Small blazes in Teller County renew concerns about 2012 arson fires

By: matt steiner
June 17, 2013 Updated: June 17, 2013 at 5:40 pm

When Teller County officials reported a fire along County Road 1 on Sunday, last year's string of suspected arsons came to the minds of many people living in the mountains west of Colorado Springs.

After all, the small grass fire near Teller County Road 12 was the fourth blaze reported in five days. The first came Wednesday - just one day after the Black Forest fire was sparked north of Colorado Springs.

"It's a common problem everywhere you go in the state right now," said Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger.

Ensminger downplayed any possible link to a series of more than 30 fires that were intentionally set between June 18 and June 25, 2012. He said there was nothing about the sudden influx of fires this year "that matches the M.O. of the guy from last year."

The sheriff said three of the four were in the same area. He called two of the fires "flare-ups" of the first one. The only other fire came Saturday in the 1400 block of Timre Mesa in the Eaglecrest subdivision. It was the largest at 4.5 acres.

Ensminger said only one of the fires was suspicious but "undeterminable at this time."

The 2012 fires began just one day after the Springer fire started outside of Lake George. New fires were almost a daily occurrence.

Ensminger and Teller County Sheriff's Detective Dennis Sherman both said that the 30 fires all were set close to roads, where a quick escape was possible. The arson investigation is ongoing.

"We feel very confident that we'll have a successful resolution to it, hopefully very soon," Ensminger said on Monday.

Sgt. Mark Porcelli, a spokesman with Ensminger's office, told The Gazette in early May that "natural causes were eliminated on just about all" of the 2012 fires.

Porcelli said evidence was presented to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for analysis. A task force that included the CBI, Teller, Park and Douglas county investigators, the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado State Patrol and federal agencies has been involved in the investigation.

Ensminger confirmed Monday that the analysis is in the final stages.

He said the 2012 fires and the recent ones sparked between Florissant and Cripple Creek were all extinguished quickly. Ensminger called the response a testament to Teller County crews.

"I knock on wood everyday," Ensminger said. "We have a great team and they have a tremendous response time. We've been able to catch these things before they get real bad."

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