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CAMP OPERATOR AND CLIENT BILLED $2.8 MILLION FOR YELLOWSTONE FIRE

A camp operator and a client have been billed $2.78 million for the cost of fighting a fire that spread to Yellowstone National Park last summer.

Investigators concluded the fire was started Aug. 15 by sparks from a stove in the outfitting camp of Vernon Smith. A client, Todd Wilkof of Canton, Ohio, told investigators he had used the stove in his tent that morning.The blaze began in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and burned 52,600 acres in the Gallatin National Forest and 29,300 acres in Yellowstone.

The firefighting bill could total $4.5 million once all costs are tallied, Gallatin National Forest spokesman Jim Sanders said Monday.

Sanders said the Forest Service does not plan to ask that any criminal charges be filed. He said the bills were mailed to Smith and Wilkof last week.

After the fire, Smith's temporary outfitter and guide permit was suspended.

Smith has denied responsibility for the fire.