An arson-related reward fund drive, started by Park State Bank & Trust and assisted by several local businesses, including the Mountain Jackpot newspaper, has now exceeded the $10,000 level.
This fund was organized in June, following reports that a spree of at least 20 local fires in Teller County was started by an alleged arsonist or arsonists. The fund, under the name of Protect The Community, has been officially set up at Park State Bank & Trust, located at 710 W. Hwy. 24.
Donations have been taken at the bank’s drive-through or its main facility, or through the mail, via Protect the Community Fund, Park State Bank & Trust, P.O. Box 9, Woodland Park, Co 80863. And according to bank officials, the fund has now generated more than $10,000 in donations. “We have had a lot of support for this fund,” said Melinda Truscelli, business and community development representative and executive assistant for Park State Bank & Trust. She reported contributions from a wide range of residents and people outside the area who are seeking one final conclusion: the apprehension of the person or persons responsible for starting a series of horrific blazes during one of Teller’s worst fire seasons. “Our message is that these crimes will not be tolerated in our community,” said Tony Perry, president of Park State Bank & Trust, when the fund was initially announced. “This is a way for the citizens to fight back and do something about this (arson) situation.” The funds will be allocated by the Teller County Commissioners, based on the recommendations of the sheriff. For more information regarding the reward fund, call 687-9234. An investigation into the arson-related fires still continues, according to Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger.
No suspects have been named yet. However, the spree of fires that have ignited much angst in the community has apparently stopped. Meanwhile, an unrelated inquiry still continues into the Waldo Canyon blaze that torched nearly 400 homes and killed two people. Contrary to previous rumors, authorities don’t believe that the Waldo Canyon blaze is connected to the spree of Teller arson activity. Meanwhile, support remains unprecedented for local firefighters, who have played a big role in protecting the area from the arson attacks and from dangerous conditions that sparked the recent blazes.
Last Saturday, another big fund-raiser was held at the Crystola Inn to provide more funds for local fire departments, some of which are staffed with volunteers. The Crystola Inn featured the music of the John Cary band and other top musical performers. Several weeks ago, a big benefit gala was held at the Aspen Valley Ranch, outside Woodland Park. County leaders hope these benefits can help offset the costs these agencies have accumulated this summer in combating the toughest fire season in 10 years.