Arizona native Steven Shiflet has been charged with igniting the Sunflower Fire after hosting a bachelor party and so far it has burned 17,500 acres.
Shiflet, 23, was charged June 22 on suspicion of carelessly or negligently placing an ignited substance with the potential of starting 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, according to the complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona.
The Sunflower Fire started on May 12 about 30 miles north of Mesa near Sunflower. It was 80 percent contained and growth potential remained low, according to fire officials.
According to the complaint, Shiflet and four friends traveled to Sycamore Creek in the Tonto National Forest for a campout and bachelor party on May 11, officials said.
The group had been shooting at targets on the morning of May 12 when Shiflet loaded an incendiary shotgun shell into a shotgun and fired it. Shortly after Shiflet fired, smoke appeared in the brush behind where the shot was fired, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The men were unable to put out the fire, officials said.
Officials believe the Sunflower Fire originated near the intersection of Forest Road 25 and Sycamore Creek.
Shiflet is scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in Phoenix on July 13.