Suspects in Lake Christine Fire turn themselves in to authorities early Sunday, July 15
The Aspen Times
The two suspects in the Lake Christine fire turned themselves in to Eagle County authorities early Sunday morning, July 15, authorities said.
El Jebel residents Allison Marcus, 22, and Richard Miller, 23, face charges of fourth-degree arson, a Class 4 felony, and firing woods or prairie, a Class 6 felony. The two suspects are being held on a $7,500 bond.
As of midday Sunday, the fire had burned 6,778 acres and was 57 percent contained. Three homes were destroyed, with a combined value of $2.65 million, according to the affidavit.
Marcus and Miller were allegedly at the shooting range near Basalt firing tracer rounds shortly before 6 p.m. on July 3. The public range was open despite fire restrictions banning everything from charcoal grill fires to outdoor smoking. However, firing tracer ammunition is always banned, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which owns and operates the shooting range.
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‘Called into 911’
The two suspects initially were approached at the gun range at 5:59 p.m. — five minutes after Pitkin County dispatch sent notice that a fire had possibly originated at the gun range — by an Eagle County deputy and an off-duty Forest Service officer, according to the affidavit, which was written by Eagle County detective Aaron Veldheer.
Marcus told the authorities that she “caused it and was sorry. Marcus said she called into 911 to report the fire,” the affidavit says.
Marcus said she had been shooting a rifle, while Miller said he was firing a shotgun.
“Deputy (Josiah) Maner asked Miller what kind of rounds they were shooting,” the affidavit says. “Miller claimed not to know. Deputy Maner asked Miller if he was shooting incendiary rounds, such as tracers. Miller stated no. I asked Miller if he was shooting at exploding targets such as Tannerite or paper. Miller stated paper.”
The deputy asked those questions, the affidavit notes, because “these items are prohibited from use during a Stage 2 fire restriction.”
As the deputy sorted through the suspects’ firearms and ammunition — the search was consensual, the affidavit says — Miller admitted to firing tracer rounds.
Miller told authorities he was aware of the fire ban but said the signs indicating such on Two Rivers Road and Highway 82 near Original Road “only read fires and fireworks were prohibited.” The deputy subsequently seized the firearms, which included a shotgun, a .308 caliber rifle and ammunition, to be placed into evidence, the affidavit says.
According to Colorado statutes, fourth-degree arson can rise to a Class 4 felony “if a person is thus endangered.” With a conviction, the charge carries a prison term of two to six years with three years of mandatory parole.
The Class 6 felony charge of firing woods or prairie is when a person “knows or reasonably should know that he or she violates any applicable order, rule, or regulation lawfully issued by a governmental authority that prohibits, bans, restricts, or otherwise regulates fires during periods of extreme fire hazard and that is designed to promote the safety of persons and property,” according to statutes.
Scott Condon contributed to this report.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.