Five local fire departments, two air tankers, a Type II helicopter and a host of U.S. Forest Service personnel combined to snuff out a fire that claimed 45 acres May 1 near the unincorporated community of Jefferson.

More specifically, the fire occurred near the intersection of County Road 56 and Service Road 813, and originated when a campfire got out of control due to gusty winds.

Parker resident Phillip N. Riker was arrested by the Park County Sheriff’s Office on a variety of charges as a result of the incident, and a PCSO issued a May 1 press release which provided additional details:

Park County Sheriff’s Office

May 3, 2021

Press Release- Wildfire CR56/FSR 813

On Saturday, May 1, 2021, a wildfire was reported in the area of County Road 56 and Forest Service Road 813. Local fire departments from Jefferson/Como, Platte Canyon, Lake George, Northwest and the Forestry Service responded to the fire. A large airtanker and a helicopter were brought in to assist. The fire was finally contained after burning approximately 45 acres. Several campers in the area were evacuated by Wildlife officers and Park County Sheriff’s Office deputies. No persons were injured and no structures were lost due to the wildfire. It was determined that the cause of the fire was due to an individual that had driven off the trail and had started a campfire that had gotten out of control. The individual did remain in the area and called 911 to report the fire.

Phillip N. Riker was arrested on the following charges:

Intentionally Setting a Wildfire- Felony 3

Second Degree Arson-Felony 4

Unlawful Conduct on Public Property-Misdemeanor 2

Driving Under Suspension-Misdemeanor Traffic

Riker was booked into the Park County Jail and was released on bond Sunday evening. The Park County Sheriff’s Office will aggressively pursue persons that have committed any criminal act that results in the destruction of land or structures in our County.

Tom McGraw

Park County Sheriff

Acording to McGraw, the suspect will likely face stiff financial reprecussions for his actions.

“The suspect [Riker] did call 911 to report the fire, he also stayed in the area and was reasonably cooperative,” McGraw said. “Maybe those things will be taken into consideration by the court, but because of the way the statute pertaining to this is written, and because of the considerable costs associated with fighting the fire, I’m guessing he will be facing some substantial fines.”

According to McGraw, the suspect first drove off-road on public land in an area where it was prohibited before starting the fire, and the fire escaped shortly after it was started due to typically gusty South Park winds.

“He also drove over the fire in his jeep in an attempt to put it out, but that didn’t do much,” McGraw said. “It just doesn’t take much wind for these things to happen.”

Finally, the Sheriff said those responsible for starting wildfires will be held accountable for their actions.

“People need to know that we will come after you, and you will be charged with the associated costs if you are responsible for starting a wildfire in Park County,” McGraw said.

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