minor in possession of alcohol and for possessing an illegal weapon.
“He apparently was carrying a switchblade of some sort,” Wilson said. “He also had a bunch of other fireworks in his possession at the time.”
Any use of fireworks, even ones that can be legally obtained in Colorado such as sparklers, are prohibited under a current statewide fire ban and under Garfield County’s Stage 2 fire restrictions because of the extremely dry conditions.
The youth was released to his parents on a summons to appear in Garfield District Court. As of Thursday afternoon, no date had been set for a first court appearance.
“We got really, really lucky with this one,” Wilson said Wednesday night as things had settled down at the fire scene. “If we had the winds today like we had the last couple of days, it would have swept right up into those houses in no time. We could have had a very disastrous outcome.”
Glenwood Springs Acting Fire Chief Gary Tillotson said the fire department had two people rotating through the night monitoring the fire.
“We only had one hot spot that turned back up overnight that they had to put out,” Tillotson said. “We had a pretty successfully knock down the first time.”
Most of the hillside below the houses and part of the lots in the subdivision are privately owned, according to one area homeowner. The burned area closest to the new Atkinson Trail is city owned.
Tillotson did not have a cost estimate for extinguishing the fire but didn’t anticipate it to be too significant. Costs could be recouped through restitution from the youth who was charged in the incident, he said.
The fire also is a reminder to homeowners to clear overgrown brush on private property and to remove any other fire hazards from outside their homes.
“A lot of time there is grant money available to help with that, and we can also assist,” Tillotson said.
There has been some question about enforcement of the state and county fire bans within city limits when it comes to use of otherwise legal fireworks, private campfires and charcoal grills.
Those activities are prohibited under the Garfield County fire restrictions. However, the city has not enacted its own ban and has not formally agreed to have the sheriff enforce the county restrictions within city limits.
“As it stands we support the county’s ban, and we are asking for voluntary compliance with those requirements for everyone’s benefit,” Glenwood Springs City Manager Jeff Hecksel said. “This is no time to be out there taking risks, and unfortunately we had a very close call that brought the issue to light.”
Hecksel said he plans to talk with city council at its July 5 meeting about possible legislative action to give city police more enforcement capability.
“Our preference is that people be responsible without being told to be responsible,” he said.
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