High Country Crime: Woodchuck starts car fire in Steamboat Springs, flees scene, later apprehended | SummitDaily.com

High Country Crime: Woodchuck starts car fire in Steamboat Springs, flees scene, later apprehended

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters Isaiah Hartman, front, and Brian McGovern work to extinguish a vehicle fire in the Steamboat Today parking lot Wednesday afternoon. The driver was not injured, and firefighters quickly extinguished the fire. The cause of the blaze was determined to be a nest built by a woodchuck.
Scott Franz / Steamboat Today |

Firefighters suspect a nest built by a woodchuck caused a car to catch fire Thursday, May 18.

Shortly after 4 p.m., Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters were called to the Steamboat Today parking lot, where a 1993 white Toyota 4Runner was on fire.

The driver had just picked up the car at a ranch, where it had been sitting for a while. The driver was taking it to get registered when the fire started in the engine compartment. The driver was able to pull over and get out of the car uninjured.

People in the area helped knock down the fire with extinguishers.

The woodchuck was seen fleeing the scene, and there was some concern that it might start another fire because the animal was on fire. On Thursday, a Steamboat Today employee spotted the woodchuck in front of the building. It was badly burned, and wildlife officials were notified.

The woodchuck had to be euthanized.

One couple spawns four cases in Rifle

A couple wound up in jail on May 11 after a series of run-ins with the law, all in the same morning.

Rifle police were first dispatched at about 6:30 a.m. to an assault at Wal-Mart, where dispatch reported that a man was suspected of hitting a woman who was on the ground.

The woman said the two had gotten into an argument and lost their tempers. They were heading out of town to go to Las Vegas, she told an officer.

She then said the 57-year-old man, her boyfriend of about three weeks, struck her and knocked her to the ground, according to an affidavit. She later added he had grabbed her by the throat before he struck her in the face.

The man was arrested on a felony second-degree assault charge, along with a domestic violence sentence enhancer.

Noticing that she appeared to be intoxicated, an officer gave her a ride to her residence, but the woman was later arrested on another case that included charges of driving under the influence, careless driving and possession of drug paraphernalia.

About two hours later, Rifle police were dispatched to a burglary at Valley Vet Clinic, where a vet tech found a side door had been forced open and money was missing from a cash box.

An officer found the door frame torn out of the doorway, various items in disarray and the employee said about $150 was missing from a hidden cash box. Later, another envelope of cash was found missing.

The Valley Vet Clinic owner told police she had recently fired a 31-year-old woman for stealing narcotics. This was the same woman Rifle police encountered earlier in the morning.

While she was in custody, the woman told police that her boyfriend talked her into breaking in so they could go to Las Vegas for the weekend, according to the police report. He was found with $241.

They were individually charged with second-degree burglary, a felony, along with theft and criminal mischief, both misdemeanors.

Stolen nitrous oxide cylinders from Craig Airgas found in dead man’s Eagle County storage shed

An unsolved burglary from Airgas in Craig in February reached an unexpected conclusion when empty nitrous oxide cylinders were found in a deceased man’s storage shed in Eagle County in March, according to a news release from Craig Police Department.

The burglary occurred Feb. 1, in which seven cylinders of what’s commonly known as laughing gas were discovered missing, and the Airgas building was damaged from the forced entry of the burglar.

On March 23, Craig police were contacted by an investigator with Gore Range Narcotics Interdiction Team, or GRANITE, out of Eagle County, the news release said. Several empty Airgas cylinders had been found by a family member of a recently deceased man, identified as 33-year-old Steven Fortin.

Fortin, a resident of Steamboat Springs, had been found dead in a hotel room on March 4 in Vernal, Utah.

The family member notified law enforcement about the found cylinders, according to the release, and Eagle County investigators confirmed they were from the Craig Airgas burglary. All but two cylinders were recovered and all were empty.

The value of the stolen nitrous oxide cylinders was nearly $1,300, Craig Police Cmdr. Bill Leonard said.

I-70 Speedster tries to lose the law

Garfield County sheriff’s patrol engaged in a short, yet high-speed, chase on Interstate 70 near Parachute on the morning of May 6.

Patrolling on westbound I-70, the patroller clocked a vehicle going 96 mph as it passed the patrol car. The driver sped up to 105 mph as the deputy attempted to stop the vehicle and dangerously passed other vehicles on a rough section of the interstate, according to an affidavit.

Passing another vehicle on a sharp turn, the vehicle braked aggressively, so much so that smoke emitted from the wheel wells and caused the deputy and the other driver to slam on their brakes, the deputy reported.

The driver told deputies that he was driving from Trinidad to California, but insisted that there was no particular reason for the trip, “that he just felt like going on a drive.” He admitted that his driving behavior could have gotten someone hurt. And he later said the only trouble he’d been in with the law before was for cocaine possession in the ‘90s.

He was arrested on charges of felony vehicular eluding and misdemeanor speeding 25 to 39 mph over the limit.

— Compiled by Summit Daily staff from regional newspapers including Glendwood Springs Post-Independent, Craig Daily Press and Steamboat Today

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