The bachelor party reveller, 23, accused of starting massive 18,000-acre Arizona wildfire, Federal authorities investigating a devastating wildfire that has singled nearly 18,000 acres of Arizona have traced the inferno to a bachelor party celebration gone wrong.
A Mesa man has been charged with starting a wildfire that burned nearly 18,000 acres after the blaze started on May 12.
Federal prosecutors said Steven Craig Shiflet, 23, was target shooting with a group of friends as part of a bachelor party when he fired a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with a flame-shooting shell.
Federal documents obtained by TheSmokingGun.com said the five revelers at the bachelor party all told similar stories, with Shiflet admitting that he sparked the fire with the shot.
Shiflet, of Mesa, admitted during an interview with investigators that shortly after firing the shot at a soda box, the group noticed smoke.
The group tried to stomp out the fire but could not put out the flames, so they called 911 - and a police dispatcher told them to get away from the area.
The group was identified by the licence plate of a car the group was seen fleeing in, a white GMC Yukon.
During the interview with investigators on May 19, Shiflet handed over all of the guns he said were being used on May 11, including the Remington shotgun that he believed fired the 'incendiary' shell. He also turned over a Fiocchi 12-gauge shotgun shell that he claimed was identical to the one that sparked the fire.
According to the report, a warning label on the ammunition read: 'Shoots 100 feet of fire, setting everything in its path ablaze. Warning: Extreme FIRE HAZARD.'
He also led authorities to the place where he believed he shot the round, which was in the same area that fire investigation officials had identified as the location where the fire started.
Shiflet faces three charges, each of which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine if he is convicted.
The Smoking Gun reported that Shiflet was indicted on May 22, and will appear in court on July 13.
The Sunflower Fire in the Tonto National Forest hasn't been active in weeks but remains 80 per cent contained.
It was the largest of the state’s 2012 wildfire season, and has burned nearly 18,000 acres in the Tonto Forest.
The Arizona Republic reported that authorities don’t expect the blaze to be fully contained until the state’s first monsoon storm.