Forestry Divisions investigates string of arsons in Carter County
A string of fires have burned through hundreds of acres of forested land in Carter County and the Tennessee Division of Forestry told us they were started on purpose.
The Division of Forestry said it's been difficult to narrow down any suspects because the fires were started in remote areas. They are still actively investigating the fires.
The Division of Forestry has started putting up signs along Old Railroad Grade Road, to encourage people to call them with information.
"We ask that people always watch out during periods of dry weather," said James Heaton, a forestry technician. "If they see a suspicious vehicle, report it to local authorities."
Heaton told us most of the fires have been intentionally set in relatively remote areas.
"Those are the areas we're out trying to patrol and keep an eye on," he said.
We're told there have been more fires than average around Hampton and Roan Mountain.
"Normally we average just one or two arson fires," Heaton told us. "This year we've probably had 12 or 15 arson fires."
About five of those fire have been along Old Railroad Grade Road. The most recent fire burned about 20 acres of wooded land.
"These fires may appear to be harmless but there is a severe risk to firefighters that come out to fight these fires, not to mention you're burning up someone's forest land," Heaton said.
He told us it also puts local residents at risk.
Cindy Duffy lives on Old Railroad Grade Road, near where the most recent fire occurred. Duffy told us there was only a road separating her home from the fire.
"I was so afraid because it was fairly close to our house," said Duffy. "I was nervous about it jumping. Our closest neighbors have cattle down the street so I was very nervous about it catching over at his place."
Duffy was on her way back from dinner when she saw two separate lines of fire, about 75 feet apart, going straight up the mountain.
The Division of Forestry told us that's a sign it was arson.
"It's just a shame that it's been set intentionally," Duffy said. "We're all just so nervous, we've actually talked about putting up web cams or trail cams trying to help authorities catch the people."
The Division of Forestry told us anyone with information can call their arson tip line. That number is 1-800-762-3017.
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