Cousins who started Wallow Fire to pay back $3.7 million - | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Cousins who started Wallow Fire to pay back $3.7 million

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It's the largest wildfire in state history. The Wallow Fire burned 840 square miles in eastern Arizona and New Mexico. That's roughly the size of Phoenix and Tucson combined.

But it wasn't just the size of the Wallow Fire that made it so devastating. More than 60 buildings -- half of them homes -- were destroyed.

The fire was sparked by a campfire that wasn't fully extinguished -- a mistake that a pair of cousins will now pay for for the rest of their lives.

The cousins that started the fire, Caleb and David Malboeuf, have been ordered to pay back $3.7 million. The total cost to fight the Wallow Fire was $79 million.

For Caleb that means paying $500 a month for the rest of his life. David will have to pay $250 a month until 2016, when the payments increase to $500.

These two cousins grew up with knowledge of the wilderness. They were expert campers. But a momentary lapse led to a gigantic fire that will haunt them as long as they live.

"This was not an intentional and reckless act, it was just a real personal disaster based on some pretty tough individual circumstances," says David Derickson, attorney for Caleb Malboeuf.

The inferno began after the Malboeufs started a campfire to heat water to make some oatmeal. They failed to put the fire out completely. The winds kicked up.

The flames devoured 538,000 acres of forest and narrowly missed -- by two miles -- the famous Hannagan Meadow Lodge.

"Because of the wind, it was fifty mile an hour wind, so we had embers out three miles ahead of the fire, blowing out into the meadow," says Larry Innes, owner of Hannagan Meadow Lodge.

The restitution payments begin January 15th. The bottom line: if you light a campfire, put it out completely.

"It just goes to show how one small careless act can lead to huge devastating consequences for a lot of folks involved," says David Albo of Tonto National Forest.

The Malbouef cousins also had to spend two days in jail and were given community service for touching off the Wallow Fire.

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