Man arrested for causing fire

Sheriff: Blaze not intentionally set but suspect was careless in his actions

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$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Icicles formed on a tree outside the Cain home where water was left running to help protect the house at 15975 Road 30 when they evacuated. The house was one of the most threatened by the Roatcap Fire. $PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$ Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Icicles formed on a tree outside the Cain home where water was left running to help protect the house at 15975 Road 30 when they evacuated. The house was one of the most threatened by the Roatcap Fire. $PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$

The Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office Thursday afternoon arrested a 53-year-old Dolores man in connection with starting the Roatcap Fire.

The suspect, who the Montezuma County Court identified as Roger Stratton, was previously named as a “person of interest” in the blaze that started Wednesday morning. The arrest warrant was issued for fourth-degree arson, a felony.

The fire, which started around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday near County Roads 29 and P, burned more than 400 acres and forced the evacuation of around 30 homes.

Stratton was held on a $3,000 bond but has bonded out of the Montezuma County Jail. His initial appearance was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Friday, the county court reported.

Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell said the fire was not set intentionally, but said that Stratton needed to be held accountable for his careless actions.

Spruell, who did not disclose the name of the man at Thursday evening’s community meeting, said Stratton had received several threats from members of the community.

At a community meeting held at the Dolores Community Center, Lt. Ted Meador from the sheriff’s office told the 30 people in attendance they could return to their homes immediately and praised all of the fire agencies that had worked on the blaze.

Meador said that all roads that were closed because of the fire were open for residents to return home, though he added there would be roadblocks, and residents would have to show identification to be allowed to pass.

Friends and families wanting to pass roadblocks were escorted to the property in question by deputies.

“All in all it was a very productive and good day,” Meador said.

Spruell said while the fire had slowed down Thursday afternoon, firefighters asked that people keep off the road so they could conduct mop-up operations.

Cortez Fire Protection District Chief Jeff Vandevoorde said eight fire agencies responded with more than 100 firefighters battling the fire. He said that smoke will probably still be visible for the next two weeks.

He asked that the community not call the fire department or sheriff’s office for smoke reports.

Vandevoorde also told the residents at the meeting they might see possible debris runoff when the area receives some precipitation.

“The sheriff and fire department will be out there checking to make sure everything is OK for the next (few) weeks,” he said.

Red Cross Executive Director Cindi Shank said the shelter that was set up at Kemper Elementary had closed as of 6 p.m. Thursday.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Mancos firefighters keep an eye on smoldering areas of the Roatcap Fire Thursday afternoon.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$ Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Mancos firefighters keep an eye on smoldering areas of the Roatcap Fire Thursday afternoon.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$

The Roatcap Fire was in mop-up stages Thursday as firefighters worked on putting out hot spots in the 400-acre blaze. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

The Roatcap Fire was in mop-up stages Thursday as firefighters worked on putting out hot spots in the 400-acre blaze.