PARK COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Investigators in Park County say an 83-year-old man is responsible for starting a wildfire earlier this month.

According to the Park County Sheriff’s Office, Robert L. Heneghan started a fire on his property in the Badger Creek area on April 12 that spread to 41 acres and forced nearby homes to evacuate.

“We are seeking criminal charges and will to the fullest extent of the law. Again, this fire was preventable. We remind the public that the county is in a Stage 1 Fire Ban which prohibits open flames, ashes or heat sources. We must all be more vigilant and think twice before working with anything outdoors that can create a spark,” Sheriff Tom McGraw said.

A release from Park County didn’t specify who or how Heneghan allegedly started the fire on his property, but did say the sheriff’s office is asking the district attorney to charge him with fourth-degree arson.

Heneghan is expected in court on Monday, May 15.

Stage 1 fire ban

Park County is currently in a Stage 1 fire ban. During a Stage 1 fire ban, the following are prohibited:

  • Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire except within a developed recreation site, or improved site.
  • Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.
  • Operating or using any internal or external combustion engine without a spark-arresting device properly installed, maintained, and in effective working order meeting either the USDA Forest Service Standard or appropriate Society of Automotive Engineers recommended practice.

Have a plan in place

The International Fire Chiefs Association said it’s crucial to have an action plan in place in case a wildfire starts.

  • Important phone numbers- Emergency and non-emergency
  • The owner of your property
  • List of local news and radio stations
  • Location of electrical and natural gas shut offs
  • Directions notating all neighborhood exits
  • Exit routes
  • Meeting location
  • Area shelters/safety zones

It’s important to know that any fire that starts could spread quickly during a red flag warning.