Man charged in igniting massive Utah wildfire

Authorities said the fire started when a man set a pile of weeds on fire and it raged out of control near a cabin in the ski town of Brian Head


Associated Press 

SALT LAKE CITY — A man accused of accidentally sparking a massive Utah wildfire that forced some 1,500 people from their homes last month and cost about $34 million to fight was charged Tuesday.

Iron County prosecutor Scott Garrett told The Associated Press that his office charged Robert Ray Lyman, 60, with two misdemeanors. Garrett declined further comment, but authorities have said the fire started when a man set a pile of weeds on fire and it raged out of control near a cabin in the ski town of Brian Head on June 17.

In this June 23, 2017 photo, a wildfire continues to grow in Brian Head, Utah. (Stuart Johnson/The Deseret News via AP)
In this June 23, 2017 photo, a wildfire continues to grow in Brian Head, Utah. (Stuart Johnson/The Deseret News via AP)

The blaze forced hundreds of evacuations at homes and cabins near Brian Head, known for weekend getaway houses for Las Vegas residents, and spread several miles east to an area around Panguitch Lake, a popular spot for fishing. More than a dozen buildings were destroyed.

The fire torched more than 100 square miles (258 square kilometers) and burned for nearly a month in hot, dry conditions.

No lawyer was listed in court records for Lyman, who lives in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville. A message seeking comment on the charge wasn't immediately returned.

If convicted on a reckless burning charge, Lyman could face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. A count of burning without a permit carries up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Officials have said the person who started the fire could be responsible for the costs of fighting it, though any move to recoup firefighting costs would come after an investigation is complete.

The tab of nearly $34 million puts it among the state's most expensive fires, officials have said.

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