Wildfires continue to spread through state

MORE ARSON ARRESTS MADE AS REWARD FUND GROWS

BY ALLISON CRAFT

MARTIN, TN — With the growth of the state’s arson tip reward fund new arrests have been made in connection with some of the wildfires.

Ag News reports that investigators with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s (TDA) Agriculture Crime Unit, along with authorities in Sequatchie and Monroe Counties and the State Fire Marshal’s office have arrested two people suspected in separate arson cases.

Matthew Ryan Wallace, age 27 of Tuscaloosa, Ala. is accused of igniting a wildfire along Standifer Grant Road in Sequatchie County yesterday. He is charged with setting fire to personal property or land, a Class E felony, punishable with up to 6 years incarceration and a fine of up to $3000.

Monroe County Deputies arrested Charles Edward Martin, age 50 of Madisonville, Tenn. yesterday for deliberately setting a fire along Gamble Road. He is charged with setting fire to personal property or land, reckless burning and resisting arrest.

The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and the Tennessee Forestry Association have committed donations to the fund. Now citizens may receive as much as $2500 for a tip that leads to an arson arrest and conviction, according to Ag News.

Fire managers believe the first wildfire blaze was ignited by drought and poor weather conditions combined with a lightning strike in mid-October. Since then, about 50% of the 1,238 wildfires that have burned across the state are suspected arson.

A Level 3 State of Emergency has been declared by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency in response to “continued threat of drought and wildfires” across the state. Governor Bill Haslm has ordered a regional burn ban for east Tennessee and an Agricultural Commissioner’s burn ban is also in effect for Sumner and Robertson county.

The arson hotline is 1-800-762-3017 and is answered 24 hours a day. Arson activity can also be reported to the TDA Ag Crime Unit at 1-844-AGCRIME (1-844-242-7463). Citizens may receive as much as $2500 for tips leading to an arson arrest and conviction. Callers may remain anonymous.

Current county burn bans and wildfire safety tips and information can be found on the TDA Division of Forestry’s wildfire prevention website at www.burnsafetn.org.

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