LEHI, Utah (ABC4) – Last year’s Traverse Fire, started by a group of teenagers using a Roman candle, cost roughly $1 million to fight — and cost the teens a fine, plus a trip to juvenile court.
With the Fourth of July approaching, officials say the Traverse Fire — highly preventable — is an example that if you’re responsible for starting a wildfire, you will very likely face serious repercussions.
“More and more, especially in the wildland urban interface areas, we’re seeing people being held accountable,” said Lehi Fire Department Chief Jeremy Craft.
“What’s important for people to know is that any time you light a campfire, any time you light a firework, you’re now responsible for anything that happens with that. Wherever it goes, whatever damage it can be,” added Craft.
The Traverse Fire led to evacuations and endangered more than two dozen homes, he told ABC4 on Wednesday. At this time last summer, members of his department were working tirelessly to keep homes from burning.
“It was about a 500 acre fire, it was close to a million dollars to fight, and I think we were close to $200,000 in rehab,” said Craft.
“It was dry last year, right? But it’s twice as dry this year. And that fire moved incredibly fast last year,” added Craft.
One of the more high-profile fires in recent years, the Brian Head Fire from 2017 cost roughly $40 million. That’s according to Iron County District Attorney Chad Dotson.
The man responsible, Robert Lyman, was only convicted of failing to obtain a burn permit, but Dotson says that’s because of complicated insurance reasons. A more serious charge was eventually dropped by his office, he says, because Lyman’s insurance company would not have paid out the homeowners who needed the money for restitution if Lyman was charged criminally.
A separate civil suit by the state is being pursued, Dotson says, that will hopefully help pay out money to fire victims through insurance.
Dotson says if you’re convicted of reckless burning in Utah — and lighting fireworks where restricted could be considered reckless — you could face a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail.