News in Brief | AspenTimes.com

News in Brief

Fire damages home in Holland HillsA frozen water pipe led to a fire Monday that caused an estimated $50,000 damage to a home in Holland Hills, according to Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson.Frigid temperatures froze a water pipe serving a bathroom in log cabin at the Morrow Ranch, 97 Sherman Lane. The caretaker of the ranch and a resident of the cabin used an electric heat gun to thaw the pipe, Thompson said, and material within the wall started on fire. The workers doused the flames with a garden hose.The fire department responded to a call at 1:37 p.m. with three engines and 11 firefighters. The crew couldnt get at the fire from the outside because of the log construction, so firefighters had to remove Sheetrock and other materials in the interior, according to Thompson.The house received smoke damage and extensive damage to the interior walls, which is estimated at $50,000 to repair, according to Thompson. The damage occurred in a recent addition, he said.

Bill paves way for Pitco land swapsPresident Bush recently signed into law a bill that permits a complicated land swap aimed at preventing development of the upper end of the Castle Creek valley near Aspen.The presidents signature means the U.S. Forest Service can move ahead with appraisals of the various properties involved, and Pitkin County can begin the job of asking voters for permission to trade away certain pieces of open space.Under the bill, sponsored by U.S. Reps Mark Udall and John Salazar, both Democrats from Colorado, Pitkin County will transfer two parcels to the U.S. Forest Service a 35-acre tract near the ghost town of Ashcroft known as the Ryan parcel, and about 18.2 acres of patented mining claims on Smuggler Mountain near Aspen.In return, the federal government will transfer to the county a 5.5-acre tract south of Aspen, nearly 6 acres on Smuggler Mountain that are near lands the county now owns, and a 40-acre tract of BLM land along the Crystal River.Martha Cochran, of the Aspen Valley Land Trust, which helped with the initial funding that bought the Ryan parcel near Ashcroft, said the swaps still involve the AVLT as well as Pitkin County. She said both organizations seek the sale of the 5.5-acre tract, known as the Wildwood parcel, to replenish funds they used to buy the Ryan parcel.

Alleged immigrant smuggler faces 43 countsGEORGETOWN (AP) Prosecutors on Monday filed human smuggling and other charges that could result in 236 years behind bars for a man accused of driving a minivan carrying 14 passengers, four of whom died in a crash on Interstate 70.Jose Franco-Rodriguez, 23, had been deported at least twice before the Nov. 28 crash near Idaho Springs, most recently eight weeks ago, federal immigration officials have said.He was being held in the Clear Creek County Jail after he allegedly fled from the scene of the accident and was captured several hours later. District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said prosecutors filed 43 counts against Franco-Rodriguez, including 14 felony counts of smuggling humans, each punishable by up to 12 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.Other felony charges filed were: one count of child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, punishable by up to eight years in prison and a $500,000 fine; six counts of leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury, punishable by up to three years in prison and a $100,000 fine; and four counts of leaving the scene of an accident causing death, punishable by up to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine.Franco-Rodriguez also faces 18 misdemeanor counts, each punishable by up to one year in jail: 10 counts of careless driving causing bodily injury; four counts of careless driving causing death; and four counts of leaving the scene of an accident causing bodily injury.Franco-Rodriguez had allegedly been paid $400 to drive his passengers from the Phoenix area to Kansas City and then North Carolina and Florida. Human smuggling is a crime under federal law, but this year, state lawmakers passed a bill making it a felony under state law to receive money to help someone enter the U.S. illegally.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.