Like all of Colorado, Teller County is on alert for wildfires. The difference is that Teller County is the only one currently searching for an arsonist.
According to County Sheriff Mike Ensminger, his office is now investigating 21 suspicious fires. Six of those were reported on June 18, during a period of just six hours.
At a community meeting Monday evening, he praised the residents of his community for their attentiveness and desire to catch the person responsible. He says his office has fielded reports of over 100 vehicles of interest.
“The level of alertness in this county is absolutely incredible,” he said.
He cautioned, however, against anyone trying to apprehend a suspected arsonist on their own.
“We do not want you to try to apprehend somebody that you suspect of committing a crime, any type of a crime,” Ensminger said.
A potential person of interest was taken in for questioning Thursday night after a resident reportedly spotted an older model red Jeep Cherokee near the intersection of Highway 24 and Highway 67 in Woodland Park, and called 911.
Authorities swarmed the vehicle and detained one individual. But after a series of questioning, the person was released. At this time, the Sheriff's Office says there are no potential suspects in this investigation.
"So obviously the real perpetrator is still out there and who's going to stop him? We need to find him and get him behind bars," resident Bob South said.
"I feel like (the suspect) is heartless, they obviously don't have any family here," homeowner Elizabeth Crismore said.
Ensminger released this written statement at 9:25 a.m. Friday:
On June 21, 2012, in the evening hours a person of interest was detained and questioned by the Teller County Sheriff’s Office. After substantial information was gather coupled with the cooperation of our subject he was allowed to go back home. We are still asking the community to stay on a heightened sense of alert and to report anything or anybody that they find suspicious.
It's a disquieting fact for residents of Teller County, where anxiety is growing with every new report of a fire. Though so far all the fires have been small and quickly extinguished, with the suspect still on the loose, people are now wondering what kind of escalation to expect before someone is caught.
Anyone who sees anything suspicious is asked to call the Teller County Sheriff's Office at 719-687-9652.
Sheriff Ensminger says the Forest Service is also involved in the investigation.
Keep checking this page for updates.
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