Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. The two men who were charged and arrested for igniting the Cold Springs Fire last summer were sentenced to four years of work release and four years of probation on Friday, November 18, 2016.
Jimmy Andrew Suggs, 28, and Ryan Kuykendall, 26, from Alabama, pleaded guilty to the felony arson charge that was offered by the Boulder County District Attorney. Each of the men were charged with one count of fourth-degree arson: endangering people; and one count of fourth-degree arson: endangering property.
The fire charred more than 500 acres and destroyed eight homes in the Ridge Road subdivision area. The two men and a female companion, Elizabeth Burdeshaw, 21, had been camping on private property near the intersection of Cold Springs Road and the Peak to Peak Highway.
On one of the hottest days of the summer, the wind picked up and even though the men thought they had put out their campfire, sparks ignited the brush near it and the flames were soon out of control and torching the trees.
Even as firefighters from multiple agencies rapidly deployed to fight the blaze, requesting air backup, the fire raged into the Sherwood Road area and consumed homes in its path, leaving acres of charred property that will take years to reclaim.
Before the men were sentenced they gave heart-felt apologies to those who had been impacted by their careless choices. At the time of the fire there was no fire ban in place even though conditions were in the red flag category.
Suggs and Kuykendall said they thought they had extinguished the fire and when it began its charge into the trees, they left the area. The three of them walked past the fire engines and firefighters at the common post on Cold Springs Road, not saying a word.
When an evacuation center was set up at the Nederland Middle Senior High School, the suspects sought shelter there and chatted with television reporters, saying they had been scared by the fire, as if they were mere spectators. The trio was taken into custody the next day.
Included in the sentence was a restitution fine which will be set at more than $1million, a sentence that will last a lifetime.
District Judge Ingrid Bakke said even though the campers’ actions had been unintentional, had been a disastrous accident, it had still been an act of felony behavior and they had to accept the consequences of their actions.
Burdeshaw, who reportedly had nothing to do with the fire, pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor second-degree trespassing and was sentenced to nine months of probation and 36 hours of community service as part of her plea deal.