Property owners sue over Carbondale wlldfire | AspenTimes.com

Property owners sue over Carbondale wlldfire

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE ” A group of property owners and an insurance company are suing the man authorities say started the County Road 100 fire outside of Carbondale last April.

The civil complaint filed Tuesday alleges Larry Gerbaz let slash piles burn unattended April 13, which started the fire two days later. The complaint says the fire burned “significant acreage” owned by the plaintiffs, and the damaged property is now worth less than it was before the blaze.

The complaint says Gerbaz failed to get a burn permit for the slash piles, properly locate the slash piles and properly monitor and extinguish them. A message left at the office of Gerbaz’ attorney wasn’t immediately returned.

Great Northern Insurance Company joined the property owners in the lawsuit because of an insurance claim related to smoke damage. The property owners behind the lawsuit are: Kane Real Estate and Development, Daniel Willie, Dessa Willie, Moore Huffman Jr., General Property Mortgage and the Ranch at Roaring Fork Homeowners Association.

The complaint was filed by attorneys Brad Breslau and John Purvis. It names Larry Gerbaz and Molly Gerbaz as defendants.

Gerbaz also faces criminal charges related to the fire. He refused to accept a plea bargain from the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and pleaded not guilty to arson charges on Dec. 11.

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The County Road 100 fire broke out about 2 miles east of Carbondale. It threatened about 150 homes and slightly damaged three of them. A angler was caught in the fire and suffered burn injuries. The angler, Larry Garfinkel filed a lawsuit in the fall against Gerbaz seeking unspecified damages for his injuries.

Prosecutors filed two fourth-degree arson charges against Gerbaz on July 31.

Authorities said the fire started at a Gerbaz family ranch on County Road 100. They said Gerbaz told investigators he burned a woodpile in the pasture the weekend before the fire but took numerous precautions to control the burn, including building a fire break around the pile and dousing the embers once the flames died down.

Investigators believe high winds later teased sparks from the woodpile into flames.

The civil complaint asks for an unspecified amount more than $100,000.

pfowler@postindependent.com

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