by Mary Lowers
A call from a concerned citizen around midnight March 28 reporting “a suspicious person and a possible fire” along with the quick and efficient response of emergency responders stopped a series of arson fires from decimating the county. According to Lieutenant Dan Warwick investigating officer for the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office, there were more than ten fires set late at night along Hwy 17 and County Rd. T between Moffat and Villa Grove.
Two Moffat men in their twenties and thirties, Clinton Jett and Brendan Arndt were arrested at the scene. Neither man had prior arrests for arson. Motive for the crime is not known at this time. Jett is being held on $50,000 bail and Arndt on $5,000 bail. Before being caught in the act these two were cruising the area starting fires in no apparent pattern. According to Undersheriff Tristan VanZalinge, the largest of the blazes was in a hay pile on County Rd. AA west of Hwy 17. One fire along County Rd. T ignited a utility pole causing a power outage in Saguache.
The call went out to emergency responders at 12:30AM. According to Wesley Moores Chief of the Northern Saguache County Fire Protection District, the Crestone, Moffat, Villa Grove and Saguache fire departments were called immediately to fight the fires. Necessary backup given the number of fires and distance between them was provided by the Baca and Center fire departments. Lieutenant Warwick credited the quick and efficient response on the part of the fire crews allowing the sheriff’s to hunt down the perpetrators and take them into custody.
Most of the fires were extinguished quickly. The hay pile set on fire on County Rd. AA was still being mopped up late Saturday March 29. Chief Moores said his fire departments were “glad to work with Saguache County Sheriffs who will be leading this investigation forward.”
Deep appreciation is expressed to all the firefighters for their quick & professional response.