Mesa man accused of starting Sunflower Fire south of Payson

PAYSON, AZ - A Mesa man is facing six months in prison and a $5,000 fine for his role in starting the Sunflower Fire which  charred nearly 18,000 acres of Arizona land.

SEE PHOTOS OF THE FIRE

Authorities said Steven Craig Shiflet, 23, from Mesa, and four of his friends were in the Sycamore Creek area for a campout and bachelor party on May 11, 2012.

The group had been shooting at targets when Shiflet loaded a shell into his shotgun and fired it. Shortly after Shiflet fired the shot, smoke appeared in the brush just behind where the shot was fired.

According to court documents, the type of shell used is able to create a 100-foot flame.

The men told police, despite their best attempts, they were unable to extinguish the fire. 

Shiflet was charged with carelessly or negligently placing an ignited substance that may cause a fire on National Forest System lands, firing incendiary ammunition on National Forest System lands, and causing timber, trees, slash, brush, or grass to burn on National Forest System lands.

The Sunflower Fire started May 12, 2012. The fire was located about 21 miles south of Payson.

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