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Updated Nov 8, 2012 - 6:06 pm

Arizona judge OKs $3.7M in restitution for Wallow fire

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Two cousins who accidentally started the largest
wildfire in Arizona history will have to pay more than $3.7 million in
restitution to those whose homes were destroyed or suffered other losses, a
federal judge said Thursday.

Attorneys for David and Caleb Malboeuf said it’s unlikely their clients can pay
the full amount in their lifetimes. They’ve asked U.S. Magistrate Mark Aspey to
set the monthly payments for Caleb Malboeuf at $500 and $250 for David Malboeuf.

Aspey is expected to issue an order next week outlining the payment schedule
that will give priority to those who had no insurance, followed by those who had
some out-of-pocket costs and, lastly, the insurance companies themselves. Aspey
rejected claims that were submitted after an August cutoff, were not supported
by documentation or were unrelated to the fire.

The Malboeufs pleaded guilty to leaving a campfire unattended and failing to
clear brush from around it. They served a weekend in jail and were ordered to
perform 200 hours of community service and be on supervised probation for five

The Wallow Fire burned 840 square miles in Arizona and New Mexico for about a
month last summer before it was fully contained. The U.S. Forest Service has
agreed not to seek repayment for the $79 million it cost to fight it but could
initiate a civil action as could any of the victims.

The Malboeufs’ attorneys and prosecutor Patrick Schneider had agreed to about
$3 million in claims ahead of Thursday’s hearing, which the cousins didn’t
attend. The attorneys and Aspey then sifted through more than a dozen other
claims, not all of which were approved. Among those that were, not everyone got
what they were seeking.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe, for example, won’t get any of the more than $78,0
it claimed for loss of timber and permit sales. Aspey determined some of those
losses were due to flooding and were not fully supported. One woman’s claim for
more than $15,000 to remove dead and burned trees and other debris got reduced
to about $417. One couple withdrew their $7,000 claim after realizing that
others needed restitution much more than they did, Schneider said.

The bulk of the restitution money _ nearly $3.4 million _ will go to insurance
companies. The claims for those without insurance totaled more than $332,000,
while those who incurred costs above what their insurance covered came out to

Defense attorneys said the Malboeufs don’t have much but they would pay
whatever the court ordered them to. David Malboeuf works for the state prison
system but is planning to quit soon to go back to school, his attorney, Stephen
Glazer said. Caleb Malboeuf owns a construction business.

“If there’s potential for taking care of some of the uninsured losses by his
labor, sweat and materials, I think he’ll be able to do that,” said his
attorney, David Derickson.

Schneider said the victims identified in the criminal case aren’t clamoring for
money and no one expects that they will receive their share overnight.

“They recognize at the end of the day there’s no loss of life, and property,
as precious as it is, still doesn’t trump life,” he said.


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