Wallow Fire Starters Ordered To Pay Victims $3.7 Million

Nov 9, 2012

A judge ordered the young men who started the largest wildfire in Arizona’s history to pay $3.7 million in restitution.

The Wallow Fire burned 840 square miles in Arizona and New Mexico.
Credit Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The Wallow Fire burned 840 square miles in Arizona and New Mexico.

Caleb Malboeuf and David Malboeuf, who are cousins, pleaded guilty to charges that they accidentally started the Wallow Fire the summer of 2011, when they left a smoldering campfire.

The judge said the uninsured will get paid first. They are owed about $300,000. Insurance companies made claims exceeding $3 million. Prosecutor Patrick Schneider said arriving at a dollar amount is difficult for the homeowners who experienced such great loss.

"I think it’s a real artificial process to assign dollar figures to people’s loss," Schneider said. "I mean, how do you value memories and vistas and retirement properties it’s really tough to assign a dollar amount."

David Derickson, Caleb Malboeuf’s attorney, said his client, a contractor, would be able to make $500 monthly payments.

"The chance of it being paid off in full are unlikely," Derickson said.

U.S. Magistrate Mark Aspey will lay out a monthly payment plan next week.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service has agreed not to seek repayment for the $79 million it cost to fight the fire, but could initiate a civil action. The San Carlos Apache Tribe, the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the state of Arizona will not receive restitution.