Updated Jul 2, 2012 - 5:56 pm
Bachelor party allegedly sparked Sunflower Fire
The Sunflower Fire, which has burned nearly 18,000 acres of Arizona forest, was allegedly started by a bachelor party firing guns.
Steven Craig Shiflet, 23, from Mesa, Ariz., has been charged by a complaint in federal district court that a shotgun shell fired by him sparked the fire.
"He and four of his friends had traveled from Mesa to the Sycamore Creek area for a camp out and bachelor party on May 11 of this year," said Bill Solomon with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
According to a press release from the Forest Service, Shiflet and four friends were firing at targets on May 12 when Shiflet loaded an incendiary shotgun shell and fired it. Shortly after, the group of men saw smoke behind the area they were firing at.
The packaging of the shotgun shell warned of an extreme fire hazard, saying flames would shoot 100 feet and burn everything in their path.
The men attempted to extinguish the flames.
Shiflet told investigators he called 911 from his cellphone to report the fire and was told to leave the area.
Investigators tracked down the group through a license plate number on their vehicle. The five men in the group, who were out camping for a bachelor party, told nearly identical stories, authorities said.
Shiflet faces three charges, each of which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine if he's convicted. There was no answer at potential phone listings for him and he did not have an attorney listed with the federal court.
The Associated Press and KTAR's Martha Maurer contributed to this report.