Ariz. judge OKs $3.7M in restitution for wildfire

Associated Press Modified: November 8, 2012 at 6:46 pm •  Published: November 8, 2012
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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Two cousins who accidentally started the largest wildfire in Arizona history will have to pay more than $3.7 million in restitution to those whose homes were destroyed or suffered other losses, a federal judge said Thursday.

Attorneys for David and Caleb Malboeuf said it's unlikely their clients can pay the full amount in their lifetimes. They've asked U.S. Magistrate Mark Aspey to set the monthly payments for Caleb Malboeuf at $500 and $250 for David Malboeuf.

Aspey is expected to issue an order next week outlining the payment schedule that will give priority to those who had no insurance, followed by those who had some out-of-pocket costs and, lastly, the insurance companies themselves. Aspey rejected claims that were submitted after an August cutoff, were not supported by documentation or were unrelated to the fire.

The Malboeufs pleaded guilty to leaving a campfire unattended and failing to clear brush from around it. They served a weekend in jail and were ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and be on supervised probation for five years.

The Wallow Fire burned 840 square miles in Arizona and New Mexico for about a month last summer before it was fully contained. The U.S. Forest Service has agreed not to seek repayment for the $79 million it cost to fight it but could initiate a civil action as could any of the victims.

The Malboeufs' attorneys and prosecutor Patrick Schneider had agreed to about $3 million in claims ahead of Thursday's hearing, which the cousins didn't attend. The attorneys and Aspey then sifted through more than a dozen other claims, not all of which were approved. Among those that were, not everyone got what they were seeking.

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