Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — They probably weren’t aware that they were breaking the law.
But two county residents who allegedly started small fires on their properties now face charges of fourth-degree arson.
The Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office alleges that Leenock Leonard Segobia and Juan Jeronimo Martinez violated restrictions on most fires throughout the county’s unincorporated areas.
County commissioners approved the ban late last month, and it will remain in effect until officials determine the extreme fire danger has passed.
Under the restrictions, members of the general public cannot start, maintain or use fires, campfires or stove fires on unincorporated lands in the county. (Devices that meet fire underwriters’ safety specifications are exempt, but residents should check with county officials to ensure that their devices are compliant before they use them.)
The restrictions had just taken effect when Martinez allegedly started an open fire last month at his property on County Road 8 South.
According to a report from Alamosa County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Flores, the fire burned inside a relatively shallow pit that stands within one foot of a property-line fence. It was also close to some tinder-dry brush, and based on the extreme conditions at the time, Flores reported that Martinez placed his own property and the surrounding properties at risk.
In Segobia’s case, Flores alleged that the resident of County Road 106.5 South was burning garbage out in the open on July 2.
Segobia was advised he could burn trash as long as he used a screened burn barrel, but Flores warned him the county’s fire ban specifically prohibits open burning until further notice.
In addition to the ban on open fires, county residents should be aware of restrictions on smoking beyond enclosed vehicles, buildings, developed recreation sites or wide areas that have been cleared of any flammable materials.
The county’s ban also applies to welding and the operation of acetylene torches and other torches with open flames, as well as vehicles that lack properly installed and maintained spark arresters.
Despite the recent appearance of cooler and wetter weather, Alamosa County Sheriff’s Lt. Jim McCloskey is unaware of any plans to lift the temporary fire ban.
He noted that the winds are still unpredictable on many afternoons, and he said it would be really easy for open fires to spread from one place to another.
“Especially out to the east, where the grama grass is all dried out,” McCloskey said. “With all of the light fuels and stuff out there on the (U.S. Bureau of Land Management) ground, it wouldn’t take much to get something going.”
For more information about the ban, contact the sheriff’s office at: 589-6608, or go to: www.alamosacounty.org.