- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

GLASGOW, Va. (AP) — A fire that burned nearly 3,000 acres of the George Washington National Forest was intentionally set, investigators said yesterday.

“We are investigating the fire as a criminal act,” said Woody Lipps, patrol captain for the U.S. Forest Service.

Capt. Lipps said an investigation concluded that “no natural events like lightning” or campfires were to blame.

The penalty for arson includes five years in prison and fines starting at $10,000. The costs of fighting a fire also can be charged to someone convicted of arson.

The fire, which was contained yesterday, began with 10 smaller fires over the weekend, then spread to 2,870 acres in the Peavine Mountain area of Amherst County, about 50 miles north of Roanoke.

The cost of battling the fire is estimated at $240,000. Nobody was injured fighting the fire, and no homes were threatened.

An aerial view of the fire pattern helped investigators conclude the fire was arson, said forest service spokeswoman Donna Wilson.

The agency brought in 153 persons to put out the fire, including seven smoke jumpers from Montana already in Virginia fighting another fire. Most have been released, but some are staying for the cleanup efforts.

“What we’re doing now is looking for hot spots in stumps and large logs and making sure everything 100 feet around the perimeter is extinguished,” said Greg Bostic, an agency manager.

Agency roads in the region and a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway between Otter Creek Campground and U.S. 60 were temporarily closed.

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