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PHOENIX -- A Mesa man who fired a shotgun into the forest, sparking a nearly 18,000-acre wildfire, has pleaded guilty to a pair of federal charges.

Steven Craig Shiflet entered the plea Monday in Phoenix. He faces up to a year in jail and $10,000 in fines for pointing the shotgun loaded with a flame-throwing shell at a soda box and igniting the brush. It turned into the Sunflower Fire.

A third charge was dropped as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

Sentencing is set for Feb. 26.

Shiflet had been target shooting with a group of friends near Payson in May. He told investigators he called 911 from his cellphone to report the fire and was told to leave the area. Investigators later tracked down the group through a license plate on their vehicle.

Associated Press,

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