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Hiker's burning toilet paper believed to have sparked 24,800-acre wildfire

Forest wildfire
The fire continues to rage near Flagstaff, Arizona (Image credit: Getty)

A man camping in Arizona allegedly sparked a wildfire that destroyed thousands of acres of forest and forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes by burning his toilet paper in the woods.

As The Independent (opens in new tab) reports, a 57-year-old was this week arrested and charged connection with the ongoing Flagstaff Pipeline Fire (opens in new tab). According to Governor of Arizona Doug Ducey, the fire has engulfed 24,800 acres (opens in new tab), and over 700 firefighters are attempting to bring it under control.

At a pre-trial hearing, the man's attorney explained that his client had been camping in the Coconino National Forest, and had attempted to dispose of used toilet paper by lighting it on fire and covering it with rocks.

After being stopped near the fire, the man told authorities that he had burned toilet paper, but hadn't expected it to keep smoldering overnight. He explained that he had tried to extinguish the fire using his sleeping bag in the morning, but by that point the blaze had become too large. 

Leave no trace

One the most important tenets of camping, hiking, and trail running is to leave no trace – and that applies not just to damage and litter, but to toilet waste as well. As we explain in our guide how to poop in the woods, you should aim to leave nothing behind at all for others to find.

Human waste will decompose best underground, so dig a hole at least 6in deep using a camping trowel to bury it. Alternatively, you can use dog poop bags, Make sure you take any paper or wet wipes away with you.

It's also essential to familiarize yourself with any local fire restrictions before camping and hiking. Arizona is currently under stage two fire restrictions (opens in new tab), which include a ban on campfires, charcoal fires, coal fires, and wood stoves.

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).