By The Associated Press
A Mesa man has been charged with starting a wildfire that burned nearly 18,000 acres near Payson.
Federal prosecutors say 23-year-old Steven Craig Shiflet was target shooting with a group of friends at Sycamore Creek in May when he fired a shotgun loaded with a flame-shooting shell.
Shiflet told investigators that he pointed the gun at a soda box in a cleared area. Authorities say smoke appeared in the bushes shortly after, and the group couldn't extinguish the blaze.
Shiflet faces three charges, each which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine if convicted.
The Sunflower Fire in the Tonto National Forest hasn't been active in weeks but remains 80 percent contained.