Quick Action by CPW Park Rangers, Employees Averts Destructive Fire

WALSENBURG, Colo. – A small fire that threatened a Great Blue heron nesting habitat on an island on Horseshoe Lake at Lathrop State Park was doused and two suspects apprehended thanks to quick action by park employees and rangers.

Off-duty park employee Cameron Chitwood was fishing when he noticed the fire on the island around 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

Chitwood quickly alerted park rangers of the fire and two people in kayaks near the island who seemed to be fleeing the fire.

Ranger Jenny Ives ferried firefighters from the Huerfano County Fire Protection District to the island. They pumped lake water onto the fire to douse the blaze.

Meanwhile, Chitwood alerted another off-duty park employee, Lena Archuleta, to the fleeing kayakers. Archuleta responded to the scene and blocked their vehicle with her own so they could not leave.

Chitwood joined Archuleta and observed the suspects’ actions until law enforcement, including a Colorado State Patrol trooper and Huerfano County Sheriff’s Deputies, arrived to investigate and question the kayakers.

Other off-duty park staff also arrived to help gather up the kayaks and launch the patrol boat.

Eventually, a man and woman were taken into custody by Huerfano County Sheriff’s deputies, and their vehicle was towed. The male suspect told authorities he dropped a cigarette at the site of the fire. An investigation continues into its cause.

“Luckily the fire was put out before any significant damage could be done to the island and the heron nesting habitat,” said Stacey Koury, Lathrop park manager. “I appreciate the support of our partner agencies in fighting the fire and taking the suspects into custody.  Our county is under a fire ban, and this fire is a reminder to be cautious in this area’s dry conditions.”

 “And I am particularly proud of the performance of the Lathrop staff. It was incredibly gratifying to see so many off-duty employees drop what they were doing to protect the park.”

(Editor’s Note:  Not from our general publication area, but with dry conditions and parks re-opening to the public, we hope this article serves as a warning for care of our wildlife areas)

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