Week in Summit: Brush Creek Fire cause determined | SummitDaily.com

Week in Summit: Brush Creek Fire cause determined

Members of the Alpine Interagency Hotshot crew listen to instructions prior to battling the Brush Creek fire on Saturday, Oct 3.
Photo By Greg Ellison / gellison@summitdaily.com |

Lightning has been determined to be the cause of the 238-acre Brush Creek Ranch fire according to fire investigators with the U.S. Forest Service.

“We had some eyewitness accounts that there had been a lightning strike in that area. That’s why we initially went with that theory — we didn’t have any evidence to the contrary,” said Ross Wilmore, a fire management officer with the U.S. Forest Service. “It’s our working theory at this point.”

The blaze that began during the afternoon of Friday Oct. 2 as a small 1.5 acre fire was 100 percent contained by about 9 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 4. It took more than 100 firefighters and hand crewmembers to establish a fire line to stop the fire’s progress.

Lake Dillion Fire chief Jeff Berino said until the first snow falls to fully extinguish the land crews will keep an eye on the area.

“We still get some minor smoke popping up from the interior logs. It can smoke for several days,” he said. “It’s not out until the entire fire is cold with no smoke.”

In addition to his own agency, Berino noted mutual aid was given by Red, White and Blue Fire Rescue, the Cooper Mountain fire department, Vail Fire and Emergency Services, Kremmling Fire Protection District, the Alpine Hotshots, Park County, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and a Department of Corrections Juniper Valley Hand Crew. Airborne assistance was given by two helicopters that doused water on the scene. “I found it funny that here we’re fighting a wildland fire, and Copper Mountain started making snow,” Berino laughed. “All-in-all, it was a well-run event. I can’t say enough about the agencies involved.”

Although this was the largest fire in Summit County in recent decades, there were no deaths or structures damaged. Thanks to the some forethought, no animals were injured either.

Bob Sweet, owner of Brush Creek Ranch had developed an evacuation plan with Sam Kirk, board president for Friends of the Lower Blue River. The plan had been implemented by neighbors, who leaped into action with Sweet and Kirk, using trailers to relocate horses to a distant corral.“You could see it up on the ridge,” Kirk said. “The eeriest was when it began to downdraft. There was nothing but smoke. You couldn’t see the ranch signs.”

According to county estimates, nearly 80 percent of the fire burned on private land — the Brush Creek Ranch — while the other 20 percent was Forest Service land.

Initial cost estimates for the fire are at $275,000 but may increase as work continues in the area. Berino said that since the fire was run under local agencies — such as the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Lake Dillon Fire and the Forest Service — the total cost remained relatively low. “We’ve had a really efficient, very lean upper-management structure,” said Colorado Emergency Management Association vice president Joel Cochran. “We’ve just done a really good job of controlling costs and doing good work with those funds.”

Massage Therapist pleads to unlawful sexual conduct

Former Breckenridge massage therapist pleads guilty to unlawful sexual conduct and invasion of privacy after a client claimed her massage turned into an assault.

James Dickerson, 31, a licensed massage therapist, could serve up to two years in prison for the class-four felony. He will be sentenced in Summit County District Court on Dec. 14, at 11 a.m.

The female victim reported the incident to Breckenridge Police on Aug. 10, 2014, just a day after the assault. After investigating the incident, police arrested Dickerson and charges were filed.

Breckenridge assistant police chief Dennis McLaughlin said a 2014 report found DNA evidence that linked Dickerson to the assault. Prior to the current case, McLaughlin said there was also a similar incident reported in Castle Rock.

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown noted that a four-year deferred judgment might be explored as an alternative to imprisonment. In this scenario Dickerson would be monitored under probationary terms that would include a treatment regiment. He would also be prohibited from any contact with the victim and would face punishment if found committing further crimes.

The case, which had gone to trial earlier this year, was cleared with a mistrial over a legal technicality. Afterwards, Dickerson opted to enter a guilty plea.

Dickerson has been a licensed massage therapist under the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies since 2012.

His license currently forbids him from practicing massage. An interim cessation to practice agreement was entered by DORA on Oct. 14, 2014, forbidding Dickerson from practicing massage for a limited period of time. His license expired in January 2015.

Cory Everett, chief of staff for the Division of Professions and Occupations, said the director of the Office of Massage Therapy Licensure might decide to pursue disciplinary action in light of the plea.

Man accused in fatal hit-and-run makes court appearance

A Blue River man accused in a fatal hit-and-run accident, who was released on $15,000 cash surety bond a week after the incident, made a court appearance on Monday, Oct. 5.

Breckenridge Police responded on Aug. 31, to the scene of a hit-and-run accident in the 600 block of Airport Road that took the life of 25-year-old Christina Martinez Hernandez.

James Gravatt, 55, appeared in court with his public defender Stacy Shobe following a motion to direct file the Breckenridge hit-and-run case into Summit County District Court.

Gravatt, who was booked into Summit County Jail on Sept. 10, is charged with failure to remain at the scene of an accident involving death, a class-three felony, arson, a class-four felony, and tampering with physical evidence, a class-six felony, after his burnt-out car was discovered in Denver.

When Gravatt bonded out a week later the defense argued his residence in Blue River and close ties to Summit County prevented him from being a flight risk.

In his most recent court appearance, Gravatt’s lawyer requested a period of 45 to 60 days for a potential disposition. Shobe also noted that her client waived his right to a preliminary hearing within 30 days, but still reserves the right to have one when he makes his next court appearance on Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m.

Fifth Judicial District Judge Karen Romeo said that the District Attorney’s office must call witnesses to establish probable cause if a preliminary hearing is set.

“There is still a fairly intensive ongoing investigation,” deputy district attorney John Franks added. “Typically, you want to have as much of the investigation as possible before a preliminary hearing.”

Fatal accident shuts down Highway 9 Friday afternoon

The 72-year-old driver of a Smart car died in an accident with a garbage truck on Highway 9 on Friday, Oct. 9.

Traffic was closed in both directions of Highway 9 as Colorado State Patrol officers investigated the incident.

The driver, who trooper Tim Sutherland said was from Boca Raton, Florida, was turning left onto southbound Highway 9 from Revette Drive but failed to yield to a garbage truck which was heading north. Both vehicles collided on the driver’s side. He added that no alcohol or drugs appeared to be involved. Highway 9 was reopened at 3:44 p.m., over an hour after the accident took place.

“We are still in the beginning stages of our investigation,” Sutherland said. “We’ve had a lot of fatalities this year. People need to be cognizant of their surroundings and pay attention.

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