When the 71,000-acre Brian Head Fire began five years ago, there were no clear answers to the question of who started it. It was a complicated fire that burned through dense forest, killed trees by a bark beetle infestation and burned on public lands managed by Iron County, Brian Head Town and the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
The fire spread rapidly and consumed large areas of the forest. It burnt through beetle-killed pine trees, a large amount of dead spruce and aspen, as well as brush and a few living oak trees.
Initially, it was fought by a team of more than 100 firefighters from Intermountain and the Colorado Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, who stayed on the ground for 14 days. The crew also used air drops to drop water and fire retardant on the blaze.
As the blaze grew, it began to threaten the Thunder Ridge Boy Scout camp near Parowan and Highway 143 near Panguitch. The cabins at the Thunder Ridge campground and Highway 143 were evacuated.
The blaze quickly moved to the northeast. It burned a dozen cabins near Panguitch Lake and several other homes. It also sparked monsoonal flows that can cause debris flows, flash flooding and rock falls.
It also flooded the Garfield Memorial Hospital in Panguitch, where many people were treated for respiratory problems that they said were related to smoke inhalation.
Robert Lyman, a Taylorsville retiree, has since been convicted of starting the fire on his property. He faces two misdemeanor charges of reckless burning. He pleaded no contest to one charge and was ordered to pay a fine.