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Boulder’s Fourmile Canyon Fire – Was It Started in a Fire Pit?

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Fire pitThe raging wildfire in Boulder’s Fourmile Canyon seems to be slowly receding and investigations continue into its cause. Last Sunday, The Denver Post ran a front page story asserting that the big blaze was not started by an accident involving a collision with a propane tank — the theory du jour last week (we wrote about it here).

Now there is a different possibility: Someone’s fire pit. They are much more common these days, I just got one yesterday myself. Here is an excerpt from the statement provided by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, as reported by Michael Roberts, a blogger on Denver Westword Blogs:

The investigation has led investigators to believe that the origin of the fire was most likely a fire pit in the 7100 block of Fourmile Canyon. Information indicated the last fire in the fire pit, prior to the Fourmile Canyon Fire had been a number of days before. At that time, the property owner had made attempts to extinguish the fire by dousing it with water and stirring the ashes. It is believed that the wind reignited the embers and blew them out of the fire pit, causing the fire to spread on September 6th.

So the cause has probably been identified, that’s a starting point. But what further nuance of the situation might lay in wait? We’ll see. The fact that the property owner had doused it with water and stirred the ashes will work to his great advantage. Roberts continues:

The investigation is continuing and at this time it is unknown if criminal charges will be pursued. For criminal charges to be pursued, the responsible person would have had to act in a reckless or criminally negligent manner. The definitions for criminal negligence or reckless behavior as defined in the Colorado Revised Statues is as follows:

‘Criminal negligence’: a person acts with criminal negligence when, through a gross deviation from the standard of care a reasonable person would exercise, he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or a circumstance exists.

‘Recklessly’: a person acts recklessly when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists.

These are the definitions that will be vital if this comes to court: Determining how much action was taken as opposed to how much action should have been taken.

No arrest has been made in this matter. While the possibility of charges is not ruled out, and investigative work continues, the owner of the property in question has not been arrested at this time:

The property owner is a life long member of the community and the Sheriff’s Office does not feel he is a danger to the public. The investigation will continue and at this time, the Sheriff’s Office isn’t prepared to answer whether or not any criminal charges will be pursued in this matter. The Sheriff’s Office will work closely with the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office prior to making any arrest decisions.

Just because charges are not on the table right now does not guarantee it will stay that way. There are still firemen in the field battling the now-shrinking fire. Once the battle with mother nature comes to an end, I’m sure we will see more scrutiny on the subject, especially on the part of those who have lost their homes in the blaze.

Image by jc westbrook, used under its Creative Commons license.


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