"The county has had an ordinance for many years that allows us to recover costs for wildfires that are incurred by violations of the county ordinance," Public Works Administrator Kevin Callahan said during a Nov. 19 County Council meeting. "In June of this year the county adopted an ordinance which imposed a fireworks ban in the county because of the severe weather we were experiencing."
A 13-year-old boy admitted to his father, Robert Lund, and to authorities that he lit the fireworks after his father had pulled the car over to relieve himself.
"The Sheriff Reports indicate an investigation that determined Mr. Lund's son admitted he lit the fireworks that started a brush fire," Callahan said. "Investigators went back to the site and found fireworks that matched the fireworks in Mr. Lund's son's possession."
The brush fire consumed 2.5 acres and cost the county $3,000.
Following the fire, the county pursued restitution costs from Lund on behalf of his son. However, Lund denied he is responsible for fire suppression costs, and appealed to the County Council.
"To be held liable, the person that is held liable has to be the person that directly caused the fire," Lund argued. "I didn't cause this fire. I wasn't present when this fire started. I didn't witness or have any knowledge of how the fire started."
Lund said he had walked about a quarter-mile away around a bend for privacy, and returned to find a brush fire near the car.
"My children were in the car. I saw the fire, and of course I hurriedly moved the car out of there," Lund explained.
Lund said he was not trying to flee the scene but had spotted a Utah Highway Patrol trooper and was driving toward the deputy to inform him about the fire.
"There's a theory that I am somehow responsible if I abandoned the fire," Lund said. "My concerns were two things: getting my children out of any danger, and going to alert the first responder."
Wearing only shorts and flip-flops, and not having anything with him for fire suppression, Lund said he had no ability to fight the fire himself.
According to a deputy's report, Lund was pulled over trying to flee the scene. The trooper was not on hand at the County Council meeting to provide testimony, but Councilmembers John Hanrahan and Claudia McMullin said they believed Lund's account that he was attempting to contact the trooper.
"I agree with John that you weren't fleeing the fire," McMullin told Lund. "I do think your son intentionally lit the firework but that he didn't intentionally cause the fire. But the result was that he caused the fire. So I don't believe that you are liable under that statute. I do believe your son is. I think he's liable for the whole kit and caboodle."
McMullin said she would be willing to come to an agreement of restitution from Lund's son over a period of time.
Hanrahan told the council he would not support a motion to pursue restitution from Lund's son. "I think there is evidence to find Mr. Lund liable for the damages."
The motion passed 3 to 2 in favor, with Sally and Hanrahan casting the dissenting votes.
"We now need to go after the son for restitution," McMullin said.