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Bridger man arrested on suspicion of starting Robertson Draw fire

Dirt bike rider spilled gas that ignited
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Posted at 4:21 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 23:13:00-04

A 55-year-old Bridger man has been arrested in connection with two felony charges related to the starting of the Robertson Draw fire south of Red Lodge, Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan announced Wednesday.

A warrant was issued for John Lightburn for charges of two felonies- negligent arson and criminal mischief- and one misdemeanor, negligent arson, according to McQuillan.

According to charging 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, 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 put out the fire, and he said he had slight burns on his feet but declined transport.

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 was transported to the Gallatin County Detention Center, where he is being held on a $7,500 bond.

The Robertson Draw fire, Montana's largest wildfire so far in the 2021 season, ignited June 13 and has burned more than 29,000 acres as of Wednesday. The fire is 53 percent contained, and 365 firefighters are on scene battling it.

This is a developing story. Check back for details.