This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A 61-year-old Taylorsville man was charged Tuesday with starting the 71,000-acre Brian Head Fire that destroyed 13 residences and cost about $34 million to fight.
Robert Ray Lyman was charged in 5th District Court with a count of reckless burning, a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. He also faces a class B misdemeanor charge of failing to notify authorities or failing to obtain a permit before burning, which carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Authorities have said the fire which forced about 1,500 people to evacuate across Iron and Garfield counties was sparked accidentally June 17 by a man torching weeds at a Brian Head cabin.
Lyman owns the cabin where the fire was reported to have started, according to Iron County property records. It is located next to State Route 143, slightly north and downhill from the resort town. A photograph of the cabin figures prominently on a Facebook page for Lyman, who was a longtime West High School head basketball coach and Weber State University assistant basketball coach. The Tribune named him coach of the year in 2009, when he led West High to the 4A championship.
Lyman did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday evening. An attorney was not listed in court records.
Nobody at Iron County prosecutor Scott Garrett's office answered a phone call from The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday evening.
The fire burned through brush and beetle-killed timber in hot, dry conditions for nearly a month. It initially raced south and briefly threatened to torch dozens of cabins and businesses in Brian Head, a popular getaway for Las Vegas residents. Then the blaze turned northeast, where it destroyed cabins near the fishing destination of Panguitch Lake.
Utah is expected to share the cost of the blaze among the highest for a Utah wildfire with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said late last month. The government also often tries to recoup some costs from the person convicted of starting wildfires, and from the convicted person's insurance policy. For example, settlements with two men responsible for the 2012 Saratoga Springs Dump Fire which cost more than $3.5 million to fight totaled $435,000.
According to 911 calls released last month, Lyman allegedly started the fire as a weed-burning project quickly spun out of control.
"We're trying to fight this, but it's getting out of control. ... We need help!" a man at the cabin told a dispatcher at about noon on June 17. "It's like 50 feet by 50 feet. It's big we need help!"