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Will 'Traverse Fire' suspects pay firefighting costs?

Posted at 6:47 PM, Jun 29, 2020

LEHI, Utah — The "Traverse Fire" is believed to have started when two teenage boys lit illegal fireworks in a restricted area late Saturday night.

Lehi Fire Chief Jeremy Craft estimates the firefighting cost at $1 million after county and state resources were called in to help contain the fire.

“Everything came together: the super dry grasses, the downdraft winds — it just exploded,” Craft said.

Will the teens accused of starting the fire with roman candles face monetary consequences? Unlikely, considering a similar situation happened in 2017.

A Taylorsville man burning weeds was blamed for starting one of the state’s most destructive fires in Brian Head. It burned 13 homes and cost roughly $40 million to fight over several weeks.

Robert Lyman was initially charged with two misdemeanors: reckless burning and burning during a closed fire season.

After 2.5 years pursuing the charges, Iron County prosecutors dropped the most serious charge in March.

Why? For insurance purposes.

Chad Dotson told FOX13 Monday that if Lyman was found criminally liable, his insurance wouldn’t pay the victims.

A judge ultimately sentenced Lyman to 50 hours of community service for the lesser charge.

Dotson said a civil suit against Lyman is ongoing to recoup some of the damages faced by fire victims.

While unclear what a punishment would be acceptable for the Traverse Fire, Craft said it’s important for the teens to face responsibility.

“Somebody up in an area where fireworks are banned anyway — have never been allowed to start — to be messing around and start a fire and put all those homes and all those first responders lives in danger, I think somebody should be held accountable,” Craft said.

The boys are cooperating with police, and have not been charged as of Monday afternoon.