(NewsReady.com) – A lost hiker was saved from almost certain death last year after he lit signal fires and attracted the attention of forest rangers. However, one of his flaming beacons got out of control and started a fire that destroyed hundreds of acres of forest. Now, a judge has ordered him to pay a hefty fine.
Lost on a long hike in Arizona, Philip Powers III set three fires to signal for help. The rising smoke soon led to the 37-year-old’s rescue, but officials said he acted recklessly. https://t.co/vD0cXAMTCf
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 23, 2023
In July 2018, Philip Powers III set out for a nearly 18-mile hike through Arizona’s Prescott and Coconino national forests. This probably wasn’t the smartest decision, because Powers seems to have been ill-prepared for the journey. Despite temperatures of over 100 degrees, he took under a gallon of water and some snacks. He was relying on his cellphone for navigation, instead of a map and compass — and his navigation was so poor that he started his hike almost 50 miles from where he planned to, on a much more difficult trail. He was soon hopelessly lost, caught in the forest with inadequate water and no real food.
After spending a night in a cabin, Powers managed to start a series of signal fires to attract attention — but one of them, a pile of dry foliage around a dead tree, quickly spread out of control. Firefighters responded to put out the blaze and found Powers, who by that time was suffering from dehydration and kidney failure.
After Powers had recovered, he was charged with seven different misdemeanors, including leaving a fire unattended and lighting a fire when prohibited. His attorney claimed he was forced to light the fires because his life was in danger. Last week, federal judge Camille D. Bibles decided that wasn’t good enough. She ruled that Powers had caused his own emergency by being completely unprepared to go hiking, and that once he’d started the destructive fire, he’d just walked away and left it to burn. She went on to fine him $293,413.71 in restitution to cover the cost of fighting the blaze, plus a $70 special assessment fee. Powers will now have to pay $200 a month — for more than 120 years.
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