Cousins receive 2 days in jail for Wallow Fire


by The Associated Press & Jared Dillingham

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Posted on August 22, 2012 at 9:35 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 22 at 9:40 PM

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.--- Two cousins who admitted starting the largest wildfire in Arizona history have been sentenced to 48 hours in jail and 200 hours of community service.
Caleb and David Malboeuf appeared before a federal magistrate judge Wednesday in Flagstaff. They had faced up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. The two pleaded guilty in March to misdemeanor charges of building a campfire without clearing flammable material and leaving it unattended.
Their campfire in Eastern Arizona's Apache Sitgreaves National Forest spread while they were out hiking.  They thought it was completely out, and say a wrapper they threw into the coals failed to melt.

The Wallow Fire burned more than 538,000 acres in Arizona and parts of western New Mexico before it was contained.   Thirty-two homes and cabins were destroyed.  Fire-fighting efforts cost nearly $80 million.

The Malboeuf cousins, through their attorney, say they plan to spend more than their assigned 200 community service hours working in the forest, to rebuild the damage done.

"These folks will never do something stupid again.  But the judge is sending a message to other people, that you can't start a fire without ensuring it's out," said defense attorney David Derickson after court.

Prosecutors called the 2-day jail sentence "fair."

"We have two defendants who are extremely remorseful, who have skills and want to do community service," said Assistant US Attorney Patrick Schneider.

The Malboeufs received much lighter sentences than the one given to the man who started part of the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire a decade ago.

Leonard Gregg, a firefighter, started that fire on purpose.   He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and ordered to pay millions in restitution.

The judge says the major difference is, the Wallow Fire was a mistake.