Mesa man accused of igniting Sunflower Fire - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Mesa man accused of igniting Sunflower Fire

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PHOENIX -

A Mesa man is facing federal charges, accused of starting the Sunflower Fire near Payson during a bachelor party.

It wasn't a campfire or smoking that sparked the blaze.

It was actually a round fired from a 12 gauge shotgun -- a round that acts like a flare and promises to shoot 100 feet fire.

Steven Craig Shiflet is accused of firing that gun and starting the wildfire while at a bachelor party.

The Sunflower Fire has already scorched 17,000 acres is still not fully contained. It all started back on May 19. Five Mesa men were camping in the area for a bachelor party and that morning began shooting.

The smokinggun.com first reported the story and identifies Steven Craig Shiflet as the shooter. According to the criminal complaint, "Craig said that he fired an orange shotgun round, which he believed would shoot out flame or act like a flare gun, at a soda box, which was in the middle of a cleared area, and shortly after noticed smoke coming from a bush downrange."

The group attempted to put the fire out but it grew to fast and a 911 operator told them to leave the area. A witness was able to give authorities the license plate to the GMC Yukon and from there, investigators tracked down the bachelor party.

Everyone involved cooperated, and the alleged shooter even provided the incendiary shotgun rounds.

According to the complaint, the box is clearly labeled "extreme fire hazard."

On June 22, Shiflet was named in a three-count misdemeanor criminal complaint accusing him of causing the Sunflower Fire. He was served with a federal summons last week, and is scheduled to appear in district court on July 13.

A Tonto National Forest spokesperson estimated that fire suppression efforts have so far cost $6 million.

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