Lost Arizona hiker found guilty of starting 3 forest fires in 2018

By Michel Marizco
Published: Monday, February 13, 2023 - 3:34pm
Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2023 - 9:57pm

A Tempe man was found guilty Monday of starting three separate forest fires in northern Arizona in 2018. 

Philip Powers set out to hike about 18 miles in the Coconino and Prescott national forests in 2018 when he got lost.

He didn’t have enough water and started three different fires in hopes of signaling for help.

The federal judge noted one of those, the Sycamore Fire, burned 230 acres and endangered a watershed near Flagstaff that could have led to flooding. 

Sycamore Fire
Coconino National Forest
The Sycamore Fire burned 230 acres of wilderness west of Sycamore Canyon in the Prescott National Forest.

The Forest Service spent nearly $300,000 fighting that fire. 

Powers argued he only started the fires to save his life. The judge said he created his own emergency by not being prepared. 

The judge said Powers was reckless in preparing for his hike. He didn’t have enough water, food, first aid or GPS. 

"Had Powers engaged in adequate preparation in planning and carried adequate water, food and gear, he would not have found himself in his circumstances. Thus, the court finds that Powers necessity defense fails as he created the conditions necessitating the commission of the fires, and his subsequent rescue," Judge Camille Bibles wrote.

Powers faced 3.5 years in prison for seven misdemeanors. On Tuesday, the judge sentenced him to seven concurrent one-year probation periods instead. He also owes the Forest Service more than $293,000 in restitution, which he will pay back in $200 monthly payments.

In addition, the judge ordered Powers to complete a hiking safety course. 

FronterasLaw Enforcement Wildfires