Lake Christine Fire starters will be sentenced in Eagle today
Nearly one year after the outbreak of the Lake Christine Fire, the victims will have a chance to speak their minds today.
The people who lost their homes to the fire will be offered an opportunity to speak at the sentencing of Richard Miller and Allison Marcus. The couple pleaded guilty May 22 to setting fire to woods or prairie in a plea arrangement with the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The prosecutor and attorneys for the defendants agreed to a sentence that will include 45 days in Eagle County Jail, 1,500 hours of community service, $100,000 each in restitution and five years of probation. In return for pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge, three felony charges of arson were dropped against Miller and Marcus.
Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman didn’t impose a sentence May 22 because he said he wanted to give the victims a chance to speak. The victims include Cleve and Kerry Williams, who lost their home on the eastern edge of Missouri Heights; Andee and Bill McCauley, who lost their home on the edge of El Jebel Mobile Home Park; and Quent and Kara Williams, the owners of a rental house adjacent to the McCauley’s. The Jose Martinez family rented the house.
Miller and Marcus also will have the opportunity to make a statement at today’s hearing. If they choose to exercise that right, it will be the first time they have spoken publicly about the fire.
The sentencing will be held at the Eagle County Courthouse in Eagle.
The couple was shooting at the range in the Basalt State Wildlife Area on the evening of July 3. Marcus was using a rifle they borrowed from Miller’s father, Craig Miller, according to testimony during a court hearing. They acknowledged Marcus fired tracer ammunition, which ignited brush alongside the rifle range. That type of ammo was banned at the shooting range. Miller took responsibility for having tracer ammo for the rifle.
The fire eventually burned nearly 12,600 acres of private, state and national forestland. The federal government placed its firefighting cost at $17.25 million. Utility companies spent additional funds repairing damage to infrastructure.
While the sentencing will represent the end to the criminal case, it won’t bring closure for some observers. Online comments on news stories about the case indicate many people feel the sentence is too lenient.