3 Texans guilty in Grand Canyon wildfire case

3 Texans guilty in Grand Canyon wildfire case

2 October 2008

published by www.chron.com

USA — Three Texans accused of accidentally starting a 2,000-acre wildfire near the Grand Canyon in April have pleaded guilty to leaving a campfire unattended.

Daniel Alan Burroughs of Tatum, Michael Zachary Dunn of Allen, and Lindsey Jo McKinley of Gilmer pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count in U.S. District Court in Flagstaff on Wednesday. Dunn and McKinley are 24, Burroughs is 23.

Three other misdemeanor counts were dismissed as part of a plea deal.

They will be on probation for a year and have to do 100 hours of community service or complete and then teach a course on using wildlands without damage.

The trio were camping in the forest south of the Grand Canyon in late April and had an evening campfire. Burroughs told Magistrate Judge Mark E. Aspey that the fire appeared out when they left the following afternoon.

But high winds kicked up embers, triggering the blaze.

“We made the faulty assumption it was out,” Burroughs said in court. “The fire did appear to be out.”

Fire in northern Arizona’s dry climate can have serious consequences, Aspey told them.

“I think you’ve learned a hard lesson,” Aspey said. “A very hard lesson.”

Aspey said the government did not seek criminal fines, but could later sue the three for the nearly $500,000 cost to fight the fire.

Camille Bibles, the assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case, said she did not know if the office’s civil division would sue.

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