Arsonists light up Jasper and Tyler Counties

WOODVILLE, TX (News Release) - Law enforcement investigators in Southeast Texas are attributing 14 recent wildfires to arsonists.

Texas Forest Service fire crews have responded to 19 wildfires that have scorched 2,093 acres since April 1. The 14 arson fires have burned 2,063 acres.

The largest fire occurred the first week of April in southwestern Tyler County, where five different arson sets burned together to eventually scorch 1,700 acres before the blaze was controlled, according to David Colton, assistant chief law enforcement officer with Texas Forest Service. While Tyler County experienced the largest arson-caused fire, Jasper County recorded the most arson activity, with nine fires that burned 220 acres during the period.

County law enforcement and Texas Forest Service are actively investigating the recent fires, Colton said.

"We're asking area residents to keep an eye out for any suspicious vehicles or unusual activity in the area," Colton said. "Anyone with information on the recent arson fires in southeast Texas counties should contact local law enforcement officials or call the toll-free arson hotline: 1-800-364-3470. They may be eligible for a reward if their information leads to the arrest and grand jury indictment of the individuals responsible for arson fires.

"The recent fires have not only threatened the safety and property of area residents, but they have also brought heightened risks to wildland firefighters," Colton said. "Though vegetation has started to green up, the recent wildfires demonstrate that anything is possible."

Texas Forest Service and local fire departments ask that everyone exercise caution with all outdoor fire and equipment use so accidental wildfires can be avoided.

"Preventing accidental wildfires will free up available fire resources to fight the blazes deliberately set by the criminals who use fire as their weapon," Colton said. "Arson is a felony offense punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison term of up to 99 years."