DA should pursue charges in wildfire | AspenTimes.com

DA should pursue charges in wildfire

More than three months have passed since the April 15 wildfire in the Carbondale area that scarred a man for life, nearly destroyed people’s homes and diverted Highway 82 traffic for most of an afternoon commute.

Thanks to the efforts of local firefighters, the damage was limited. And to the credit of the anglers who brought fellow fisherman Larry Garfinkel to safety, the Californian’s severe burns weren’t graver.

Now the ball is in the court of the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which has moved at a seemingly glacial pace in its decision-making process of whether to file charges against the rancher who conducted a burn without a permit the weekend before the fire. Two days later, high winds blew embers from the woodpile, causing the blaze to overtake a portion of the midvalley within hours.

We understand there are complexities to this case, which may explain why it has taken the District Attorney’s Office so long to decide its course of action.

But this much is clear. In two weeks, one of two things will happen: A felony charge will be filed against the party suspected to be responsible for the fire, or a statement will be released explaining why a charge wasn’t appropriate.

We hope the District Attorney’s Office pursues charges. By doing so, it will send a message that this isn’t the Wild West anymore. Carbondale has changed drastically, with multimillion dollar homes abutting ranches and an influx of new development and residents.

The public deserves to have answers, and we feel someone should be held accountable. Otherwise, the near disaster could be repeated in the future. The County Road 100 fire strained our local resources, affected thousands of people’s lives and changed one man’s life forever.

We hope the District Attorney’s Office pursues charges simply because residents and ranchers must understand that the consequences of irresponsible actions will not be ignored.

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