FLAGSTAFF — Two cousins who admitted starting the largest wildfire in Arizona history were sentenced Wednesday to spend a weekend in jail and perform 200 hours of community service.
Caleb Malboeuf of Benson and David Malboeuf of Tucson also will each be on supervised probation for five years. The Malboeufs were camping in eastern Arizona’s Apache Sitgreaves National Forest in May 2011 when their campfire spread outside its rings, sparking the Wallow Fire. The blaze burned more than 538,000 acres, or about 840 square miles, in Arizona and parts of western New Mexico before it was contained.
The cousins pleaded guilty in March to misdemeanor charges of building a campfire without clearing flammable material and leaving it unattended.
The fire destroyed 32 homes and four rental cabins, and at one point, nearly 10,000 people were forced to evacuate.
Prosecutors had reached out to nearly 60 people who could be entitled to restitution in the case, but none of them testified in court Wednesday on the extent of their losses. Court documents show that one woman suggested forming a panel so that victims could confront the Malboeufs on their actions. A restitution hearing is set for Oct. 15.
The jail time can be served on a weekend, but must be served before the restitution hearing, said U.S. Magistrate Mark Aspey.
Aspey said the sentence should send the message that “if you’re going to camp in the forest, you bring your 5 gallons of water, you bring your shovel, and by golly, you put that fire out.”
The Malboeufs have agreed to surrender on Aug. 31 to serve their 48 hour sentence. Aspey recommended that they serve their time in Coconino County Jail in Flagstaff, at their request. The community service must be done at a minimum pace of 10 hours per month.
David Malboeuf took the blame for lighting the campfire, saying he thought that he had taken necessary precautions to put out the blaze, “I realize I was wrong. I recognize my mistake”