Dale Fox said he’s receiving death threats for a fire he didn’t start.
The 44-year-old man said he’s had to move his son and wife to an Idaho campground since the Tum Tum fire, which chewed through 1,155 acres in six days earlier this month.
“We had to leave our home,” Fox said. “We had death threats.”
The Department of Natural Resources, responsible for looking into the cause of wildfires, is still investigating the Tum Tum and Newkirk fires. The investigations could take months.
Both fires, which started Aug. 14 and cost more than $1.2 million to fight, were fanned by strong winds.
Criminal charges haven’t been filed in either blaze. Anyone responsible for a wildfire can be fined $171. If found negligent, the responsible person could have to pay the cost of fighting the fire.
A 26-year-old man has confessed to accidentally starting the 772-acre Newkirk fire with a blowtorch.
Tum Tum neighbors have pointed at Fox, who admits that the blaze started behind his home.
DNR investigator Bill Fisher said the blaze was started behind a home, by a person, apparently by outdoor burning. Several people have been questioned in the Tum Tum fire.
“The investigation is not complete,” Fisher said. “We have not named anybody yet.”
Fox said the fire started about an hour after he showed his 4.5 acres to a potential buyer. He said he had no insurance and was not burning anything outside on Aug. 14. He said he saw a mysterious brown van in the forest just before his son told him about the fire.
Fox said the blaze, rather than starting in a burn pit behind his home, started near a telephone pole in the trees. He said neighbors helped him fight the fire, but it quickly became too big.
He said firefighters took too long to respond to his family’s phone calls for help.
Fox said the DNR is trying to pin the blame on him.
“They’re just framing the poorest puppies on the corner, because that’s the way the system works,” he said.
Fisher said the department isn’t framing anyone.
“At this point, we’ve never said that Dale Fox has started the fire,” he said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.