As firefighters continue to battle the Wallow fire in eastern Arizona, the starter of half of the monstrous 2002 Rodeo-Chedeski fire is scheduled to be released from prison tomorrow.
Leonard Gregg, an Apache who lived in Cibecue, admitted he'd started two fires -- Rodeo and Pine. The former wildland firefighter did it for the money; he'd hoped to work on the conflagrations.
Valinda Jo Elliot, who started the Chediski fire to signal a helicopter while "lost" in the high country, never was charged.
The Rodeo and Chediski fires eventually merged, becoming the largest wildfires in Arizona history -- until that grim record was surpassed this week by the Wallow fire.
Both Elliot and Gregg were sued for their roles in the fires. Gregg was ordered to pay $27.9 million in restitution, which he'll obviously never be able to do. The civil case against Elliott was stalled over issues of jurisdiction.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Gregg, who was 29 when he was indicted, reportedly suffers from brain damage from his mother's alcohol abuse.
Because he supposedly was "fascinated by wildfires" as a kid and grew up to be one of the state's most notorious firebugs, we're wondering if his release can't be stalled a few weeks, until after the coming of monsoon rains and the end of fire season.