Roberston Draw Fire Started by Dirt Biking Bridger Man

Roberston Draw Fire Started by Dirt Biking Bridger Man

Written by on June 24, 2021

The man believed to be responsible for the over 29,000-acre Robertson Draw Fire is currently in jail, facing hefty fines and significant jail time.

The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office of Montana announced the arrest of 55-year-old John Lightburn in connection to the Robertson Draw Fire. A resident of Bridger, Montana, Lightburn is currently being held in the Gallatin County Detention Center in Bozeman on a $7,500 bond.

Currently, Lightburn faces two felony charges for Negligent Arson and Criminal Mischief and an additional misdemeanor charge for negligent arson. If convicted, the maximum penalty is up to 20 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.

The felony charges for negligent arson and criminal mischief suggest that Lightburn “purposely or knowingly” started the 30,000-acre fire – and this is supported by his own account of the incident.

According to court files released by the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office, Lightburn was riding his dirt bike “off-trail in public lands closed to motor vehicle use.” While he was off-roading, he believed his engine was flooding.

While attempting to repair the flooded engine, Lightburn admits he spilled a significant amount of gasoline. He said there was “gas all over.” Shortly after this, he decided that was the best time to check if his sparkplug was getting spark.

By Lightburn’s own account, his spark plug ignited the gasoline and surrounding vegetation – which was already incredibly dry. He smelled burning rubber and noticed his shoes were burning in the flames.

Lightburn acknowledges he did not attempt to put the fire out. Instead, after sustaining minor burns, he fled the scene.

Lightburn says the first spark started the fire around 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 13. The fire was first reported to Custer Gallatin National Forest officials two hours later.

United States Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Katrina Haworth is responsible for the initial investigation. She interviewed Lightburn and later found his dirt bike hidden in a draw far from the incident scene.

Legal filings detailing John Lightburn’s account also say the Robertson Draw Fire has consumed over twenty structures, “including seasonal cabins and full-time residences.” The yet-to-be-calculated losses are easily in the millions of dollars.

Small plume over Mt. Maurice

Courtesy InciWeb

On Thursday, June 24, InciWeb reports that the Robertson Draw Fire is 29,601 acres and 53% contained.

378 personnel are responding on the scene under the command of a Northern Rockies Type 2 Incident Management Team.

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