updated 3/8/2004 6:42:36 PM ET 2004-03-08T23:42:36

A former firefighter who admitted igniting what became the biggest wildfire in Arizona history was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.

Leonard Gregg, who told authorities he was trying to make work for himself, pleaded guilty Oct. 20 in federal court to two counts of intentionally setting a fire. Gregg, 31, made no plea agreement and was given the maximum prison sentence.

He was also ordered to pay $27 million in restitution.

The fire started June 18, 2002, by Gregg, a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, merged with another started by a woman who was lost in the woods and trying to attract the attention of a helicopter.

The fire burned 469,000 acres in eastern Arizona, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing 30,000 people to evacuate. It also burned sacred Apache sites and accelerated the expected demise of the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s timber business.

Gregg was a part-time firefighter with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He had earlier sparked a fire near Cibecue, in hopes of being called to work, prosecutors said. When he was not called to fight that fire, which was quickly contained, Gregg started the second fire, prosecutors said.

He was arrested about 10 days later.

Gregg’s attorney previously argued that he suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome and functions at a low level emotionally and intellectually.

Federal prosecutors did not seek charges against the woman who set the other fire.

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