COSTILLA COUNTY — Jesper Joergensen, 52, was arrested the day the fire started, but authorities withheld information regarding the suspect until his background could be checked and other investigation could go on toward the filing of charges.
Undersheriff Ricky Rodriguez with the Costilla County Sheriff’s Office told a group of homeowners Sunday that Joergensen, originally from Denmark, has been arrested on criminal charges of arson related to starting the blaze. He also is in the U.S. illegally since his Visa has expired and is on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold.
Joergensen reportedly said he used a fire pit to cook meat for several hours last Tuesday night and then covered the fire pit to smother the fire. He told investigators he stirred the contents around to make sure it was out and he “saw no smoke, so be believed the fire was out and no longer a threat” according to the affidavit.
Investigators asked Joergensen if he poured water on the fire. He said he hadn’t and he didn’t touch the ashes with his hands to make sure they were dead, according to the report.
On Wednesday, June 27, Joergensen said he woke up from a nap around noon, smelled fire and got out of his camper, noticing fire was burning in sage bushes about 20 feet away from his fire pit.
Joergensen said he ran toward the fire and attempted to smother it with a blanket, according to the affidavit. When the blanket began burning, Joergensen said he threw it in the fire.
He claimed to have reported the fire and, when contacted by deputies from the Costilla County Sheriff’s office, Joergensen reportedly had burn injuries on his right arm and calf and a burn mark on his chest.
Deportation officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed an immigration detainer on Joergensen. That means that ICE seeks to take custody of Joergensen if he is released from local custody for any reason.
Joergensen reportedly told investigators “He was sure the fire was out the day before and there was no way it could have caused the fire.”
Detainers are placed on immigrants who are likely up for deporting as well as immigrants who’ve allegedly committed a crime. Basically, the detainer means ICE would like to take custody of the person if and when they are released from jail for any reason.