Man unlikely to be charged for accidentally starting Hewlett Fire
LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — Just hours after firefighters get the Hewlett fire in Larimer County contained the lawyer for the man cited for starting the fire is speaking out about his client’s actions.
So can he be held responsible for the $3 million cost?
Yes, but it’s unlikely because the cost of going to court to try to get $3 million from someone who doesn’t have the money for a fire that was ruled an accident is an unlikely scenario.
And his lawyer says Weber has cooperated with the feds since the moment the fire started.
It kept hundreds of nearby residents and firefighters on edge for a week.
“Sometimes bad things happen to good people and this accident is one of them,” says Weber’s attorney Andy Gavaldon.
Weber, who’s a mental health counselor at CSU had been using an alcohol fueled backpack stove to heat his morning coffee.
And, according to Gavaldon, Weber was doing so “under the safe conditions that he thought were careful conditions. When It happened he tried to stop it just. It just raced and then just went to the point where he felt totally helpless and it became very hopeless immediately.”
It cost at least $3 million to fight the 7,685 acre blaze northwest of Fort Collins.
The U.S. Forest Service says they’ll go after Weber for restitution, as they did after the Hayman Fire in 2002, which burned 138,000 acres and cost $30 million.
“The difference in that case, however, is that was a purposeful act on the part of the individual who set the fire,” says David Beller, an attorney with Recht Kornfeld. “In this case it certainly sounds like it was completely accidental.”
Because of that, Beller says it’s unlikely the feds will spend the money to go after Weber legally.
Weber’s lawyer says no one’s approached him about it, and that Weber has been cooperative and remorseful.
“He loves the outdoors. He’s very respectful and careful of the outdoors,” Gavaldon says. “He’s a decent, good man. He’s a family man; He’s a professional.”
Gavaldon says Weber is “concerned about the welfare of everyone who was involved in it, the inhabitants and all the firefighters.”
No lives or structures were lost in the fire.
Weber will pay the $325 fine, and it’s more likely the feds would go after Weber’s insurance policies to see if there’s any money they could recover there.
The government might also look at the type of small camp stove he was using, to see if there could be any fault by the manufacturer.
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