Kremmling man faces arson charge after series of inappropriate burns
Neighbors 'on edge' after reckless behavior
When visitors pull up to the gated entrance of Gorewood Estates, they are greeted by a bright orange notice that reads: “Before you light it, make sure you’re ready to fight it.”
Residents of the neighborhood roughly eight miles west of Kremmling say they are often on edge about wildfire danger, especially when they see the chain unhooked at the first driveway on the right.
That usually signals the property owner, Christopher Linsmayer, is home. Linsmayer, a Silverthorne resident and husband of Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, has repeatedly been accused of violating county ordinances by burning slash piles on private property over the past three years.
Most recently, an Aug. 23 incident in which Linsmayer burned a slash pile out of season on a Red Flag warning day prompted the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to charge him with fourth degree arson.
“The backing on that would be he’s been issued three code violations, I believe, and it doesn’t seem like those are deterring him at all,” said Lt. Dan Mayer, spokesman for the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.
Mayer added that in his eight years in Grand County, he has only seen a handful of other cases where locals were charged with arson for a county ordinance violation.
“It’s certainly not common, but it is appropriate,” Mayer said.
Reached on Thursday, Linsmayer’s attorney, Jack DiCola, said he didn’t want to comment on an ongoing case.
Linsmayer’s history with lighting fires in the county goes back to at least 2016, when a 10 acre wildfire, known as the Gore Ridge Fire, started on Linsmayer’s property.
An investigation of the Gore Ridge Fire revealed that Linsmayer had been burning three or four slash piles that were larger than allowed. Linsmayer was not cited for the wildfire, but he did agree to pay Grand County roughly $190,000 for fire suppression efforts and restitution to his neighbor, Henry Meier.
According to the sheriff’s office, Linsmayer was cited for a county ordinance violation on Nov. 1, 2016. Other reports of inappropriate burning were filed on April 7, 2017, and on Sept. 16, 2017, but Linsmayer was not cited.
The September 2017 police report obtained by the Sky-Hi News describes three fires burning on Linsmayer’s property, each with a bucket of water sitting next to it and a shovel. The county ordinance only allows a single campfire at a time.
At the time, Linsmayer claimed that “he was able to manage all three” even after the responding officer expressed concerns about “him being one person attempting to manage all three fires.”
That report was reviewed by the district attorney’s office, which declined to move forward with the case because the DA’s office felt it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
While county officials are hopeful the arson charge will encourage Linsmayer to obey county fire ordinances, his neighbors aren’t as sure it will change his behavior.
“I don’t think this one is going to stop him or slow him down either,” said Steve Miller, one of Linsmayer’s neighbors. “I’ve tried talking to him, and I know other people have, and you might as well talk to a tree.”
Miller said he has left information about fire safety and mitigation programs for Linsmayer. Other neighbors describe their efforts to inform him of free chipping days in the county and logging options, but Meier said that Linsmayer’s “careless” attitude toward fire continues even after the 2016 Gore Ridge Fire, which caused over $100,000 in damage to Meier’s land.
“Eight acres of mature forest were completely incinerated,” Meier explained. “It was devastating … It’s greatly diminished the enjoyment of my property.”
Meier estimates Linsmayer has flouted the fire ordinance roughly 10 different times over the past five years.
The location of Linsmayer’s property adds extra risk because there is no water source on the lot, and the neighborhood is not a part of a fire district, so residents have to call the sheriff first, who then calls for fire crew response.
It also sits at the entrance of the single-road neighborhood, which is several miles west of Kremmling near the Grand River Ranch.
“When you come up to the gate, we’ve come home on a Friday night and seen seven fires going in the dark and we stop there and think do we go in or do we turn around and go back to Denver,” Miller said.
Linsmayer’s arraignment is set for 9 a.m. Dec. 9.
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The Grand County Sheriff’s Office fielded 228 calls from Aug. 29-Sept. 4 while dispatchers answered 496 calls for all first-responder agencies in the county.