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Three people charged with arson in relation to High Chateau Fire

Suspects accused of starting illegal campfire

Three campers arrested charged with starting High Chateau Fire

TELLER COUNTY, Colo. - Teller County authorities charged three people with arson Monday in relation to the High Chateau Fire. 

Detectives with the Sheriff's Office determined the wildfire was caused by an illegal campfire that was left unattended the night before the fire started.

David Michael Renfrow, 23; Kegan Patrick Owens, 19, both of Manitou Springs; and a 17-year-old male juvenile from Colorado Springs are charged with first-degree arson, punishable by up to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000.

According to arrest documents obtained by KRDO NewsChannel 13, the suspects had permission to camp on private property and arrived at approximately 6 p.m. on the night before the fire.

The documents indicate that all three suspects gathered firewood for the campfire, but that Renfrow actually lighted it -- even though the county was currently in a Stage II fire ban that prohibited open burning, and Owens' father had called his son to remind him of that fact.

The suspects had planned to spend the night camping, the documents reveal, but changed their mind after seeing a bear that evening.

According to the documents, the suspects poured water and dirt on the campfire and left at approximately 10 p.m., believing the campfire to be extinguished.

The High Chateau Fire went on to burn over 1,400 acres and destroy nine homes. 

Authorities said they determined where the fire started two days later and learned who had been camping in the area after talking with the property owner.

Investigators said they found the campfire ring with a temperature between 279 and 837 degrees.

On Monday at the county courthouse in Cripple Creek, Judge Theresa Kilgore advised Renfrow and Owens of the charges against them, set bond for each at $10,000 and scheduled them to return to court July 23.

Kilgore also issued a mandatory protection order for the suspects, prohibiting them from having any contact with fire victims and evacuees.

Authorities said the juvenile is in custody at the Spring Creek Youth Detention Center in Colorado Springs.

Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell said the case is an example of campers being unfamiliar with high fire danger and the consequences of being careless.

"This fire cost the taxpayers of Colorado around $2.5 million," he said.  "That was one expensive campfire."

Teller County is still under a Stage III fire ban due to dry and windy conditions. No open fires of any type are allowed in unincorporated areas of Teller County. 

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