ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A lawsuit accuses a group of Adams County deputies with starting a grass fire last year east of Brighton that damaged property at a neighboring animal rescue and led to the deaths of several animals.
Monday, one of those deputies told CBS4 the group was not responsible for starting the fire.
“It just spread,” Dean Dominguez said. “We weren’t even in the area.”
Dominguez is among the six people named as defendants in the complaint that was filed March 20.
Dominguez, who resigned from his position with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office nine days before the March 23, 2018, grass fire, was shooting firearms on a private gun range in the 13800 block of Cavanaugh Road. With him were three current Adams County deputies – Cordee Gerdeman, Justin Spence, and William Lord.
Gederdeman, Spence, and Lord are still employed by the sheriff’s office, a spokesman confirmed Monday.
The two other people named are members of the Hazlet family which owns the property that was hosting the group the day of the fire.
Dominguez said the son of the property owner “set something off in an area we weren’t even at,” igniting trash.
An investigation by Brighton Fire Rescue, however, found the fire started at one of three back stops located 500 yards from covered benches where some members of the group were shooting from. The fire “may have been a result of a bullet striking the steel plate” that was a part of the back stop, the report stated.
“We turned around and noticed most of the berm was on fire,” Dominguez said. “Justin Spence and I grabbed extinguishers and tried to put it out.”
High winds pushed the fire quickly east. When the group realized they could not control the fire, they called the fire department. Lord went to the road to open a gate for the fire department’s access, Dominguez said.
The blaze eventually scorched almost 300 acres, including part of Maxine Mager’s Creative Acres no-kill sanctuary. Mager told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia on Saturday that 20 of her animals died in the days following the fire due to smoke inhalation. She says her nonprofit has also struggled to fund replacement of fence line and property now estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“And I had smoke inhalation,” Mager said. “I couldn’t breathe. (I had) chest pains.”
She is seeking compensation for emotional damage and loss of property.
The fire department’s investigation concluded the fire was accidental. The Adams County Sheriff’s Office conducted a criminal investigation and filed no charges.
“It wasn’t our fault,” Dominguez added.
CBS4 attempted to contact the property owners Saturday but knocks at their door were not answered.