SARATOGA SPRINGS — A target shooter who allegedly started a 225-acre wildfire in Saratoga Springs last summer was charged Wednesday with causing a catastrophe.
Brian Eliot Sampson, 21, of Layton, is charged with the second-degree felony in 4th District Court. In addition to causing a catastrophe, he is also charged with obstructing justice, a class A misdemeanor; possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony; drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia, both class B misdemeanors.
On June 11, 2017, Sampson and a friend were target shooting when "at least one of the rounds started a fire" at the base of Little Mountain, according to charging documents. Sampson told investigators that he tried to drive to the fire to put it out, but his tire blew out.
More than 80 firefighters were used to bring the blaze under control. Although no structures were burned, Saratoga Springs Fire Chief Jess Campbell said at the time, (Fires) are extremely expensive to combat and it's quite a burden on all the taxpayers, not to mention the safety and dangers to people's property and firefighters' lives."
Firefighters had to take quick action to cut off the fire before it reached a warehouse for Dyno Nobel, an explosives manufacturer.
Sampson's friends called 911 to report the fire, "but did not say how the fire started or that they had anything to do with it," according to the charges. Furthermore, when an officer spotted Sampson changing his tire, he "was wearing a pair of shooting ear muffs around his neck but denied he had been shooting."
Police determined that Sampson "shot tracer rounds through an AR-15" and that "at least one of the rounds started a fire," the charges say.
Tracer rounds have an incendiary effect to make their trajectory visible when fired.
Sampson also admitted using marijuana earlier that evening and had more of it in his backpack, according to charging documents.