Chris White, DCNF
Colorado authorities arrested an illegal immigrant Saturday for allegedly starting a string of wildfires in the state that have consumed more than 40,000 acres and has not yet been contained.
Jesper Joergensen was apprehended after the announcement was made at a community meeting, the Costilla County Sheriff’s Office confirmed. Joergensen is not a U.S. citizen and will be given to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after he faces arson charges, a Costilla County official said at the meeting.
An investigation from the Costilla County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) and ICE ultimately led officials to Joergensen. It is not yet clear what nationality he holds.
“The initial cause of the fire was human caused,” the sheriff’s department said in a Facebook post. Local reports show the fire has grown 41,292 acres and is zero percent contained. The Costilla County Board of Supervisors has meanwhile declared the affected areas a disaster.
“As you can see by the plumes behind us, it’s not a great day for firefighting,” one official said during a news conference addressing the dry conditions and extreme heat that swept across Colorado.
Roughly 215 firefighters are battling the inferno, which is located about three hours south of Denver. Aerial firefighting efforts are also being used as conditions permit. The county also announced Saturday a slew of pre-evacuation orders for Huerfano County and other nearby areas.
The fire Joergensen allegedly started is one of several fires that are rumbling across the state amid dry, hot and windy conditions. A lightning strike sparked the Sugarloaf Fire in the Williams Fork Range near Silverthorne, Colorado – it has consumed more than 1,300 acres of land.
A massive fire burning near Durango in southwestern Colorado broke out June 1 and has charred more than 73 square miles, local reports note. It’s only 37 percent contained and remains under investigation. A fire near the Rocky Mountain National Park prompted evacuation orders Thursday for 300 homes.