Man pleads guilty to starting fire in Grand Canyon after attempting to burn toilet paper

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A man plead guilty Wednesday to starting a wildfire while attempting to burn toilet paper at Grand Canyon National Park. 

Thomas Grabarek, 71, of Flagstaff, Arizona, pled guilty Wednesday 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 Oct. 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 over $53,500. 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 outdoors.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, nearly 85% of all wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans. While 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, click here

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

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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