Cousins plead guilty of starting largest fire in Arizona history

Hannagan Meadow Lodge
The Wallow Fire burns near the Meadow Lodge as firefighters protect the historic structures on June 11, 2011. Photo by Chris Francis, U.S. Forest Service

Two cousins pleaded guilty Tuesday of accidentally starting the Wallow fire which became the largest fire in the recorded history Arizona. Caleb Malboeuf of Benson and David Malboeuf of Tucson were camping in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest last May and went for a hike. They said when they left, they thought their campfire was out since they did not see any flames or smoke. On their way back to the campsite they smelled and saw smoke in the area. Investigators found their possessions at the campsite where the fire started and their vehicle at a trailhead about two miles away.

The Wallow fire burned 538,000 acres, most of it in Arizona near Alpine, Nutrioso, and Springerville, but it also burned into New Mexico near Luna. It burned 32 homes and 4 cabins burned and forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people. The fire started on May 29 and was contained on July 8. Wildfire Today covered the fire extensively.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 20. Due to a plea agreement, they are facing up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine, but their attorney is arguing for probation instead of jail time.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.