State targeting arsonists as wildfires continue to burn

State leaders are going after arsonists as wildfires continue to burn across the state. It's believed that more than half of those burning were caused by humans

As wildfires continue to burn across East Tennessee, the state is sending a strong message that anyone caught starting those fires will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

There are at least nine major fires burning in Tennessee today, with two of those in East Tennessee, but thousands of acres have burned in the past few weeks alone, and they're not all accidents.

"About half of the fires burning in our state today have been deliberately set," said Jai Templeton, that state's Commissioner of Agriculture,  in Cocke County on Tuesday, the site of the large Netty Mountain fire, which investigators call "human-caused."

Two men have been charged this week with setting two separate fires in East Tennessee.

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

Matthew Ryan Wallace, 27 of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is suspected of igniting a wildfire along Standifer Grant Road in Sequatchie County on Monday. 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.

"Look over your shoulder.  If you are going to engage in this type of activity and destroy the beautiful forest land in our counties, we are coming for you," said David Purkey, Commissioner of Tennessee Safety and Homeland Security.

If you suspect someone has intentionally started a fire, you can call the state's arson hotline is 1-800-762-3017. There is a $2500 reward for any tips that lead to an arson arrest and conviction.

"If one of our first responders is injured badly, or God forbid killed, fighting these wildfires, I can promise you the full weight of state government will come down upon you," said Purkey.

There is a statewide burn ban for all of Tennessee, as well as in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Cherokee National Forest, and all TVA property.

(© 2016 WBIR)


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