U.S. NEWS

Washington Forest Fire Started After 2 Men Set Bees Nest Ablaze, Prosecutors Say

Nearly 5.2 square miles of the Olympic National Forest burned.
In this photo taken Tuesday, July 9, 2019, the Olympic Mountains are seen beyond a forest from Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic
In this photo taken Tuesday, July 9, 2019, the Olympic Mountains are seen beyond a forest from Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park, near Port Angeles, Wash.

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say timber thieves were to blame for a fire in Washington’s Olympic National Forest last year.

An indictment unsealed Monday says Justin Wilke and Shawn Williams were trying to steal a big leaf maple tree in August 2018, but it had a bees nest. They decided to burn the nest with gasoline, and then tried unsuccessfully to douse the fire with their water bottles.

Nearly 5.2 square miles of public land burned.

Wilke was arrested Monday. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Williams is in custody in California. It was not immediately clear if either had a lawyer.

The indictment said Wilke previously sold stolen maple blocks to a Tumwater mill in for $13,000, falsely representing that the wood came from private land. The wood is prized for making instruments.

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