Southern Arizona cousins accused of starting Wallow Fire

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- It was the most destructive wildfire in Arizona history.   It burned over a half million acres of Arizona forest.  It destroyed 32 homes and forced thousands to evacuate.

The federal government says it was all started by two cousins; one from Tucson and one from Benson.

The pair is 24-year-old David Malboeuf and 26-year-old Caleb Malboeuf.

They face the serious charges of starting the Wallow Fire.

David and Caleb Malboeuf told a U.S. Forest investigator they began a camping trip on May 28 of this year, one day before the devastating

Wallow wildfire began.

The two men stated they built a campfire for breakfast on the morning of the 29th.

After about three hours, the two planed a hike down to a canyon.  Before leaving, they thought the fire was out and to make sure they tossed in a candy wrapper.  It didn't melt so the two cousins left.

As David and Caleb returned from their hike, they recalled seeing and smelling smoke from near their camp site.

They tried to get closer to release their dogs, but the fire and smoke was too much, so they ran.

Investigators would later discover the camp site was the ignition source for the Wallow Fire.

Caleb's father John was home in Benson Wednesday but would not comment about the five counts his son and cousin face.

Governor Jan Brewer was in Springerville where the fire destroyed homes and businesses. She talked about the indictment of the two men.

"I hope that they get arraigned really soon and that again they are punished for their neglect of camping in our forest and burning up 500,000 acres," said Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

Mark Schnepf lost the family cabin in the Wallow Fire his family had owned it for some 70 years.

"I'm glad at least the people responsible have been found and they'll have an opportunity to tell their story and i kind of answer the charges that have been levied against them," said Schnepf.

Schnepf says he was very upset about losing his place.  Now he feels that someone needs to be held accountable for the wildfire.

"I understand that accidents happen, but you still have to hold people responsible for their actions," said Schnepf.

If found guilty, the two men could face more than two years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each offense.

The two cousins are expected to make there initial appearance at a federal court in Flagstaff on September 19.