Granby: Teen sentenced for causing YMCA wildfire
December 26, 2007
A teenage boy was sentenced for starting the wildfire at Snow Mountain Ranch-YMCA of the Rockies last summer.
In a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office, the 15-year-old boy from Texas pleaded guilty to second degree arson.
Sentencing took place last Friday in the 14th Judicial District Court presided over by Judge Mary Hoak. The sentencing was closed to the press. Because the case involved a minor, the details of the sentencing were not released.
In attendance at Friday’s sentencing was the boy’s mother and father. A representative of the East Grand Fire Department and two homeowners whose property was reportedly damaged in the wildfire were also present in the courtroom.
In August, the District Attorney’s Office filed second- and fourth-degree arson charges against the boy, accusing him of starting the fires that consumed over 50 acres of grass and woodland on June 25. The plea agreement was entered during the teenager’s last court appearance on Oct. 25.
The case against the Texas teenager was based upon the results of an investigation by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.
In a press release issued July 5, Sheriff Rod Johnson said his investigators had determined the wildfire was caused by teenagers who lighted a couple of fires and failed to properly put them out.
“Evidence was collected and numerous interviews were conducted,” Johnson said. “The conclusion of the investigation revealed that four juvenile guests were walking through the area shortly before the wildland fire had started and started two small fires.”
Johnson’s press release said the four juvenile males were tourists from Texas who were staying at the YMCA.
“One juvenile started the small fires and the other three juveniles there helped put them out,” Johnson said. “They thought they had put them completely out.”
Probably due to windy conditions that day, the embers from the fires flared up and set the adjacent woods on fire. Fortunately, the blaze was quickly spotted.
Firefighters from across Grand County, including the U.S. Forest Service, rushed to the scene and quickly suppressed the June 25 wildfire despite the gusty winds that threatened to drive it out of control.
A 20-member “Hotshot” fire crew from the Bureau of Land Management arrived the next day to handle the remaining “hot spots” in the burned area. Several local firefighters and trucks also remained on site to ensure the fire was totally extinguished.
Cost of the damages caused by the wildfire and its suppression are estimated at about $100,000.
During the blaze, over 350 campers who were staying at the YMCA’s Camp Chief Ouray were evacuated to the East Grand Middle School in Granby where they stayed overnight.
Local officials credited the quick suppression of the June 25 wildland fire not only to the work of local firefighters, but also the extensive fire mitigation work done by the YMCA over the past couple of years to eliminate trees killed by the ongoing mountain pine beetle epidemic.