SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – An outdoor therapy group has been accused of igniting the 2003 Woodenshoe Fire that burned more than 2,700 acres of federal land in San Juan County. The fire was sparked when Wilderness Quest employees failed to put out a campfire, the U.S. government claims.
Group leaders, who were guiding program youths through the Dark Canyon Wilderness Area, had a permit to use that land, according to the lawsuit filed in Federal Court.
The United States says the fire started on June 28, 2003, as Wilderness Quest employees were breaking camp. Instead of extinguishing the fire by pouring water, sand or dirt into the fire pit, employee John Burke allegedly dropped a large, flat rock on the ashes, blowing ash and debris from the fire ring onto nearby brush.
After the group left, debris blew from the campfire and started the larger fire, the complaint claims.
The government wants Wilderness Quest to reimburse it for the more than $1 million it spent putting out the flames.