PHOENIX - Two men have been charged in connection with causing the Wallow Fire that ended up burning more than 538,000 acres in Arizona and Western New Mexico.
Cousins David Wayne Malboeuf, 24, and Caleb Joshua Malboeuf, 26, are each charged with five counts related to the unattended campfire they started causing the Wallow Fire, which began on May 29.
The fire was fueled by dry and windy conditions, destroying a total of 32 residential structures, four commercial structures and 36 outbuildings. The fire surpassed the Rodeo-Chediski Fire to become the largest wildfire in Arizona's history.
Residents in Greer, Spingerville, Eager, Nutrioso, Alpine, Blue River and Sunrise were all evacuated over the course of the fire.
The total cost of battling the blaze was more than $79 million.
Both defendants face counts of causing timber to burn, leaving a fire unattended and un-extinguished, leaving a fire without completely extinguishing it, causing and failing to main control of a fire and building a campfire without removing all flammable material from around the campfire adequate to prevent its escape.
“Our national forests are among our most precious resources and we all have a responsibility to care for them when we visit,” stated U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke of the District of Arizona.“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.”
Investigators discovered the fire started from an unattended and un-extinguished campfire in the Bear Wallow area after the two men went on a hike.
The cousins weren't able to get back to their gear. Investigators found the gear at the campsite along with their two dogs they had left tied up. One of the dogs was dead.
If the two men are convicted, each offense carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail, a $5,000 fine or both.