Federal prosecutors have recently filed charges alleging that a Wyoming man intentionally set two small wildfires as a major fire burned nearby in July 2018.

Big Horn County resident Brandon Kenneth Nyberg is charged with unlawfully causing a fire to be started and burn grass and brush on Bureau of Land Management Land. If convicted, he faces up to a year behind bars, one year of supervised release and five years of supervised probation.

Additionally, he faces up to $1,000 in fines.

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According to a complaint filed in federal court on Thursday, a BLM ranger was working the Terek Fire in Big Horn County when he was advised of a new fire near McDermott Butte and Wyoming Highway 31. While attempting to gain access to the new fire, the ranger was advised of yet another new fire that ignited off Highway 41.

When the ranger arrived near Nyberg's residence, he noted Nyberg and a woman with a water hose standing east of a barn and house.

According to the complaint, Nyberg told the ranger that he was watching the fire in the distance when he noticed it burning in a field near his grandparent's home. He said he did not see anyone in the area who could have started the fire and it must have been a spot fire from the much larger Terek Fire in the area.

According to the BLM, the Terek Fire was at 44,000 acres days after federal rangers began investigating Nyberg. 

On July 10, 2018, the complaint states, Nyberg approached a ranger on the scene of the McDermott Butte and Highway 31 fires. Nyberg reportedly told the ranger that he and the woman went for a hike on the butte the previous afternoon where he took photos of the Terek Fire.

Nyberg also allegedly told rangers that later that evening, he noticed the fires getting closer, so he woke the woman and told her to turn on the water.

The complaint goes on to state that a federal fire investigator determined that the McDermott Butte Fire started on and burned roughly six acres of BLM land, while the Highway 31 Fire started on private land and burned onto BLM lands.

The investigator also determined that both fires were human-caused and likely started by the application of open flame, such as a lighter.

In May 2019, rangers again met with Nyberg who reportedly told them that the McDermott Butte and Highway 31 fires may have been sparked by the Terek Fire or could have been started by a former friend of his.

"When asked to be honest about whether and how he started the fires on BLM lands, Nyberg initially claimed he thought he had accidentally caused the fires with his cigarette or by 'back burning,' that is, starting fires to protect his grandparents' property," a BLM agent writes in the complaint. "However, went confronted with the fact that the fire investigation did not corroborate either of those causes, Nyberg admitted to starting the fires with a lighter."

Nyberg has not had an opportunity to enter pleas to the charges.

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