Big Flats Fire Charges

A man accused of starting the largest wildfire in the state in 25 years is charged Thursday.

Thomas Barnhart, 54, of Racine, is charged with one misdemeanor count of starting a fire and allowing it to escape and become a forest fire.

The May 5 fire burned about 3,900 acres near Big Flats, destroying 13 homes.

The maximum punishment is a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail. But under Wisconsin law, Barnhart could be ordered to pay the costs of fighting the fire and be liable for the property damage. The cost could add up to over $1 million.

Barnhart makes his first court appearance July 11.

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