2 Charged With Biggest-Ever Arizona Wildfire

Pair accused of leaving campfire when hiking
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2011 2:40 AM CDT
Updated Aug 25, 2011 4:45 AM CDT
Arizona Cousins Caleb, David Malbouef Charged With Starting Wallow Wildfire
In this June 9, 2011 photo, smoke from the Wallow Fire fills the sky over tents where firefighters are sleeping at an incident command center in Eagar, Ariz.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

(Newser) – Two Arizona cousins who allegedly left a campfire unattended have been charged with starting the biggest wildfire in the state's history. The Wallow fire, which burned more than 800 square miles of wilderness in June, began after Caleb and David Wayne Malboeuf left their fire—which they believed to be extinguished—to go hiking, according to a federal complaint. The fire quickly spread in high winds after smoldering out of a containment ring. It destroyed dozens of homes and cost $79 million to fight.

The cousins "stated that they believed their campfire was out because David threw a candy wrapper in the fire just prior to their departure and it did not melt," a US Forest service special agent said in an affidavit. The pair face five misdemeanor charges, each of which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both, the Tucson Sentinel reports. Sen. John McCain sparked controversy when he said "there is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally" after a visit to the Wallow fire site, Reuters notes. (Read more Wallow Fire stories.)

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