Men who started Wallow Fire get jail time, community service
Two cousins who started Arizona's largest wildfire were sentenced Wednesday to 48 hours in jail and community service.
Caleb and David Malboeuf were camping in eastern Arizona's Apache Sitgreaves National Forest in May 2011 when their campfire spread outside its rings, sparking the Wallow Fire. The blaze burned more than 538,000 acres in Arizona and parts of western New Mexico before it was fully contained.
The cousins pleaded guilty in March to misdemeanor charges of building a campfire without clearing flammable material and leaving it unattended.
The fire destroyed 32 homes and four rental cabins, and at one point, nearly 10,000 people were forced to evacuate.
The U.S. Forest Service agreed not to seek repayment of the $79 million it cost to fight the blaze through the criminal case but could initiate a civil action. Prosecutors in Greenlee and Apache counties also agreed not to file state charges against the Malboeufs.
Prosecutors said the men offered consistent accounts and have cooperated with authorities.
The Malboeufs told Aspey earlier this year that they believed the campfire was out because they did not see any flames or smoke rising from it hours after it was lit to cook breakfast, and a candy wrapper one of them threw into the fire didn't melt. But they conceded that they had not stirred the coals or felt them to ensure it was properly extinguished before they went for a hike.
"They believed that there was no need to douse the fire with water because they believed the fire to be out," said David Malboeuf's attorney, Stephen Glazer. "They were wrong in their belief."
The Malboeufs smelled and saw smoke near the campsite on their way back from the hike.