Arson suspect hears charges

Felony count filed for Roatcap Fire

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The 53-year-old Dolores man accused of starting the Roatcap Fire south of Dolores on Oct. 24 appeared in Montezuma County Court Wednesday afternoon to hear the charges and potential sentences he faces if convicted.

Montezuma County Judge Jennilynn Lawrence informed Roger Stratton that he faces three charges — one felony and two misdemeanors.

Stratton, who has been released from the Montezuma County Jail on a $3,000 bond, was arrested by law enforcement the day after the fire started.

The felony, fourth-degree arson, was for starting a fire that grew out of control and put a small group of people in immediate danger of harm or death.

If found guilty on this charge, Stratton would face a prison sentence of two to six years along with a large fine.

The two misdemeanor charges are arson with property damage more than $100 and endangerment, and would result in a jail sentence up to one year and a fine of no more than $1,000 upon conviction on each count.

Stratton met with court officials Wednesday morning in an effort to have a public defender represent him.

Stratton told Lawrence that he forgot to bring all of the paperwork the court needed to make a decision on whether to allow him the use of a public defender, and informed the judge the meeting had been rescheduled for next week.

Lawrence set Stratton’s next court appearance for Nov. 14 at 1 p.m.

The Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office said at a community meeting on Oct. 25 that the fire was not set intentionally, but was done carelessly and that put authorities and residents in danger.

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

According to Montezuma County Deputy Emergency Manager Paul Hollar, the estimated cost of the fire is between $200,000 and $250,000. On Oct. 26, Gov. Hickenlooper said the state would help pay for the cost of the fire through the Disaster Emergency Fund.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com