updated 10/21/2008 6:21:44 PM ET 2008-10-21T22:21:44

A camper from Washington, D.C., has been indicted on charges of causing a wildfire that blackened nearly 120 square miles of forest in northeast Minnesota and Canada, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Stephen George Posniak, 64, is charged with three counts, including giving false information to a U.S. Forest Service officer. He is not in custody but will be issued a summons, said David Anderson, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.

Posniak camped on Ham Lake and started a trash fire on the morning of May 5, 2007, then left the fire unattended, the indictment says.

The blaze lasted more than a week, blackening about 57 square miles of the Superior National Forest plus about 61 square miles in Ontario.

It was rated Minnesota's most destructive forest fire since 1918. It damaged or destroyed some 140 structures worth about $4 million on the Minnesota side, including 10 year-round homes, according to Forest Service figures, but nobody was killed or seriously injured.

The indictment said Posniak falsely told Forest Service officers that he had camped on a different lake, and that he encountered the fire already burning out of control.

Posniak said he would defer making any comment until after he talks to his attorney.

The maximum potential sentence on a count of setting timber afire would be five years in prison. The maximum is six months on the two other counts: leaving a fire unattended and unextinguished, and giving false information to a Forest Service officer.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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