Cousins Accused Of Starting Arizona's Wallow Fire
Two cousins have been charged with sparking the Wallow Fire that burned more than 538,000 acres in Arizona and New Mexico.
Caleb Joshua Malboeuf, 26, of Benson, Ariz., and David Wayne Malboeuf, 24, of Tucson, Ariz., were charged in connection with the Wallow Fire, which started May 29, 2011, in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest.
The blaze destroyed 32 residences, four commercial structures and 36 outbuildings. It cost more than $79,000,000 to extinguish the flames, which were fueled by dry brush and high winds.
“Our national forests are among our most precious resources and we all have a responsibility to care for them when we visit,” said Dennis K. Burke, U.S. Attorney for Arizona, in a statement.
“This devastating fire destroyed pristine national forest, scenic wilderness, and numerous nearby homes and cabins. Its cost for future generations goes well beyond the resources used to fight it,” Burke said.
On the morning of May 29th, the pair went for a hike in the Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests. According to the criminal complaint, the two men left behind a campfire they thought had burned out. They left their two dogs tied up at the site.
The campers told investigators that when they returned after a few hours, they spotted the smoke and fire.
They tried to their return to the campsite to free the two dogs, but were unable to because of the flames and heat, according to court records. Instead, they ran from the area and hiked out the next day.
Investigators said the two campers made no effort to clear away flammable materials from around the camp site to prevent the fire from escaping.
The men face five criminal counts. If convicted, each count carries a penalty of six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.