Sunflower Fire traced to bachelor party funPosted: Updated:
Arizona's 18,000-acre Sunflower Fire started when a Mesa man loaded a fire-producing shell into a shotgun and fired it during a bachelor party outing in May, according to a complaint filed in federal district court.
Steven Shiflet, 23, faces three charges in connection with the May 12 incident in the Sycamore Creek area. Each charge carries a maximum of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Shiflet and four of his friends traveled there from Mesa for a camping trip and bachelor party on May 11, the complaint stated. The group had numerous guns and were shooting at various targets for about two hours on the morning of May 12, according to the complaint.
Shiflet then loaded a shell into a shotgun and fired it at a soda box, the complaint said. Shiflet said he believed the round would shoot out flame or act like a flare gun, according to prosecutors.
Smoke appeared in the brush just behind where the shot was fired and Shiflet and his friends were unable to stomp it out, according to the complaint. Investigators said the Sunflower Fire started near the intersection of Forest Road 25 and Sycamore Creek.
According to the complaint, Shiflet called 911 from his cell phone at 10:18 a.m. and reported the fire. He voluntarily surrendered the guns.
Shiflet also handed over a shotgun shell and said it was the exact same type of round that he had fired just seconds prior to the start of the fire. The warning on the packing reads, "Shoots 100 feet of fire, setting everything in its path ablaze. Warning: Extreme FIRE HAZARD," according to the complaint.
Shiflet is scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in Phoenix on July 13.
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