By Rick Langenberg:
The Teller County Sheriff’s Department may have found the instigator of a rash of nearly 30 small arson fires that ignited throughout the area in the summer of 2012, just prior to the devastating Waldo Canyon blaze. Although no arrests have been made, Teller County Sheriff Detective Dennis Sherman, who has been investigating the case for a year and a half, “believes he has his man,” according to a report aired on KRDO news Monday evening. Sherman, a four-decade law enforcement veteran, says the suspect is an adult male and believes that no chemical substances were used in starting the fires. The alleged fire-starter is a person who officials suspected in the early stages of their investigation.
Sherman and other Teller law officers have pursued more than 160 leads, according to the television report. The case is now headed to the District Attorney’s Office for their review. It is still unclear if the suspect is linked to the Waldo Canyon fire that destroyed more than 400 homes.
If an arrest is made, it wouldn’t be surprising. Last summer during a series of town hall meetings, Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger expressed much confidence in the way the arson investigation was proceeding, and hinted that a successful resolution would occur. However, he declined to release any specific details. In the last year and a half, a variety of outside agencies have assisted in the case.
The arsons even prompted a community-wide award fund, started by Park State Bank & Trust, called Protect The Community, and involving several local businesses and nonprofits, including The Mountain Jackpot newspaper. Initially, the fund exceeded the $10,000 level. The sheriff’s office received close to 100 calls within a several day period, when the arson investigation kicked off last summer.
Luckily, the arsons didn’t cause any substantial damage. However, they strained resources during one of the worst fire seasons in recent history. Several suspicious fires off Teller One last spring evoked memories of the arsons. But local law enforcement authorities say none of these were arson-related.