The United States Department of Justice announced today that two men have been charged in connection with starting the Wallow fire, the behemoth blaze that destroyed a large portion of the Apache National Forest earlier this year.
According to the DOJ, the two suspects, Caleb Joshua Malboeuf, 26, and David Wayne Malboeuf, 24, who are cousins, started a campfire on May 29, while camping near the Bear Wallow Trailhead. They then went on a hike but didn't extinguish the fire.
While on their hike, the two men saw smoke coming from their campsite. They ran back to retrieve their supplies, but the flames and smoke were too much, and they were forced to leave the area.
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The fire burned for weeks and spread over 538,000 acres, destroying 32 homes, four businesses, and 36 other buildings. The blaze cost more than $79 million to extinguish.
"Our national forests are among our most precious resources and we all have a responsibility to care for them when we visit," U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke says in a statement issued by the DOJ. "This devastating fire destroyed pristine national forest, scenic wilderness, and numerous nearby homes and cabins. Its cost for future generations goes well beyond the resources used to fight it."
The Malboeufs have each been hit with five charges -- one count each of causing timber to burn, leaving a fire unattended and unextinguished, leaving a fire without completely extinguishing It, causing and failing to maintain control of a fire, and building a campfire without removing all flammable material from around the campfire adequate to prevent its escape.
If convicted, the two men face a maximum sentence of six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine for each count.