LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – An arrest warrant will be issued for the man accused of starting the Crystal wildfire in Larimer County.
The fire started April 1. It eventually grew to 3,000 acres and destroyed 13 homes. Investigators now say Thomas Howie, 36, was burning debris at his parent’s home when the flames got out of control.
“When he was up there he had no intention of anything like this happening,” Howie’s neighbor Lincoln Sherman said. “It was a mistake, it was an accident.”
Sherman said Howie had been burning slash for fire mitigation when the fire got away from him. Sherman said Howie had raced from the scene to get help. But when he saw fire crews already heading to the blaze, he never reported the incident.
“Then he just kept going because he was scared, but he knew the response team was on the way and he felt that they would take care of the problem,” Sherman said.
The next day the wind picked up and the fire exploded. Jani Horner lost her horse barn and shed. Her two sons lost their homes. She said she feels compassion for Howie, but the fire never should have happened.
“It’s so foolish to do that. I know he didn’t mean for that to happen, but the people who lost everything, there’s no way to make it right,” Horner said.
Howie is now facing arson charges.
“He’s going to take whatever comes to him,” Sherman said.
The arrest warrant was expected to be issued on Wednesday. He will have 24 hours to turn himself in to police.