Photo by Ned Jilton II.
GATE CITY — The Virginia Department of Forestry is offering a reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those suspected of setting wildfires in Scott and Lee counties over the weekend that burned nearly 450 acres of land.
VDOF investigators said one or more arsonists lit a 244-acre wildfire in Scott County’s Fairview Community last week and a 200-acre blaze that was located in the Blackwater area of Lee County.
VDOF Senior Area Forester Bill Miller said a reward of up to $2,000 is being offered for information that leads to a conviction in the case.
“We need the public’s help in the continuing investigations of the causes of these suspicious fires,” Bill Miller said. “Please call me with any information, no matter how insignificant you might feel it is. Your information may be just the piece of the puzzle that helps us put an end to potentially criminal acts.”
The West Brian Hollow Fire in Scott County began the evening of Feb. 28 along Route 600, approximately 2 miles east of the Lee County line.
The Blackwater fire was set around midnight March 2 along a portion of Route 603. That fire was located approximately two miles away from the old Blackwater School.
The fires spread quickly due to low humidity, windy conditions and mountainous terrain in the areas. A total of 12 homes and 20 structures were protected by firefighters in both locations.
“When a wildfire is intentionally set, it endangers lives and can cause unbelievable destruction to land, trees and homes,” said John Miller, VDOF Director of Resource Protection. “In addition, when firefighters are working an arson fire, they and their equipment are not available to suppress other wildland fires. This depletion of resources puts even more people and their property at risk.”
Bill Miller said both the VDOF and local law enforcement are increasingly concerned by the growing number of case of woods arson, which is the common term for deliberately burning forests, grasslands or brush without the property owner’s permission.
Woods arson is considered a felony in Virginia, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $2,500 fine and fire suppression costs.
VDOF officials said anyone with information regarding either fire should report it by contacting the Scott County Sheriff’s Office at (276) 386-7679, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at (276) 346-4095 or the Department of Forestry office at (276) 346-4095.
Anyone who spots a wildfire with no firefighters present is asked to make note of the location and time of the fire, a description of any persons or vehicles, with license tag, observed in the area, in addition to any other pertinent information.comments powered by Disqus