October 22, 2008

D.C. Man Indicted for Minnesota Wildfire

A Washington man caused a wildfire that swept across nearly 75,000 acres in northern Minnesota's pristine boundary waters area, a grand jury indictment alleges.

The St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press reported Tuesday Stephen G. Posniak, 64, faces federal charges of providing false information, setting timber on fire and leaving a fire unattended in relation to the 2007 blaze.

In an indictment announced in Minneapolis Monday, U.S. authorities accuse Posniak of burning trash at a Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness campsite at Ham Lake on May 5, 2007, before leaving without dousing the flames.

Those flames ultimately caused a fire that spread across the U.S.-Canada border and took two weeks to contain, authorities allege.

During the Ham Lake fire, the blaze caused $4 million in structural damage and engulfed nearly 75,000 acres of land. It cost $11 million to extinguish the blaze.

Posniak attorney Mark Larsen told the Pioneer Press his client intends to plead innocent to all charges and will continue to work with authorities in the matter.

"We have cooperated with the authorities to date, and we will cooperate into the future," Larsen said.