Spring Fire arson hearing set

SAN LUIS — A preliminary hearing for Jesper Joergensen will be held Aug. 16 and 17 in Costilla County Court.

He faces 141 counts of first-degree arson in connection with the Spring Fire, which burned more than 107,627 acres of mountain forest and foliage, beginning June 27.

The Department of Homeland Security-Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) also said Joergensen was in the country illegally because his visa had expired.

His trial for that will come after the arson cases.

In an interview following his arrest, the 52-year-old Joergensen reportedly told authorities he constructed a fire pit Tuesday, June 26, and said the pit was two feet into the ground, with metal cans to prevent ashes from spreading.

One story he reportedly told investigators was that he burned some trash and then he claimed to have built a fire to cook meat and put a grate over the fire pit to keep the meat on, which he said he let cook for three hours.

Joergensen told authorities he did not know there was a fire ban in Costilla County and that he only used the fire to cook his meal.

According to arrest documents, Joergensen told deputies he ate the meat and covered the fire pit with dirt to smother the fire.

He said he checked the pit at 2 p.m. and stirred the ashes and cans around to make sure the fire was out, but saw no smoke so didn’t think it was a threat.

When asked if he had touched the cans to see if they were no longer hot, or put water on the fire to assure it was out, he said he did not.

Joergensen told authorities he had been taking a nap and smelled smoke around noon June 27.

Investigating, he claimed to have observed a fire burning in some brush 20 feet away from his property.

According to an arrest affidavit, he ran toward the blaze and tried to smother it with a blanket, which caught fire, so he threw it into the fire.

Burns were found on his chest and ankle, reportedly from his efforts in trying to extinguish the flames.

Those burns have reportedly been treated during Joergensen’s incarceration, but a gag order has prevented law enforcement from saying where the injuries were treated or how bad they are.

Bond is also expected to be discussed at the August 17 hearing.