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Two suspects questioned in fire

Shauna Farnell and Lu Snyder

SILVERTHORNE –  The Summit County Sheriff’s Office detained two people for questioning in connection with a small fire that broke out between in Silverthorne Friday evening.

The fire, which sent smoke billowing into the air and visible flames, originated in the woods on the ridge west of the Blue River softball fields shortly after 4:30 p.m. No one was injured in the blaze. A slurry bomber from the Grand Junction Air Center was called out to the scene to drop retardant around the fire.

The Sheriff’s Office questioned the two suspects – a male and a female – about the fire. Sheriff Joe Morales said there may be a third suspect in the fire investigation, which has been turned over to federal agencies.

“They (the couple) have allegedly been camping up there for several days,” Morales said of the suspects. “Their stories aren’t jiving.”

He said officials believe the fire was human-caused.

“It’s a red-flag day (for fire dangers),” Morales said. “There’s no rain and definitely no lightning.”

The fire began toward the top of the ridge and burned approximately five acres in a little more than three hours. Northwest winds pushed the fire southeast down the slope toward the ballfields, threatening the power lines that serve the entire town of Silverthorne.

According to law enforcement officials, several homes were evacuated on the west side of the ridge as a precaution. No residences or buildings were in the path of the fire. Dirt roads and rocks in the fire’s path helped create a natural barrier.

As firefighters waited for an air tanker carrying slurry to arrive on scene, they deployed a ground crew to dig a fire ring. Volunteer hand crews began digging the fire ring uphill and upwind of the flames.

“Generally speaking, you want to attack from the flank of the fire,” said Mike Liu of the Dillon Ranger District. “We don’t anticipate it getting too large.”

The land in which the fire was burning was national forest land.

Onlookers gathered on the hill across from the fire, next to McDonalds, to watch the fire and the slurry bomber.

A scout plane preceded the bomber, ensuring the fire’s perimeter was cleared and evacuated, before guiding the bomber above the fire.

Local and federal firefighters continued working through the night, but Morales said local forces might withdraw by today, as federal agencies take over.

As of press time, officials were not certain whether firefighters would stay on the fire line through the night or remain along the perimeter.

“We’ll just gauge how hot it is before we pull them off,” Morales said.

Morales said the fire was heavily contained before 8 p.m. Friday, “but there’s still a good amount of flame on the ground.”

He said officials hoped to have the fire controlled by morning.

“The operation itself is textbook,” Morales said of the unified effort. “It’s being very well-managed.”

Approximately 40 firefighters – from fire departments throughout Summit County – were on the ground battling the blaze.


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