Photo by Andy Towle.
A Mesa man has been charged with starting the Sunflower Fire south of Payson inadvertently during a bachelor party.
A shotgun shell Steven Craig Shiflet, 23, reportedly shot caught the brush on fire May 12 despite he and his friends’ efforts to squelch the flames.
Shiflet has been charged in a federal court on several counts, including firing ammunition and causing vegetation to burn on National Forest System lands.
Shiflet is scheduled to make an initial appearance in a Phoenix courtroom on July 13.
A U.S. Forest Service led investigation found that Shiflet and four of his friends traveled to Sycamore Creek for a campout and bachelor party.
The group had been shooting at targets for approximately two hours on the morning of May 12 when Shiflet loaded a shotgun shell into a shotgun and fired it.
Shortly after Shiflet fired the shot, smoke appeared in the brush.
Despite their attempts, the men were unable to extinguish the fire.
The fire has now burned nearly 18,000 acres.
A conviction for each of the charges carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both.