COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Springs Fire Department announced on Thursday that Wednesday's grass fire on the west side of Colorado Springs started due to a "careless disposal of a cigarette."
This fire on Wednesday afternoon was started by a cigarette. @CSFDPIO shared some of their videos from yesterday with me. You can see Garden of the Gods through the smoke. @KOAA pic.twitter.com/gkKIoPtysc— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) January 22, 2021
Fire crews responded to the fire around 4:30 p.m. near 30th Street and Water Street just south of Garden of the Gods. "Truck 9 was actually the first here. They were on a call right up the street, they were driving up this way, and they saw smoke," said Captain Mike Smaldino of the Colorado Springs Fire Department.
Drone footage by @CSPDPIO of yesterday's #grassfire at 30th and Water St. CSFD fire investigators determined that the fire was caused by careless disposal of a cigarette. Fire season is year-round in Colorado Springs. Please be careful pic.twitter.com/iLiheHv0hR— CSFD PIO (@CSFDPIO) January 21, 2021
The department said 47 firefighters responded to the grass fire in total. When investigators were able to search the burned area, they zeroed in on a portion of land where they believe the blaze started. Multiple cigarette butts were discovered, and it is thought one of those started the fire. "That's the only thing that's in that area that makes sense. It's the only thing that's hot enough to cause the fire," said Captain Smaldino.
CSFD said the fire grew to around five acres in size, but was moving slowly. "Even just a little bit of carelessness can actually cause a lot of destruction. In this case here, if we had a little bit more wind, or it was earlier in the day when we had the wind, it could have easily gotten into these houses," said Captain Smaldino.
Five homes near the fire had structure protection and three of those families were briefly evacuated. News5 spoke with Ed Rios, one of the neighbors who had to leave their home. "To learn it was a cigarette butt is just terribly irresponsible. There's a lot of folks who just don't think forward enough, or maybe just don't care," said Rios.
CSFD said homes in the area had their grass cut, which helped to slow the fire's growth.
There could be criminal charges in this case, even up to a felony, but it depends on if it was accidental or intentional. However, finding a suspect could be challenging. "It could be somebody that was literally just driving up the street, they didn't think about it, and they flicked the cigarette out. And if nobody saw it, it's going to be tough to prove," said Captain Smaldino.
Police shut down 30th St. between Fontanero and the GoG Visitors Center while fire crews worked.
Around 5:20 p.m. the fire was contained.