Kingsport Times News Sunday, November 23, 2014

Local News

Forestry officials believe fires in Scott, Lee counties were deliberately set

March 3rd, 2014 11:52 pm by Wes Bunch

Forestry officials believe fires in Scott, Lee counties were deliberately set

GATE CITY — Virginia Department of Forestry officials believe arson is to blame for two wildfires that burned almost 450 combined acres this weekend in Scott and Lee counties.

The largest of the two fires, located along Route 600 in the Fairview community of Scott County, began early Saturday and covered approximately 244 acres, VDOF senior area forester Bill Miller said.

The second blaze occurred Sunday afternoon in the Blackwater section of Lee County, Miller said. That fire burned 200 acres of grass and woodland.

By Monday afternoon, both of the fires were considered by VDOF to be out.

“The rain actually put the fire in Lee County out,” Miller said. “We only had it about 25 percent contained before the rain hit. It gave us a reprieve, but this time of year it doesn’t take long for things to dry back out again.”

Investigators suspect foul play in both instances.

“It looks like the fire in Scott and the fire in Lee County were both incendiary,” Miller said.

No homes were destroyed by the fires, although Miller said several required protection.

Miller said the areas where both blazes were set are prone to wildfire activity.

“We normally have fires in those areas every spring,” Miller said. “We anticipate having either a fire in Fairview or over in the Blackwater section of Lee County. That invasive grass down there gets burnt every spring. It’s hard to put out because it burns so hot and intensely.”

VDOF full-time and part-time crews, along with members of the Duffield Volunteer Fire Deparment were dispatched to Fairview, while the Blackwater Volunteer Fire Department assisted VDOF in Lee County.

A newly purchased VDOF fire engine was also used on the calls, Miller said.

“The new fire truck has proved very useful for us,” Miller said. “We took delivery of it last week, and we’ve already had to use it several times.”

Miller said six wildfires have claimed a total of 723 acres in Southwest Virginia since Friday. Miller said the other blazes were handled by local fire departments.

Miller said anyone with information regarding the weekend’s incendiary fires should contact the Scott County Sheriff’s Office at (276) 386-7679 or the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at (276) 346-7753.

“The local sheriff’s office will make sure the information gets to us,” Miller said. 

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