Prosecutors amend charges against man accused of starting Brian Head Fire

ST. GEORGE — Iron County prosecutors have amended the charges levied against a man accused of starting 2017’s Brian Head Fire, which has effectively reset the case.

Robert Ray Lyman, accused of starting the Brian Head Fire, appears in 5th District Court in Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 15, 2017 | File photo by Utah court pool, St. George News

Robert Ray Lyman, 63, of Taylorsville, Utah, had been set to go to trial in Provo later this month on charges of reckless burning in connection with starting a fire that endangered lives, a Class A misdemeanor, and not having a burn permit, a Class B misdemeanor.

Lyman pleaded not guilty to the charges in October 2017.

On Thursday the charge of not having a burn permit was replaced by a charge of burning during a closed fire season, also a Class B misdemeanor.

Lyman is accused of starting the 2017 fire at Brian Head that burned over 71,000 acres across parts of Iron and Garfield counties, destroyed 13 homes, triggered the evacuation of about 1,500 people and cost $40 million for fire agencies to combat.

Read more: Brian Head Fire crests 70,000 acres as crews begin rehabilitation efforts

Prosecutors allege that Lyman was burning weeds at his property in Brian Head when it got out of hand and rapidly spread to the surrounding area.

The Brian Head Fire, Brian Head, Utah, June 17, 2017 | File photo courtesy of Mike Berg, Parowan Police Department, St. George News

The amending of the charges effectively restarts the case and allows Lyman to withdraw his previous pleas and have a new preliminary hearing.

According to court records, the new preliminary hearing – a hearing in which a judge will determine if there is enough evidence to move the case forward – has been set for July 30.

If convicted, the combined misdemeanor charges are punishable by up to 18 months in jail and $3,500 in fines. He also could be ordered to pay restitution toward the $40 million cost of the fire.

Lyman’s case was originally set in Iron County, but was moved to Provo after his lawyer convinced the court that he wouldn’t get a fair trail there due to the animosity locals displayed over social media and the assertion that due to Iron County’s small population, members of a prospective jury would likely know someone who was impacted by the fire, thus tainting any sense of impartiality.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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