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Charges dropped against man suspected of starting Spring Fire

It was unclear what will happen to Jesper Joergensen after he is released from the state mental hospital.

A Costilla County judge dropped charges Monday against Jesper Joergensen, who was accused of starting the Spring Fire in southern Colorado in 2018.

Joergensen, who is from Denmark and was in the country without proper documentation, was arrested June 28, 2018. He had faced 349 counts of arson, according to court records.

The Spring Fire erupted the day before his arrest. It burned for weeks, torched more than 108,000 acres and destroyed more than 140 homes.

It wasn't clear what would happen to Joergensen after his release from the state mental hospital in Pueblo, which was expected later Monday.

Judge Gregory Lyman had hoped Joergensen, who was accused of starting the fire while cooking food outside, would be deported if the charges were dropped. Lyman said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had no intention of doing that, without elaborating.

An ICE spokesperson said Monday morning that the agency was awaiting information on the case.

Prosecutors said last month that Joergensen had been found incompetent to proceed on multiple occasions and the Costilla County Sheriff's Office didn't have the resources to restore him to competency through forced medication.

RELATED: Charges to be dropped against man suspected of starting Spring Fire

According to the affidavit, Joergensen said he used a fire pit to cook meat for several hours that night and then covered the pit to smother the fire. He told investigators he stirred the contents around to make sure it was out and "he saw no smoke, so he believed the fire was out and no longer a threat" according to the affidavit.

Investigators asked Joergensen whether he poured water on the fire. He said "no," according to the report.

On June 27, 2018, Joergensen said he woke up from a nap about noon and smelled fire. He got out of his camper and saw the fire was in sage bushes about 20 feet from his fire pit.

Joergensen ran toward the fire and attempted to smother it with a blanket, according to the affidavit. When that blanket caught fire, Joergensen threw it in the fire, the affidavit said.

He reported the fire. When contacted by deputies from the Costilla County Sheriff's Office, he had burn injuries on his right arm and calf, according to the report. There was also a burn mark on his chest.

The Associated Press and Angela Case contributed to this report.

Credit: CCSO
Jesper Joergensen

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