BILLINGS — John Lightburn of Bridger has been arrested in connection with the Robertson Draw Fire that is currently burning several miles south of Red Lodge.
Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan said in a news release on Wednesday that a warrant had been issued for Lightburn for two felonies (negligent arson and criminal mischief) and one misdemeanor (negligent arson).
According to court documents filed by Carbon County Prosecutor Alex Nixon, Lightburn was riding his dirt bike on a trail at the base of the mountains the morning of June 13 when the engine began flooding. He stopped and tried to repair it and accidentally spilled gasoline all over, he told a U.S. Forest Service investigator at the scene.
The trail and land around it were closed to motorized vehicles at the time, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors noted that despite the hot, dry conditions in the area, Lightburn then allegedly tested the spark plug, which ignited the gasoline and vegetation around it.
Investigators said Lightburn did not appear to make any effort to extinguish the fire, and he said he had slight burns on his feet but declined to be taken to a medical facility.
Nixon said in charging documents that at least one law enforcement officer was nearly overtaken by the flames while helping with evacuations and believed his life was in danger.
Lightburn, 55 years old, is being held at the Gallatin County Detention Center on $7,500 bail.
Lightburn was convicted in 2018 in Carbon County on a charge of felony theft; at the time of the wildfire, according to the Montana Department of Corrections, Lightburn was on conditional release from the Billings Probation & Parole Office.
The investigation into the fire was conducted by the Carbon County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Forest Service.
The Robertson Draw Fire, the largest in Montana so far in 2021, sparked on June 13 and has burned more than 29,000 acres as of Wednesday. The fire is 53% contained, and 365 firefighters are assigned to it.
For more information about this and other wildfires in Montana and across the country, check the InciWeb site.