Court Fines Arizona Hiker Nearly $300,000 After He Started A 230-Acre Fire To Attract Rescuers

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Devan Bugbee Contributor
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A court fined an Arizona hiker nearly $300,000 last week after he reportedly started a 230-acre forest fire in 2018 as a survival attempt to attract rescuers.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Camille D. Bibles fined Philip Powers III, 37, $293,413.71  plus a $70 special assessment fee after ruling that he set the area ablaze as a result of insufficiently preparing for his hike through the Prescott and Coconino forests in Arizona. Powers will have to make a $200 monthly payment to settle his debt, taking upwards of 120 years to pay them off completely.

Powers’ attorney moved to have the ruling appealed Friday, arguing that he set the fires as a necessity for survival. Attorney  Sarah K. Erlinder argued in December that Powers did not willfully spread the flames and had no way of halting them, The Washington Post reported.

“[The necessity defense is] unavailable where the defendant fails to show he or she did not recklessly or negligently place him- or herself in circumstances in which he would probably be forced to commit a crime,” Bibles earlier wrote, according to the outlet. (RELATED: Nightmare Fuel: Watch A Giant Octopus Wrestle A Fish Desperate To Survive)

Powers embarked May 27, 2018, on what he thought was the easy-to-moderate rated 17-mile Cabin Loop, taking with him less than a gallon of water, snacks, and a battery-powered cell phone charger on the over-a-hundred-degree day. He also brought camping equipment, though he ostensibly didn’t intend to stay overnight. Powers was unaware that he was on the “strenuous” 18.8-mile Taylor Cabin Loop, which was nearly 50 miles away from his planned destination, noted.

Nearly 14 miles in, Powers reportedly got lost and decided to bunker into the cabin at around 6 p.m., where he found some old peanut butter, jam, and coconut oil, and attempted to make a signal fire that went out. He apparently drank his own urine to preserve his water, according to the outlet.

He attempted the fire again the next day, this time lighting dry foliage against a dead tree, which caught ablaze and quickly started to spread. Rescuers caught wind of the wildfire and found Powers, sending him to the Sedona, Arizona, Emergency Department, where doctors diagnosed him with heat exhaustion, acute renal failure, rhabdomyolysis and dehydration, Outside reported.