High Chateau Fire started by campfire; 3 arrested
A fire that consumed more than 1,400 acres and destroyed at least eight homes was started by a campfire, the Teller County Sheriff's Office announced Monday.
Three people from Colorado Springs, including two teens, are now facing first-degree arson charges for the
The fire was first reported around noon June 29 roughly 4 miles south of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, and at its height forced more than 1,700 from two counties (Teller and Park) to evacuate. The blaze is now 100 percent contained.
Investigators say the suspects left a campfire -- already prohibited due to fire restrictions -- unattended, which then sparked the fast-growing fire.
The suspects have been identified as 23-year-old David Renfrow, 19-year-old Kegan Owens and a 17-year-old boy, whose identity is not being released due to his age.
Arrest papers obtained by 11 News Monday reveal the trio was aware of the burn ban when they built the campfire on the night of June 28. Owens reportedly told investigators his father called him after they arrived at the camping spot and warned him not to build a fire due to the existing restrictions.
In separate interviews with Owens and Renfrow, both men allegedly told investigators they built the campfire inside a fire ring and let it burn for two to three hours before a bear spooked them and they decided to cut the camping trip short. The arrest affidavits state the group poured water over the fire and placed a layer of dirt inside the fire ring and thought the fire was completely out when they left for home.
Investigators say when they discovered the remnants of that campfire on June 30, it was still smoldering.
According to Colorado Springs Fire Marshal Brett Lacey, blatantly ignoring existing fire restrictions can result in arson charges if it results in a fire.
"If you damage the property or put someone in harm's way, that's certainly a charge of arson," Lacey told 11 News. "People that are being foolish and doing careless activities, without being mindful of fire or heat energy sources, they're going to be held liable for whatever damage they incur."
The suspects in the High Chateau Fire could be held responsible both legally and financially, Lacey said.
"Where people don’t frequently think about is the restitution as you go to court. You may be on the spit for paying for all of our fire department resources, all of the engines, the apparatus, the people, not to mention what everybody lost. You’re going to be liable for all that as well. So you can quickly rack up millions of dollars in costs that you're going to be responsible for paying, regardless of the actual crime you're being fined or doing jail time for."
In terms of the crime itself, the trio is looking at a minimum of a $2,500 fine and up to 189 days in jail. The Teller County Sheriff's Office said it's possible they could be looking at a far steeper penalty: four to eight years in prison and fines up to $750,000.
Unincorporated Teller County remains under a stage three fire ban, meaning all open fires are illegal.
"These arrests underscore the importance of obeying fire bans," the sheriff's office said in a statement Monday.
For more information on current fire restrictions across the state,