Seven people now confirmed dead as a result of massive blazes
There are several disturbing updates to the report on the wildfires roaring through Tennessee I prepared earlier this week.
It seems that arson is suspected in more than half of the blazes that are still burning in the region.
Fire investigators said more than half of the 67 fires burning right now have been deliberately set.
And so far, seven suspects have been arrested for arson state-wide, but more arrests could be made in the near future.
The Sequatchie County Sheriff’s office arrested a man for setting a small wildfire by throwing a lit cigarette into a pile of leaves and watched it burn.
Deputy Chief Randall Lockhart said more than 900 acres have burned in Sequatchie County because of two arsonists.
Details on two of the arsonists are now being reported:
On Tuesday, two men were arrested in separate incidents. Matthew Wallace, 27, of Alabama, is accused of igniting a wildfire in Sequatchie County just Monday. He is charged with setting fire to personal property or land.
Charles Martin, 50, of Madisonville, Tennessee, is accused of deliberately setting a fire on Gamble Road in Monroe County. He is charged with setting fire to personal property or land, reckless burning and resisting arrest.
A third individual has also been named.
Days earlier, Andrew Lewis, 21, was charged with arson in two different wildfires. He’s now facing serious jail time.
“I know they’re going to prosecute the first guy with about 900 acres up here, they’re going to prosecute him with a felony,” Lockhart said.
Tennessee officials have declared war on the arsonists.
“We take it personal when we watch the land burn in our counties,” [omeland Security Commissioner David W.] Purkey said. “And, to those who are doing this, let me be clear that we are coming for you and we are working on information that is going to lead to your arrest.”
..The state has an arson reward fund. The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and the Tennessee Forestry Association have committed donations to the fund and now citizens may receive as much as $2,500 for a tip that leads to an arson arrest and conviction.
The arson hotline is 1-800-762-3017 and is answered 24 hours a day. You can also report arson activity to the TDA agriculture crime unit at 1-844-AGCRIME (1-844-242-7463). Callers may be anonymous.
Tragically, the wildfires have now claimed 7 lives.
Seven people have died as wildfires raging in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee continued spreading, authorities said Wednesday.
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters confirmed three new deaths at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. No identities were released because the victims’ families hadn’t been notified.
“We certainly want to pray for those families, the folks involved in the fatalities,” Waters said. “We continue to try to identity them. We haven’t been able to yet.”
Additionally, one fire-fighter has been treated for minor injuries and over 50 people have been hospitalized.DONATE
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