More than half the acres burned by arson in Tennessee since November were from 40 fires set in Anderson, Campbell, Hawkins and Scott counties, state officials said Tuesday.
The rash of wildfires before and after Thanksgiving are being investigated as arsons. In Anderson County, they included a 225-acre fire on Walden Ridge, a 375-acre fire at Graves Gap, and another 150-acre fire on Redoak Mountain. All three were in northern Anderson County.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture said 1,136 fires from all causes have burned 18,935 acres this year. Arson accounted for 393 of those fires, burning nearly 14,000 acres across Tennessee.
State officials said 7,361 acres have been burned by arson since November.
“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,” officials said in a press release Tuesday.
“Arson accounts for the majority of acres burned from forest fires in Tennessee,” State Forester Jere Jeter said. “These fires can spread quickly this time of year and endanger human life and property. The Ag Crime Unit provides an important presence in our rural areas to help reduce arson activity.”
“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 (800) 762-3017, the release said. Rewards up to $1,500 are available for tips leading to a conviction. Callers can remain anonymous.
During fire season, from 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.