FORT GARLAND — The man arrested on suspicion of arson in connection to the Spring Fire, which has burned about 25 residencies to the ground, changed his story and had burns marks when deputies met with him, according to an affidavit.
The Spring Fire, which is burning a few miles east of Fort Garland in Costilla and Huerfano Counties, had grown to 56,868 acres Monday afternoon and was 10 percent contained. On Thursday, fire commanders said about 25 residences had burned to the ground and there were no confirmed human fatalities. The affidavit said as of Thursday, three people who were in the area were still unaccounted for. It’s unclear if they had been located by Monday.
Around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Costilla County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to a reported fire in Forbes Park, in an unincorporated part of the county. The reporting party, Jesper Jorgensen, said the fire was visible from Highway 160 at mile marker 268. As deputies drove toward Forbes Park, they saw black smoke and started evacuating people in the surrounding areas, the affidavit reads.
Deputies later met with Jorgensen on Durante Road while he was driving a blue Chevy out of the area. He presented a foreign passport from Denmark. He told authorities he had been living in a camper near the fire and had been burning trash. He then “quickly changed his statement” and said he had a permanent fire pit and had been grilling, according to the affidavit.
He had several burns on him, including on his arm, chest, calf and shin.
Jorgensen said he did not know how the fire started.
The following day, deputies were checking the south side of Mountain Home Reservoir when they saw the man in his truck, facing the plume of smoke across the lake. He was taken into custody and deputies found two rifles in plain sight in his car.
During an interview with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Jorgensen said he’d made a fire in his fire pit, which was about two feet deep in the ground, June 26 at 9 a.m. When he was done, he covered the pit to smother the fire. He checked the pit around 2 p.m. and didn’t see any smoke, according to the affidavit.
Shortly after noon the next day, he woke up from a nap to the smell of fire. When he exited his camper, he saw a fire burning on his property about 20 feet from his fire pit. He ran toward the fire with a blanket in an attempt to smother it, but the blanket caught on fire and burned him, the affidavit reads.
When asked if he knew that there was a fire ban in the area, he said he didn’t, though he assumed there was one in place because it was so dry.
The Department of Homeland Security-Immigration Customs Enforcement told the man he was in the country illegally because his visa had expired.