Wallow Fire Starters Get Two Days in Jail
August 23, 2012

Courtesy of the USFS
The Wallow Fire burned 538,000 acres in Arizona and parts of Western New Mexico in late spring of 2011.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Two cousins who admitted starting the largest wildfire in Arizona’s history were sentenced Wednesday to 48 hours in jail, five years probation and 200 hours of community service. The U.S. Magistrate decided not to fine them, saying all payments should be made in restitution to victims who lost their homes.

Caleb and David Malboeuf pleaded guilty in March to misdemeanor charges of building a campfire without clearing flammable material and leaving it unattended.

Both young men tearfully told the judge how remorseful they were having spent much of their lives camping in the forest. The judge said he wanted the sentences to serve as a deterrent to others.

Prosecutor Patrick Schneider says he thought the sentences were fair.

"In their lifetimes, our lifetimes the forest will never be the same," Schneider said. "But at the same time the court recognized these defendants are good people. They didn’t intend to start this fire and no one feels worse about it than they do."

The Malboeuf cousins were camping in eastern Arizona's Apache Sitgreaves National Forest in May of 2011 when their campfire spread outside its ring, sparking the Wallow Fire. The men told investigators they thought they had put out their campfire before going on a hike.

"These folks aren’t ever going to do anything stupid again," said David Derickson, Caleb Malboeuf's attorney. "But other people have to get the message that they can’t start a campfire without assuring it’s out."

The blaze burned more than 538,000 acres in Arizona and parts of western New Mexico. The Wallow Fire destroyed more than 30 homes and forced thousands of people to evacuate. It cost more than $79 million to suppress.

Prosecutors have tried to contact nearly 60 victims that could be entitled to restitution in the case. The state of Arizona and two tribes could still file claims. A restitution hearing was set for Oct. 15.