Silverthorne man arrested on arson charges
summit daily news
Authorities have arrested a Silverthorne man suspected of starting a fire that damaged a Keystone vehicle at the resort July 1, according to documents from the offices of the Summit County sheriff and district attorney.
Michael Flaherty, 28, was charged with second-degree arson, criminal mischief, theft under $500 and destroying evidence of a crime after sheriff’s deputies spotted him in Breckenridge last week and picked him up.
A woman, allegedly Flaherty’s girlfriend, who was with him the night the incident occurred, told authorities the fire, which scorched two patches of grass and burned the back of a Keystone van causing approximately $2,000 in damage, started accidentally after Flaherty lit a cigarette while trying to steal gasoline from the van to put in his own vehicle.
The arson and criminal mischief charges, both class four felony offenses, each carry a maximum sentence of eight years in prison. If convicted, Flaherty could also face up to 18 months in prison for the tampering with evidence charge and an additional year in county jail for the theft.
The blaze reportedly broke out in the Gold Bug Lot at Keystone Resort shortly after 9 p.m. July 1. Witnesses on the deck of the nearby Spoon Cafe told authorities they spotted the flames and approached a man and a woman who were attempting to smother the blaze with a blanket. The couple told the witnesses the fire had “gotten out of hand,” and fled the scene, according to an arrest warrant provided by the district attorney.
The woman came forward several days later and told authorities they had unintentionally started the fire.
She claimed she and Flaherty had stopped in the parking lot the night of the fire intending to walk their dog. Noticing the van unattended, they decided to try to steal gasoline from the van to fill their own tank, according to a statement included in the arrest warrant.
As Flaherty was siphoning petroleum from the van and into a gas can with a hose, the woman lit a cigarette and then handed the lighter off to Flaherty, who lit one as well, igniting the gasoline in the two cans he was filling.
The woman stated he attempted to move the gas cans away from the van to a space of grass where they continued to burn and lit a trail from the van to the new location, according to the report. She said Flaherty tried to move the cans again to a third location, once again lighting the area on fire.
The woman reported Flaherty tried to extinguish the flames with water, and eventually the couple was able to put the fire out by smothering it with a blanket. Flaherty burned his arm in the process, an injury that initially led authorities to suspect he was involved in the incident, according to the arrest warrant.
The couple fled the scene and attempted to dispose of the evidence.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said a court date for Flaherty has not yet been set.
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