April 16, 2012
Wildland fire investigators suspect that the 4,000-acre Shipwreck Fire that burned in Page County last week was ignited by one or more arsonists.
In addition to the six fires that were likely set Easter Sunday on First Mountain, more than 20 other fires had been set.
“The lives and property of more than 250 residents and firefighters were directly threatened by these suspicious fires,” said John Miller, director of resource protection for the Virginia Department of Forestry. “When a wildfire is intentionally set, it endangers lives and can cause unbelievable destruction to land, trees and homes."
The lack of rain, low humidity, high winds and mountainous terrain helped the Shipwreck Fire spread quickly, and the additional fire starts posed great danger to anyone or anything in their path.
"In addition, when firefighters are working an arson fire, they and their equipment are not available to suppress other wildland fires. This depletion of resources puts even more people and their property at risk," Miller said. "We need the public's help in the continuing investigation of the cause of these suspicious fires."
The Virginia Department of Forestry asks anyone with information relating to the cause of the Shipwreck Fire to call the Page County Crime Solvers office at 540-743-3272 and report it. Your help may be worth up to $2,000 – the reward offered for information that leads to the conviction of an arsonist.
Woods arson is the common term for deliberately burning forests, grasslands or brush without the owner’s permission. It is a felony in Virginia and, when convicted, the guilty person could serve up to five years in prison, pay a fine of $2,500 and be liable for the cost of suppressing the fire.