Sheriff’s Office arrests suspect in Roatcap Fire

State funds OK’d for Roatcap Fire

SMOKE rises over McPhee from the Roatcap Fire last week south of Dolores.

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.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, on Friday, Oct. 26, signed a disaster declaration for the Roatcap Fire. The executive order makes resources available to pay for fire suppression, response and recovery related to the fire that started the morning of Oct. 24.

On Monday, Montezuma County Deputy Emergency Manager Paul Hollar told county commissioners that the Roatcap Fire will end up costing between $200,000 and $250,000.

Disaster declarations authorize the transfer of any funds in the state budget from the General Fund to the Disaster Emergency Fund, which is not funded unless money is needed. Counties across the state, including Montezuma, can pay into the Emergency Firefighting Fund as a kind of fire insurance, Hollar said. State law does not allow people who have lost homes or property in the fire to seek reimbursement from these disaster funds, although Hollar said homeowners can call the sheriff’s office and have their names added as victims if their fence was burned, for example.

No structures or lives were lost in the fire. Hollar gave “kudos to all the people involved” in the firefighting effort. “A lot of things went really, really smooth.” He attributed this to the experience gained from fighting the Weber Fire earlier this year.

The fire burned more than 400 acres and forced the evacuation of about 30 homes and threatened about 30 others. Hollar verified that the cause of the fire was a controlled trash burn that was neglected. Roger Stratton, 53, of Dolores, was arrested Thursday and charged with fourth-degree arson, a felony.

Hollar advises county residents who plan a controlled burn to report it to the sheriff’s office at 565-8411.