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Wyoming dad refuses to pay $3,000 bill for Utah wildfire

Published October 24, 2012 10:57 am

Holiday blaze • Summit County says his son ignited the fire.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Summit County is attempting to recover costs associated with a 2.5-acre brush fire on Interstate 80 that a juvenile admitted to starting while playing with fireworks on the Fourth of July.

The juvenile's father, Robert Lund, has declined to pay the costs, stating he doesn't feel financially liable for his son's actions and said others in the area could have started the fire. He also denied the fire could have cost the requested $3,000 or could have taken four hours to extinguish, according to reports.

Summit County Sheriff Office's Sgt. Justin Hemmingway reported that during an interview, Robert's son admitted to lighting fireworks and starting the fire, despite a Summit County ordinance prohibiting fireworks and open fires until Oct. 31.

Lund had stopped to use the restroom near the Castle Rock off-ramp near mile marker 186 on I-80 while driving home from Wyoming and, while away from the vehicle, the fire occurred, Lund said in a letter to County Manager Bob Jasper, dated Aug. 15.

"As a non-resident of Summit County, I was unaware of the firework ban," Lund said in the report. "I was also unaware that my son possessed a firework or that he had the disposition or means to use it. As I was not negligent in any way in my parental responsibilities, a recovery from me appears grossly misplaced."

According to Hemmingway's report, after Lund noticed the grass was on fire, he got into his vehicle and began backing out of the area, but was stopped by Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Jeffrey Daems. Lund said he didn't want his children questioned or vehicle searched, although he did say that his 13-year-old was "shaking and obviously nervous," the report said.

After Hemmingway had decided to get a search warrant for the vehicle, Lund said the 13-year-old had something to tell Hemmingway and asked if a search warrant would still be needed if the son spoke with Hemmingway. After Hemmingway responded that it would not then be needed, Tyler got out of the car and approached Hemmingway.

"Tyler stated that while Robert was out of the vehicle going to the bathroom, Tyler got out of the car and lit the fireworks that started the fire. Tyler stated that he got back into the car," Hemmingway said in his report.

Three weeks after the incident, on July 26, Jasper wrote a letter to Lund, requesting Lund pay the $3,000 bill the county incurred in fighting the fire.

"The Summit County Code empowers the County to recover expenses incurred in response to an aggravated fire emergency from the individual who caused the emergency," the letter read. "The wildfire required the response of multiple agencies, which took them approximately four hours of concerted effort to extinguish. As a result, Summit County incurred a cost of approximately $3,000, which must be paid to these outside agencies from the County's fire suppression fund. As the responsible adult in the party that caused this fire in violation of a county ordinance, you are legally responsible for the repayment of these costs."

Jasper said Lund has the option of appealing the determination to the Summit County Council if the appeal is provided in writing within 30 days of receiving Jasper's letter. After receiving Lund's Aug. 15 letter, an appeal before the Summit County Council was scheduled for Wednesday at the Summit County Courthouse in Coalville at 60 N. Main St.