Skico employee charged with arson
A 25-year-old Aspen Skiing Co. employee was charged Wednesday with arson in connection with a fire that destroyed the Fort Frog compound on Buttermilk Mountain last month, a law enforcement official said Thursday.
Kurt Pedersen of Carbondale was charged with fourth-degree arson, meaning he was reckless with fire, said Pitkin County sheriff’s investigator Bruce Benjamin. Pedersen is the same man who received a citation from the U.S. Forest Service for failing to extinguish a fire, he said.
The arson charge is a misdemeanor, and Pedersen is scheduled to appear in Pitkin County Court next month, Benjamin said. He has been cooperative with the investigation and feels bad about what occurred, he said.
Pedersen and a group of friends camped at the Fort Frog compound — a children’s area with outdoor and indoor spaces — on May 21, Benjamin said. Pedersen said he started a fire in a steel trash can and admitted he was the one who tended the fire and attempted to put it out with a bit of water before the group left at around 7 a.m. May 22, he said.
Eleven hours later, emergency dispatchers received a call about smoke coming from Buttermilk, Benjamin said.
The popular children’s center featured a wooden, Old West fort as well as an indoor heated area where children in ski school could go to warm up and receive snacks, he said.
The fire barrel was located near a picnic table and a wooden porch connected to the Fort Frog compound, he said. Fire investigators theorized that the wind may have blown over the barrel and started the fire, Benjamin said.
The damage was “certainly well over $100,000,” he said.
Because Pedersen is criminally charged with the fire, Skico will be treated as the victim in the case and could receive compensation for the losses, Benjamin said.
Jeff Hanle, Skico spokesman, said Pedersen is a seasonal employee and that the company was just notified of his identity. He declined to release further information, including whether Pedersen remains a Skico employee, citing personnel and privacy issues.
“We will work closely with the authorities and follow the investigation before we make any decisions,” Hanle said.
The fire burned several trees surround the Fort Frog area, totaling about an acre, a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy said at the time. Fort Frog burned to the ground.
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