Man from West Monroe started massive 5,000-acre Pipeline wildfire, investigators suspect
MONROE, La. (KNOE) - A West Monroe man is suspected to be responsible for a massive 5,000-acre wildfire burning in Arizona.
A Coconino County Sheriff’s deputy stopped Matthew Riser, 57, shortly after the fire was spotted by a fire lookout on Sunday, June 12, 2022, around 10:15 a.m., according to arrest documents.
The Pipeline Fire originated about six miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona, in the Coconino National Forest. It has forced the evacuation of nearby residents as approximately 300 personnel work the firelines to protect homes and forests. As of Monday afternoon, it’s considered out-of-control.
According to the documents, Riser reportedly told investigators he had been camping in the area when he described seeing a “200 ft by 200 ft fire, everything was on fire including pine trees.”
Documents state Riser admitted to setting fire to his toilet paper and placing it under a rock around noon on Saturday. He said he didn’t think it would smolder all night. He said he tried to put out the fire with his sleeping bag. He said his camp was 80 yards from where the fire started. He also told investigators that he used a white Bic lighter with a long tip to ignite the paper. That item was found in the center console of his Chevrolet along with some marijuana, which is suspected to have been taken onto federal land.
Riser told investigators that he didn’t see the “no campfire” signs in the area. He later said he saw them when he drove out. The arresting officer noted on the documents that “Information on fire restrictions are posted along roads, at ranger stations, in local news media, and USFS website.”
Riser identified himself as a homeless traveler with no address, but documents list his hometown as West Monroe. He was identified with his Louisiana driver’s license.
Documents detailing Riser’s arrest listed the following charges:
- Occupying or using a residence on forest service lands
- Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire
- Possession of marijuana
Crews are also battling two smaller wildfires nearby. The Haywire Fire and the Double Fire are both believed to have been caused by lightning strikes.
All three fires are at 0% containment, as of Monday afternoon.
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