By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A Wyoming man has been charged with intentionally starting two wildfires in Big Horn County almost three years ago.
Brandon Kenneth Nyberg is charged with unlawfully starting a fire and burning timber, trees and other fuels on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land. If convicted, he could spend up to one year in jail, serve one year of supervised release and pay a fine of up to $1,000.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Casper, in July 2018, BLM Supervisory Ranger Brad Jones was working near the Terek Fire in Big Horn County when he was alerted to another fire in Manderson. While attempting to gain access to the Manderson fire, another fire on the same highway was reported.
Both fires were believed to be human-caused.
When Jones arrived in Manderson, he saw Nyberg and Sierra Brown with a water hose standing near a barn and house.
When the ranger interviewed him, Nyberg said he hadn’t seen much and he had been watching the fire in the distance when he noticed it burning in the field near his grandparents’ house. He said he didn’t see anyone in the area who could have started the fire, so he believed it was a spot fire caused by embers from the Terek Fire.
Nyberg denied starting either of the two smaller fires.
Brown said she was sleeping when Nyberg woke her and told her to turn on the water. She didn’t see anyone in the field who could have started the fires.
The next day, BLM Ranger Robert Lind was on the scene of the first smaller fire when he was approached by Nyberg on a bicycle. Lind asked Nyberg if he had any photos of the prior day’s fires, which Nyberg did, and he agreed to transfer photos to the ranger.
He repeated a similar story to Lind, that he and Brown returned home from a hike, she took a nap and he woke her when he noticed the fire in the area.
One week later, it was determined that the first fire was started on and burned 6 acres of BLM land, while the second fire was started on private property and spread to BLM land.
In May 2019, Nyberg was interviewed by police at his grandparents’ residence in Manderson. When confronted with evidence, he initially claimed he might have accidentally started the fires with a lit cigarette, but when pushed, he admitted to starting both fires with a lighter.