Firearms to blame for several wildfires every year

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PAYSON, Ariz. -- Cigarettes, campfires, and lightning aren’t the only things that have been starting wildfires across the state of Arizona.

Guns also cause several fires every year, with the most recent incident taking place back in May.

“It’s kind of a continual frustration for us, some people are just going to do whatever they want to do,” said David Albo with the Tonto National Forest.

Mesa resident Steven Craig Shiflet, 23, is facing criminal charges for allegedly firing a shotgun while at a bachelor party on May 12.

Authorities allege that the incendiary shotgun shell that Shiflet fired into nearby brush led to the Sunflower Fire. The blaze wound up burning nearly 18,000 acres of the Tonto National Forest, and has cost approximately $6 million to fight.

But Shiflet isn’t the only person to start a wildfire in Arizona with a firearm. In 2010, seven fires were started by guns. That number increased to 10 in 2011, and already five fires have been blamed on firearms in 2012.

Arizona isn’t the only state that’s had to put out fires started by guns.

In 2012 alone, firearms have started 21 fires in Utah and nearly a dozen in Idaho.

“It is a big problem when we have a fire that goes from zero to 1,000 acres in the space of 12 hours like we did with the Sunflower Fire,” Albo added.