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Man who started Robertson Draw fire sentenced to prison

Robertson Draw Fire south of Red Lodge
John Lightburn
Roberston Draw Fire
Robertson Draw Fire map
Posted at 10:19 PM, Aug 17, 2022

John Lightburn of Bridger, who started the Robertson Draw Fire near Red Lodge last year, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison, according to a law enforcement source in Carbon County.

Lightburn, 55 years old, was sentenced on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. The charges weren't immediately available.

The Robertson Draw Fire - which started in June 2021 - burned more than 30,000 acres and was one of Montana's largest fires of the 2021 season.

According to court documents, Lightburn was riding his dirt bike on a trail at the base of the mountains when the engine flooded.

The trail and land around it were closed to motorized vehicles at the time, according to prosecutors.

lightburn, john.JPG
John Lightburn

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.

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.