Update on the Teasdale/Lost Lake (Arson) Fire of 2012

Earlier this summer, in this blog, I discussed the Lost Lake fire that came close to Teasdale and caused the evacuation of several homes. Because the fire was close to town and the area was tinder dry at the time the Interagency Fire Bureau put a lot of resources into the fire, which ended up costing 3.2 million dollars to fight and burned over 2000 acres. When I was in Teasdale last weekend the following story was in the Wayne & Garfield County Insider, the local weekly newspaper, in the August 2, 2012 editions:

“In an initial appearance before the Wayne County 6th District Court in Loa on Monday, 38-year old Wayne County resident Lance Durfey pleaded guilty to a third degree felony charge of arson in the case of the Lost Lake Fire.

 Mr. Durfey admitted to setting several fires on June 3 on the North Slope of Boulder Mountain, approximately 4 miles SW of Teasdale. Acording to individuals from the Torrey and Teasdale area who were also in the fire evacuation zone, Mr. Durfey is charged with setting 13 fires in multiple locations. Six fires went out on their own, while seven continued to burn 2,075 acres.

The fire took approximately two weeks to contain at a cost of $3.2 million, with more than 400 personnel involved in containing the blaze. There was no loss of life and no structures were burned but the fires came within 150 yards of several homes, and six homes had to be evacuated.
      Following an investigation by the US Forest Service and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, Wayne County Attorney filed the felony arson charge.
The specific charge against Mr. Durfey is: ‘COUNT I: ARSON, a Third Degree Felony, in violation of UCA Section 76-6-102(1)(b), as follows: That on or about June 3, 2012, the defendant, Lance Allen Durfey, did unlawfully and intentionally damage the property of another person by means of fire or explosive. It is further alleged that the fire endangered human life.’
Judge Wallace A Lee presided over the proceedings, and has set a sentencing date in the case of September 24, which will take place at the Loa Courthouse. According to Attorney McIff, an officer from the Adult Probation Department will conduct a background study on Mr. Durfey and issue a report and recommendation to the court regarding his sentence, which the judge will consider to make his determination. The sentence for the third degree felony arson charge can be anywhere from zero to five years with a maximum financial penalty of $9,500.
     As to why Mr. Durfey set the fires, witnesses atending the courtroom hearing stated that Mr. Durfy is said to have had an argument at home, got on his horse to ride up the mountain, and over the course of his ride became disturbed over the presence of extensive downfall and decided to set the blazes.
     Forest Service officials were immediately suspicious about the fires because there had been no lightning strikes in the area.
     No federal charges have been filed in the arson case.”

Interestingly, there is little news about this case outside of this one article. Doing a google news search shows that the The Salt Lake Tribune had two short articles about the case and the Deseret News none. Talking to my neighbors in Teasdale there is concern that federal charges, which are more serious have not and will not be filed against Durfey because he is from a long time Wayne County family and many of the established political elites in the area may feel that Durfey was simply acting out on a widely shared anti-federal attitude in rural Utah. In any event, its pretty clear to me that if a PETA activist or Earth Firster had committed similar acts of arson there would be a lot more news about it locally and nationally and there would be no question of the perpetrator getting off with a slap on the wrist by arguing about having a bad day at home. But in the rabidly anti-federal rural west seeming domestic terrorism gets swept under the carpet if it doesn’t fit the narrative that the radical environmentalist are causing all the problems. It will be interesting to see how this all turns out to see whether there is any substance to Utah’s claims that it would be a better steward of public lands than the federal government.