ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) – Three teenagers and one parent from the St. George area have been charged for their alleged involvement in the Turkey Farm Road Fire, burning nearly 12,000 acres when it ignited Jul. 13.
Residents of southwestern Utah can still see the burn scars below the Pine Valley mountain range, where three teenagers are accused of igniting fireworks in an area where they’re never allowed.
The Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is a 62,000 acre wildlife reserve set aside to protect the Mojave desert tortoise and other rare plants and animals. The blaze cost more than $2.5 million to fight the flames and even more to rehabilitate the scorched land. Fire managers say it will likely take years to understand the impact on those threatened populations.
“Unfortunately, trying to rehabilitate land like that in such harsh conditions that we face in Washington County, it takes years and years to try and recover that if we can at all,” said Mike Melton, fire management officer for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands.
Melton said this kind of crime comes down to people “not being aware of the situation or simply not caring.”
In this case, the Veyo West fire in Washington County was burning thousands of acres at the same time, at one point evacuating and threatening hundreds of homes and burning down one residence.
Fire officials tell ABC4 news there were a lot of different leads, from videos to tips from the public that were key in identifying the individuals involved. Authorities have not identified them publicly.
The teenagers have been referred to the Washington County Juvenile Court, according to a press release from Color Country Interagency Fire Management.
Charges filed include against the teenagers include:
- Obstruction of justice in a criminal investigation
- Providing false or misleading information
- Use of fireworks in violation of fire restriction order
- Reckless burning
Officials say a charge has also been filed against one of the juvenile’s parents for a violation of obstruction of justice.
Land management agencies say they intend to collect the cost for the fire suppression and extensive rehabilitation costs incurred by taxpayers.
The Beehive State is experiencing one of its worst fire years on record. Out of at least 1300 wildfires so far this season, approximately 1000 of them are considered human-caused and preventable, according to fire officials.