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PHOENIX -- A Mesa man accused of starting a nearly 18,000-acre wildfire in the Tonto National Forest is set for a change of plea hearing.

Steven Craig Shiflet was target shooting with a group of friends in May when he pointed a shotgun loaded with a flame-throwing shell at a soda box in a cleared area near Payson. Smoke soon appeared in the brush, and the group couldn't extinguish the blaze.

Shiflet is facing three charges. Each one carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 upon conviction.

It's unclear what he'll plead to at Monday's hearing in Phoenix. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office says she had no further information. A call to Shiflet's attorney's office wasn't immediately returned.

Associated Press,

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