DENVER (AP) — A Colorado judge says he will rule next week on whether to dismiss criminal charges against a mentally ill Danish man accused of starting the massive Spring Fire because he said he sees no viable option left to try the man.
Before deciding the fate of Jesper Joergensen, Colorado's Sixth Judicial District Court Judge Gregory Lyman said during a hearing on Thursday that he wanted to be assured that Joergensen would be deported to his homeland if the case is dismissed. Lyman also said he wanted to hear from residents of some of the over 100 homes that were destroyed at the Feb. 12 hearing when he's scheduled to announce his decision.
In mid-January, Joergensen's lawyer urged the judge to dismiss the case. During a hearing, the lawyer said doctors found Joergensen unable to stand trial three times because of his mental health. She also said his delusional disorder makes him refuse to take medication. Prosecutors said they wanted to look into the possibility of doing an evaluation in jail or possibly forcing him to take medication.
Joergensen, of Denmark, was arrested on July 7, 2018 and was charged on July 12 with 141 felony arson charges in connection to the 2018 Spring Fire. The wildfire grew to more than 108,000 acres and destroyed more than 130 homes in southern Colorado near Fort Garland and La Veta.
His visa had allegedly expired, so Immigration and Customs Enforcement put an immigration detainer on him following his arrest. He had told authorities he'd built a fire pit that got out of control.
According to an arrest affidavit, Joergensen changed his story several times when talking with authorities and had burn marks on him when deputies first found him.
At the time, the Spring Fire was the second-largest single (non-complex) fire in Colorado history. After the 2020 wildfire season, it was bumped down to the fifth largest wildfire in Colorado history.
These are the state's 10 largest wildfires, ranked by acreage:
1. Cameron Peak Fire (2020): 208,913 acres
2. East Troublesome Fire (2020): 193,812 acres
3. Pine Gulch Fire (2020): 139,007 acres
4. Hayman Fire (2002): 137,760 acres
5. Spring Fire (2018): 108,045 acres
6. High Park Fire (2012): 87,284 acres
7. Missionary Ridge Fire (2002): 72,962 acres
8. 416 Fire (2018): 54,000 acres
9. Bridger Fire (2008): 45,800 acres
10. Last Chance Fire (2012): 45,000 acres
Note: The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center said the West Fork Complex fire, which burned a total of 109,632 acres in 2013, is not included on this list since it involved three separate fires.