The man arrested for impersonating a firefighter in the High Park Fire may have also done so during the Lower North Fork Fire in March, according to Jefferson County authorities.
Michael Stillman Maher, 30, of Denver was arrested for theft, impersonation, obstruction and attempting to influence a public servent on June 18th but equipment found in his vehicle was enough to lead authorities to his home and conduct a thorough search there.
Multiple portable radios had been found in Maher's car, one of which had been reported stolen during the Lower North Fork Fire. Upon searching Maher's home June 19th, Jefferson County investigators found a cache of missing items that estimated about $2,400.
"During the Lower North Fork Fire in March of this year, a 'firefighter' was issued a chainsaw, two Pulaski firefighting tools, a portable radio, a portable fire shelter, goggles, MRE's (meals ready to eat), and other items," a Jefferson County Sheriff's Office press release read. "At the conclusion of the fire these items remained unaccounted for. "
All of those items, plus a red and blue light bar used for emergency vehicles, U.S. Forest Service clothing and qualification card were confiscated at Maher's home. An affidavit obtained by 7News reveals that Maher had been fired by the U.S. Forest Service two years ago and that he used his old credentials to get into the fire area.
On his Facebook page Maher posted a photo of himself in firefighting gear, including a helicopter used for fighting fire and even a picture of himself posing with Gov. John Hickenlooper at the High Park Fire. By Thursday afternoon however, those photos had been taken down.
Shortly after Maher's arrest, manager Michael Rivera at the Long Branch Lounge, a bar in the area that Maher was seen in, told KDVR that staff and customers believed Maher was who he claimed to be and had applauded him for his service as a fireman.
"He acted like he was somebody," Rivera said.
As it turns out however, a 9News report Thursday found Maher to be somebody with a lengthy criminal history. Maher has pleaded guilty in the past to a misdemeanor charge of sex assault, driving under the influence, false reporting, discharging a firearm and has a collection of mug shots dating back at least to 2004.
Dan Recht, Maher's attorney, released this statement to media:
Michael Maher has always dreamed of being a fireman. He has a degree in "Fire Science Technology" from Colorado Mountain College, has been certified in many aspects of firefighting, has been trained as a firefighter, and has previously been employed by the U.S. Forest Service here in Colorado. Unfortunately, he has not been able to obtain employment as a fireman.
Late last week, Michael tried to help fight the High Park Fire without appropriate authority. He knows this was ill advised, foolish and regrettable. However, he never meant to hurt anyone, loot anything, impede the firefighting effort in any way, or do anything but naively and immaturely attempt to help fight the High Park Fire. Upon contact with law enforcement, Michael was, and continues to be, forthcoming and cooperative. Despite media reports to the contrary, Michael was not in possession of fraudulent IDs, his firearm was legally owned and possessed, and he has never been convicted of a felony.
He is embarrassed by and prepared to take responsibility for his conduct. He regrets any offense taken by any of the firefighters who he idolizes and believes are heroes.
Maher has been released on a $15,000 bond under the condition that he not possess weapons, drugs, alcohol or cross back over into the High Park Fire territory.