SALMON, Idaho (AP) - U.S. Forest Service officials have charged
each of the four campers accused of building a campfire and leaving
it unattended during last summer's fire restrictions.
The campers may also be asked to foot the bill for the $500,000
Falconberry fire near Challis.
Kesl Hunter, 65, and Wayne Hale, 75, both of Blackfoot, Kent
Hale, 40, of Richfield and Monte Hunter, 39, have each agreed to
pay $200 for the campfire violations.
The men were camping in the Frank Church-River of No Return
Wilderness in early August when they allegedly started the fire.
Forest Service officials told a federal magistrate that when the
men left their camp near the Falconberry Ranch on Aug. 10, their
illegal campfire was not fully out and quickly crept from the
makeshift fire ring.
The fire went on to burn nearly all the buildings at the
Falconberry Ranch and charred more than 28,000 acres, historic
structures and bridges along the Loon Creek Trail over the
following two months, said Gail Baer, a spokeswoman with the
Salmon-Challis National Forest.
Forest Service records show that suppression costs for the
wildfire exceeded $500,000.
But Wayne Hale denies his group started the fire. The group
ensured their fire was out, he said, even removing half-burned cans
from the site. Hale said he has no idea how he would pay for the
staggering cost of the fire if he were billed.
"I don't think the Forest Service is being fair because we
don't think our fire started this," Hale said.
According to Baer, a Forest Service regional claims officer will
decide whether to try to collect the money.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)