Fire suspect faces 141 arson counts

SAN LUIS — Advised by telephone Thursday afternoon, Jesper Joergensen, 52, was told he faces 141 individual felony counts of first-degree arson in connection with the Spring Fire.

Joergensen, an undocumented Danish national, was represented by Public Defender James Waldo. Deputy District Attorney Ashley McCuaig represented the people.

All judges in the 12th Judicial District have been recused from the case because one of the potential victims is employed by the district.

Retired 6th Judicial District Judge Gregory G. Lyman of Durango has been appointed and the 12th Judicial District Attorney filed the charges. No mention was made of bail.

When a judge retires, he or she may ask the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court to join the Senior Judge Program. Judge Lyman was the chief judge in the 6th, retired recently and was accepted into the program by now retired Chief Justice Nancy Rice. Senior judges are authorized to sit in any trial court in the state.

Joergensen is scheduled for a telephone status hearing at 4 p.m. Aug. 2 and a preliminary hearing beginning at 9 a.m. Aug. 16 and Aug. 17. A bond discussion is also planned.

Arrested without incident as he and his dog sat in a pickup truck alongside Mountain Home Reservoir, Joergensen is accused of starting the Spring Fire — the third largest wildfire in Colorado history —first telling authorities he had been burning trash but later changing his story to say he’d been cooking meat on a fire pit when the fire got out of control. A Stage 2 Fire Ban was in effect, allowing absolutely no burning.

Joergensen’s address is listed as Unit K2 Block 228 Lot 4886, Fort Garland. He was apparently living there when the fire started.

The rapidly moving blaze started June 27 and burned more than 108,045 acres of forest and foliage, as well as homes and structures in its path, yielding the large number of arson charges. The fire is 91 percent contained and with the return of Forbes Park residents, all mandatory evacuations have been lifted for residents of Costilla County.

The Department of Homeland Security-Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) is also holding Joergensen because he was in the country illegally after his visa had expired. Those charges were not discussed Thursday.