Case against man charged with starting Brian Head fire resolved

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

CEDAR CITY — After nearly three years, the Iron County Attorney’s case against the individual responsible for the Brian Head fire in 2017 has been resolved.

Robert Ray Lyman was originally charged with one class A misdemeanor of reckless burning and one class B misdemeanor of failure to notify authorities or failure to obtain a burn permit.

Iron County Attorney Chad Dotson told Cedar City News as preparations for Lyman’s trial took place, it was discovered that insurance may not be held liable for restitution if Lyman was convicted of reckless burning.

“If he was convicted of reckless or intentional conduct, which was charged in the reckless burning count, it would prevent insurance from having to honor the claim,” Dotson said. “Obviously, our main goal is trying to make the victims whole and recoup costs for suppression efforts and property damage, and insurance is going to be the most effective way to do that.”

Upon discovering this, Dotson said the charges were amended to only one count of failure to notify authorities or failure to obtain a burn permit.

“So, that’s what we were prepared to go to trial on this week; however, once we did that, the case was easier to resolve,” he said. “Mr. Lyman ultimately decided to plead and be convicted of that count.”

As a class B misdemeanor, sentencing will include bench probation, fines and community service.

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

Dotson said the primary reason for resolving the case was to allow civil cases to move forward to recover costs of suppression and property damages.

“The bulk of this now is going to be in the civil cases that are still pending, because that is where costs are going to be recouped,” he said. “Our aim in resolving the case the way we did was to not prevent that from happening.”

The Brian Head fire started June 17, 2017, and engulfed approximately 71,000 acres in Iron and Garfield Counties. The fire resulted in the loss of 13 homes, the evacuation of 1,500 people and cost more than $30 million in suppression.

Civil cases through the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the United States Attorney General’s Office, as well as private entities, are still ongoing.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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