The Pipeline Fire has burned over 5,000 acres and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate.
A raging Arizona wildfire that has torched thousands of acres and prompted hundreds of residents to evacuate was allegedly ignited after a camper unsuccessfully tried to burn his “shit paper,” prosecutors revealed on Monday.
Matthew Riser, 57, is facing several charges after allegedly starting the Pipeline Fire just six miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona on Sunday. Officials say the Pipeline Fire, which has burned over 5,000 acres, has tripled in size in the last day and is zero percent contained. Smoke has drifted as far as Illinois but the blaze has not destroyed any homes or structures. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Monday authorized the state’s request to use federal funds to fight the fire.
But according to new details in a probable cause affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast, Riser admitted starting the fire after using a white BIC lighter “with a long tip” to burn his “shit paper” before placing it under a rock near his campsite at around noon on Saturday. Riser, who is originally from Louisiana and described himself as a homeless traveler staying in the Coconino National Forest, added that he “tried to put out the fire with his sleeping bag and his camp was 80 yards from where the fire started.”
Soon, “Riser said he saw a ‘200 ft by 200 ft fire, everything was on fire including the pine trees,” the affidavit filed by the Flagstaff U.S. Attorney's Office said. He said that he didn’t believe the lit paper “would smolder all night” and he did not notice the “no campfire” signs at the grounds.
“Riser showed [a deputy sergeant] the location where he defecated and burnt his toilet paper near his campsite,” the affidavit added, noting that the officer “located Riser's pile of human feces under the rock he described.”
Authorities believe that Riser’s attempt to dispose of his toilet paper sparked a blaze that quickly became the Pipeline Fire, which was reported around 10:15 a.m. Sunday by a fire lookout. About 15 minutes later, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a white pickup truck with a camper shell seen quickly driving away from the area of the fire. The probable cause affidavit notes that Riser was driving a car matching that description and quickly admitted his role in the blaze after a deputy sergeant pulled him over.
The affidavit notes that the BIC light was found in the car’s center console alongside a “black container of green leafy marijuana.” Riser is facing several charges—including building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, possession of marijuana, and occupying or using a residence on forest service lands. He appeared before a federal magistrate Monday morning in Flagstaff, where his defense lawyer claimed that there is “zero evidence” Riser was responsible for the fire, noting that the area was frequented by many other travelers. Riser remains in custody.
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