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Ariz. Fire-Starter Suspect Arrested

June 30, 2002

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SHOW LOW, Ariz. (AP) _ A man was arrested Saturday night for allegedly causing the first of two wildfires that merged into the blaze that destroyed more than 400 homes in eastern Arizona, an official said.

Pete Pierce, a spokesman for the agencies investigating the cause of the largest wildfire ever in Arizona, didn’t release the man’s name or any details about the circumstances that led to his arrest.

Pierce said the man was to be arraigned Sunday morning before a federal magistrate in Flagstaff.

The Arizona Republic, citing a federal source it didn’t identify, reported on its Web site that the man is a Bureau of Indian Affairs firefighter.

Ben Nuvamsa, BIA supintendent on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, said he could not comment on the report because he did not have details of the arrest.

The man was accused of causing the Rodeo fire, which broke out June 18 just north of the reservation town of Cibecue. The fire exploded up steep terrain, threatened the small city of Show Low and overran two towns just to the west.

That fire then merged with another started by a lost hiker signaling a helicopter, forming a mammoth blaze that had burned 452,000 acres by Saturday. In all, at least 423 homes had been destroyed.

Paul K. Charlton, U.S. attorney for Arizona, was to hold a news conference on the arrest Sunday morning, Pierce said.

Phones rang unanswered late Saturday night at the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix.

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