A 52-year-old man from Denmark being held in connection with the more than 56,000-acre Spring Creek fire was apparently among the first to report the blaze last week and had burns on his body when he spoke to authorities about its ignition, according to arrest documents.
Jesper Joergensen initially told officials that he had been burning trash before the fire began, an arrest warrant says, but then “quickly changed his statement and (said) he had a permanent fire pit and had been grilling.”
“Jesper’s hands were shaking and he seemed nervous or scared,” the warrant said.
Joergensen is facing arson charges in connection with the fire. The arrest warrant says he handed a passport from Denmark to local authorities and that immigration officials reported he was in the U.S. illegally, as his visa expired.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been involved in the investigation into the fire.
“Since this individual is not in ICE custody, no further info on him can be released at this time,” a spokesman for the agency said. “ICE places immigration detainers only on deportable aliens.”
When asked about where the fire began by Costilla County sheriff’s deputies who were among the first to respond to the blaze, Joergensen said it started near his home.
“He stated he lived in a camper where the fire was,” the warrant says.
Joergensen told authorities that on Tuesday afternoon he was cooking meat in a fire pit and then smothered the fire when he was done.
“Jesper was asked if he poured water on the fire to ensure it was (out) and he said no,” the warrant says. “Jesper said he did not have any water to put in the fire pit and didn’t need to because he smothered the fire and believed it was out. Jesper said he went on about his day.”
About midday Wednesday, Joergensen said, he was napping in his camper when he smelled fire, only to go outside and find a blaze on his property about 20 feet away.
“Jesper ran toward the fire with a blanket and tried to smother the fire,” the warrant says. “Jesper said the blanket caught on fire so he threw it in the fire.”
Joergensen told authorities that there was no way his fire from Tuesday could have started the massive blaze because it was put out.
Authorities noted in the document that, as he spoke to investigators, Joergensen had one burn mark on his leg and another on his chest, though a hole in his T-shirt.
The warrant says that, as of Thursday morning, about 25 homes had been destroyed in the fire. Officials have not said how many structures have been consumed by the blaze, only that the fire has destroyed buildings.
The Spring Creek fire was listed Monday morning as being 5 percent contained. More than 500 firefighters are battling the blaze.
Wildfires in the U.S.
The map shows active fire locations and all 2018 fire perimeters (not all fires have perimeter data, zoom in to see perimeters of smaller fires). To see all 2018 fire locations or to change the map background, click the map layers icon in the upper right corner of the map and click/unclick the boxes. Pinch or use buttons to zoom, or drag the map to see other areas; click a marker for details. Go to the full map and table.
Source: GeoMAC; map by Kevin Hamm
Staff writer Anna Staver contributed to this report.
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