A Montana man has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he caused a wildland fire northeast of Yellowstone National Park that burned seven homes and 46 square miles (119 square kilometers or almost 30,000 acres) of land.
On Wednesday (July 7th) John Lightburn, 55, of Bridger appeared before District Court Judge Matthew Wald on felony and misdemeanor charges of negligent arson and a felony criminal mischief charge, for the fire that started on June 13th on U.S. Forest Service land about 7 miles (11 kilometers) south of Red Lodge, near the Wyoming border.
Wald rejected a request from Lightburn’s attorney to reduce his $7,500 bail, court officials said.
Lightburn told investigators he spilled gasoline “all over” while trying to fix his dirt bike, which he was riding in an area closed to motorized vehicles, court records said.
He said he checked his spark plug, which sparked and ignited the gasoline and surrounding grasses.
Hot and dry weather and the wind pushed the flames.
The fire also burned a U.S. Bureau of Land Management administrative cabin and a dozen outbuildings and led to evacuations, fire officials said.
Fire crews had fire line around 69% of the fire’s perimeter on Wednesday, but are not yet estimating a containment date.