NEDERLAND | Two Alabama men who accidentally started a wildfire that destroyed eight homes in the mountains near Boulder were charged with arson Wednesday after failing to ensure their campfire was out, authorities said.
District Attorney Stan Garnett announced the charges at a meeting with residents in Nederland about the blaze. It had forced about 2,000 people to evacuate, though many have been allowed back home.
Jimmy Andrew Suggs, 28, and Zackary Ryan Kuykendall, 26, both of Vinemont, Alabama, put rocks from a fire ring on top of the blaze to extinguish it but did not smother it with dirt, according to court documents. The fire smoldered and flared up in hot, windy weather Saturday and spread to 528 acres.
It’s not clear how long they had been camping in the area. They were staying near an established campground popular with transients in the summer, and the fire has led some to question whether the community needs to do more to police the annual visitors to the surrounding forest.
Aerial photos show how slurry dropped from planes helped save homes tucked into the forest. Its telltale rust color coated trees near houses. Many hoped rain would remove it and bring relief to the dry, hot region.
Suggs and Kuykendall each face two counts of arson, including causing a fire that endangers people, a felony that can carry a penalty of up to 12 years in prison. They also are charged with arson that endangers property and trespassing, both misdemeanors. Suggs also is charged with possessing a weapon as a previous offender.
There’s no evidence so far that a woman camping with them, Elizabeth Blair Burdeshaw, 20, helped build or feed the fire, so she has not been charged with it, Garnett said. She has been ticketed for trespassing.
In southern Colorado, a wildfire near Coaldale, a town on the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City, was burning within about a half-mile of houses Wednesday. The blaze forced the evacuation of about 100 homes and spread to about 19 square miles after erupting from a smoldering lightning strike Sunday in the Sangre de Christo Wilderness.
The area was burned by a fire in 2011 and its containment lines are helping hold the new blaze to the east, fire spokesman Kyle Sullivan said.
The state’s largest fire, burning along the Colorado-Wyoming border north of Walden, has blackened more than 30 square miles of beetle-killed timber. The fire started June 19 and is still burning mostly out of control.
Because of the large number of dead trees, the fire is largely being allowed to burn and isn’t expected to be contained until October.