Forest Arson Investigated in East Tennessee Counties

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | 04:17 pm

- Rash of November fires set in Anderson, Campbell, Hawkins and Scott Counties -

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Crime Unit and Division of Forestry are teaming up in Anderson, Campbell, Hawkins and Scott Counties to remind citizens that intentionally lighting the woods on fire is a crime. A recent rash of fires in those counties is currently under investigation as arson related.

“Arson accounts for the majority of acres burned from forest fires in Tennessee. These fires can spread quickly this time of year and endanger human life and property,” said State Forester Jere Jeter. “The Ag Crime Unit provides an important presence in our rural areas to help reduce arson activity.”

So far this year, a total of 1,136 fires have burned 18,935 acres in the state from all causes. Arson accounted for 393 of those fires, burning nearly 14,000 acres across Tennessee. Since November, more than half of those acres burned by arson (7,361) were from 40 fires set in Anderson, Campbell, Hawkins and Scott Counties.

“Forest arson is a very serious crime and we will prosecute offenders to the full extent of the law,” said Max Thomas, ACU Investigation Supervisor.

Anyone with information about suspected arson activity should call the state Fire Marshal’s Arson Hotline toll-free at 1-800-762-3017. Rewards up to $1,500 are available for tips leading to a conviction. Callers can remain anonymous.

During fire season, Oct. 15 through May 15, citizens are required to obtain a burn permit before conducting any open, outdoor burning near woods or grasslands. Contact your local Forestry office or visit www.burnsafetn.org for permit and fire safety information. 

Burning without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $50. Wildfires caused by arson are a class C felony punishable by three to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 fines.

For more information about other programs and services of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture visit www.tn.gov/agriculture .