ELBERT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Authorities in Elbert County have arrested a man they believe is responsible for starting a wildfire last summer that forced the evacuation of a town and burned several hundred acres.

The suspect is Alex J. Averett, 19, of Elbert County, a volunteer firefighter from the Elbert Fire Protection District.

The sheriff in Elbert County says they are sure they have the right man. Sheriff Shayne Heap said Averett, also known as A.J., didn’t know that investigators were looking at him as a suspect initially. He was arrested after an extensive investigation.

The County Road 102 Fire started on June 24 and was active for 18 days. It required the resources of more than 100 fire and law enforcement personnel from multiple agencies. In addition to scorching several hundred acres, it forced the evacuation of the town of Elbert and surrounding areas. The firefight was complicated by the fact that many of the state’s firefighting resources were battling other wildfires that were going on at the same time.

Heap wouldn’t say in a phone conversation with CBS4 how the fire was set, but he did say any time a person in public safety is accused of a crime it’s disappointing. He also said it’s unclear why Averett would want to start a fire.

“I couldn’t tell you why,” Heap said. “I don’t know what his motivation was.”

Averett’s family told CBS4 they didn’t want to comment on the arrest.

The list of charges Averett tentatively faces include second degree arson, intentionally setting a wildfire, reckless endangerment and trespassing. He’s being held at the Elbert County Jail on a $50,000 bond.


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