A 57-year-old man arrested Sunday in connection to the Pipeline Fire admitted he burned toilet paper and put it under a rock in the area the wildfire was reported burning at the Coconino National Forest, according to court documents.
The Pipeline Fire burning six miles north of Flagstaff was reported Sunday morning and was about 5,000 acres as of noon on Monday. It was described burning brush and trees in the area of NFSR 9002 and NFS trail 433.
Court documents state a deputy from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office stopped Matthew Riser who was seen driving “rapidly” away from the wildfire in a white pickup truck. Riser told the deputy he was camping in the area and saw the fire.
He said he burned the toilet paper he had used at noon Saturday— the day before the wildfire was reported— but didn’t think it would “smolder all night,” according to court documents. He also said he hadn’t seen the “no campfires” signs.
“Riser said he saw a ‘200 ft. by 200 ft. fire, everything was on fire including pine trees,'” court documents state.
‘Ready, Set, Go’: Here’s what to know when natural disasters loom in Arizona
When officials from the U.S. Forest Service spoke with Riser, he admitted he had ignited the toilet paper and placed it under a rock Saturday, and that he tried to put out the fire with his sleeping bag. His camp was 80 yards from where the fire started, according to court documents.
Officials searched the pickup truck with Riser’s consent and found a white lighter similar the one he described using to burn his toilet paper. Court documents state he also showed them where he had burned his toilet paper near his camp.
Riser said he had been camping there for two days on NFSR 9002 and saw the “no campfire” sign when he drove out, according to court documents. Officials said information on fire restrictions can be found on roads, ranger stations, local news media and the U.S. Forest Service website.
Rise was booked into the Coconino County Sheriff’s Detention Facility for suspicion of violating the U.S. Forest Service order of stage 2 fire restrictions at the Coconino National Forest, documents show.
Wildfire map: Track where fires are burning in Arizona in 2022
Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire, including charcoal, coal and briquettes is prohibited in the forest per the order. Smoking isn’t allowed except in a vehicle, inside a building or within a developed recreation site. Operating any torch with an open flame is also prohibited.
The order was issued on May 26th and will be in effect until August 31 or until it is rescinded.
A violation of it is punishable as a class B misdemeanor by a fine of $5,000 or less for a person or $10,000 for an organization, or with not more than six months of prison time. According to the order it could also be punishable with both the imprisonment and the fine.
Court documents show Riser was arrested in suspicion of building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire, including charcoal, coal and briquettes; occupying or using a residence on forest service lands and possessing a controlled substance.
His initial appearance at a Flagstaff Courthouse was scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. The Arizona Daily Sun reported his defense attorney said there was “zero evidence” Riser was living in the forest or that he responsible for the fire as it is a heavily trafficked area.
The attorney said Riser was traveling in a camper after staying with a friend in Benson, the Arizona Daily Sun wrote. He also said Riser is a retired welder and was honorably discharged from the military.
Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.