SAN LUIS - The Spring Fire, allegedly started June 27, 2017, 5 miles east of Fort Garland by 52-year-old Jesper Joergensen, reportedly exceeded 107,000 acres and destroyed more than 141 homes.
Joergensen has yet to stand trial. A hearing was set at 10 a.m. July 13 and 12th Judicial District Attorney Robert Willett said the hearing was likely on the determination of the defendant’s competency. He has been conflicted out of the case since he owned property in the burn area.
Joergensen is in custody facing 141 counts of first-degree arson, as well as a hold by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), since he is a Danish National with an expired visa.
Retired 6th Judicial District Judge Gregory G. Lyman of Durango has been presiding to determine the nature of charges against Joergensen.
Lyman is presiding since all of the 12th Judicial District judges recused themselves after it was learned that a fellow court employee lost a cabin in the fire.
There was no debate at the hearing whether Joergensen started a fire at his home; a fire that devastated parts of two counties. The question is whether someone can be charged with felonious first-degree arson if he intentionally started a small fire at his residence; a fire that eventually became the third largest wildfire in Colorado history. Joergensen denied knowing a fire ban was in place.
Joergensen claimed he was burning some trash that spread to nearby bushes but changed his story to say he had cooked some meat in an underground burn pit, he thought the fire was out and went to sleep in a camper awakening to the smell of smoke. He lost his camper home as the fire progressed.
Joergensen said in an interview that he knew it was dangerous to start the fire with a Level One Fire Ban in place forbidding all open burning. “He knowingly set a fire he knew he shouldn’t have set” and watched its rapid spread.
The defendant was eventually arrested while sitting in his pickup truck at the south side of Mountain Home Reservoir playing with his dog and watching the fire. He has been in custody since then and will be turned over to ICE when the case has been settled.