News Release

Arizona Man Pleads Guilty to Starting 2019 Cottonwood Creek Fire in Grand Canyon National Park

Burned area of Cottonwood Creek with black fire scar.
Fire damage to Cottonwood Creek Fire in 2019

NPS Photo/Jacob Tung

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News Release Date: September 10, 2020

Contact: Joelle Baird, 928-638-7609

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. –Following an investigation by Special Agents of the National Park Service (NPS) Investigative Services Branch and U.S. Park Rangers, Thomas Grabarek, 71, of Flagstaff, Ariz., pled guilty on September 8, 2020 to misdemeanor violations for starting a wildland fire within Grand Canyon National Park. The Cottonwood Creek Fire ignited approximately 64 acres in the Inner Canyon along the Tonto Trail near Horseshoe Mesa.  

On October 27, 2019, while backpacking near Cottonwood Creek, Grabarek started a fire by lighting toilet paper in an attempt to incinerate it. High winds that day allowed the fire to quickly spread uphill, requiring immediate response by NPS wildland fire personnel.

In his plea agreement, Grabarek agreed to pay restitution totaling $53,520.03. These funds will help park managers rehabilitate the burned area over the course of the next four years. Grabarek also agreed to perform community service by making a public service announcement and assisting NPS staff in the creation of educational signs to be posted in the Backcountry Information Center regarding the dangers of burning toilet paper in the backcountry.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, nearly 85 percent of all wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans. If you are hiking and camping below the rim of Grand Canyon, gas stoves may be used, but campfires and other open fires are never allowed.  

For more information on fire regulations at Grand Canyon National Park, visit: https://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/management/firemanagement.htm

To report a suspicious or criminal activity in a national park site, call the NPS Tip Line at 1-888-653-0009.

 

-NPS-



Last updated: September 14, 2020

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Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

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