3 WSU students charged with starting 11,000-acre wildfire

Snake River Fire on Aug. 4, 2016. (Photo from NW Strike Team, state Department of Natural Resources)

PULLMAN, Wash. - Three Washington State University students have been charged with gross misdemeanors in connection with the start of a wildfire that burned about 11,000 acres last summer.

Blake Rogers, 22, Isaiah Weber, 23, and Jonathan Whitley, 22, all of Pullman, were each charged Monday with second-degree reckless burning for allegedly starting an illegal campfire that grew into the Snake River Fire.

Garfield County Prosecutor Matt Newberg says the charge is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine plus restitution, fees and assessments.

The fire started Aug. 2 at 12:50 p.m. about 10 miles south of Pullman and quickly grew due to high winds and dry conditions. It started in Garfield County, across from Granite Point, on the Snake River. The fire jumped the river to Whitman County at about 4:30 p.m.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports that more than 300 firefighters fought the flames, along with six air tankers and five helicopters. Four firefighters were taken to local hospitals for heat-related injuries.

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