FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – The man accused of starting the Crystal Fire in Larimer County earlier this month has turned himself in to authorities.
Investigators say Thomas Howie, 36, had been burning slash for fire mitigation at his parent’s home on April 1 when the fire got away from him. The next day the wind picked up and the fire exploded.
The fire grew to 2,940 acres and destroyed 13 homes.
Howie faces a felony charge of arson. He has been released on a $10,000 bond.
“When he was up there he had no intention of anything like this happening,” Howie’s neighbor Lincoln Sherman told CBS4 on Tuesday. “It was a mistake, it was an accident.”
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.
Jani Horner lost her horse barn and shed. Her two sons lost their homes. She told CBS4 she feels compassion for Howie, but says 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.