Man reportedly burned toilet paper and caused a wildfire in this Arizona city spanning over 20,000 acres
A man camping in the Coconino National Forest allegedly caused a wildfire that burned over 20,000 acres
A wildfire in Flagstaff, Arizona, has destroyed more than 20,000 acres, leading to hundreds of evacuations. Authorities arrested a Louisiana man on Sunday in connection with the fire, which is being called the Pipeline Fire.
Matthew Riser, 57, ignited toilet paper with a Bic lighter at a campsite in the Coconino National Forest, per Newsweek. He reportedly admitted to seeing the “No Campfire” signs.
Soon after, he saw a fire flicker turning into “a 200-foot by 200-foot” beast, according to WAFB 9. He tried to flee from the scene in his pickup truck.
Riser said he tried putting out the fire with his sleeping bag. He was homeless and had been camping in the forest for two days and his tent was 80 yards away from where the fire started, per AZ Central.
Authorities said that he also had marijuana in his truck, which is illegal on federal land, though legal in Arizona. The toilet paper was later found in the center console of the vehicle.
Per the report, he was arrested for allegedly violating the stage 2 restrictions at the Coconino National Forest, which were placed by the Forest Service on May 26 and prohibit building, painting or using any fire in the forest.
A person can be fined $5,000 or incur six months of prison time for violating the restrictions, or both.
The Pipeline Fire is 31% contained. According to KNOE 8 News, the latest report said that critical fire weather conditions are persistent due to the extremely dry conditions and high temperatures.
Aircraft are dropping water and retardants in order to suppress the fire while crews are trying to keep it away from communities.
“Current resources on the Pipeline Fire include 561 personnel composed of 12 Hotshot crews and 7 hand crews, 54 engines, 9 water tenders and two dozers,” the report said.
The National Park Service estimates that 85% of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by humans — “campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson.”