Seven possible burn sites discovered in Breckenridge arson

Caddie Nath Summit Daily News
Burned pages from the book 'Home to Holly Springs' were found at the arson sites in Breckenridge.

BRECKENRIDGE – Investigators have now discovered the sites of six, and a possible seventh, small wildfire attributed to an unknown arsonist on Peak 8 near the Breckenridge Nordic Center. The age of the possible seventh fire is still undetermined, fire officials said. Authorities continued to canvass the area Wednesday looking for additional evidence or new burn sites. Officials said the fires are particularly serious given the extreme fire danger in Summit County right now. “That’s one of the reasons we’re putting so much effort into finding this person,” Red, White and Blue deputy chief Jay Nelson said. “We want this activity to stop so it doesn’t lead to a larger issue or have a significant fire result.” Firefighters were able to contain the largest of the small wildfires, which burned four trees and sent plumes of smoke into the air Monday afternoon before it was extinguished. No structures were damaged in any of the fires. The burn sites are small – between 6 inches and 2 feet in diameter – scorched areas that appear to have been created using a can of bug spray as accelerant. Fire officials said they suspect the arsonist may be a juvenile or someone attempting to make a statement. Recent attention to the fire danger, dry conditions and the well-publicized High Park blaze near Fort Collins may have piqued the person’s interest in fire as well. “(It might be) somebody trying to draw attention for something,” Nelson said. “Someone who’s distraught over trails being closed, or juveniles experimenting with fire play.”

Burned pages of a book – – matches and Cutter’s insect repellant were discovered at the site of one of the fires. Police are calling the book an important piece of evidence to the investigation.

“We believe the book could be the key to unlocking this,” Breckenridge detective Alex Blank said. “If it’s a book from someone’s home, if it’s a rental property, that might be a really big piece of this.” The book, a 2007 novel by Jan Karon, is about a retired priest in Mississippi. It is not a library book, officials have said. Investigators are also reviewing footage recorded by a series of cameras set up in the area of Cucumber Gulch for a wildlife study. It does not appear that any of the cameras were set up to capture the location of the fires at the time of the crime, but officials say they are reviewing the tapes looking for any human activity in the area. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has also offered to set up additional surveillance in the area of the fires. The burn sites are located approximately 100 feet away from one another over an area spanning a couple hundred yards, investigators said. Evidence suggests the fires were likely started on Sunday. “The police department continues to canvass and talk to the people that live up in that area,” Nelson said. “We hope that we’re going to get a weekend traveler, somebody who may not be at home right now that may have seen or heard something.” Firefighters urged the public to call 911 immediately any time they see smoke. Anyone with information regarding the fires is asked to contact the Breckenridge Police Department, the Red, White and Blue Fire District or the Arson Information Hotline. Tipsters can choose to remain anonymous.

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