TN officials pledge to prosecute arsonists as 15,000 acres burn

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COCKE COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- Fire crews continue to attack fires across the region and the entire Southeast, and state fire officials pledge they are going after people who intentionally set fires.

As of Tuesday night about 15,000 acres are burning throughout Tennessee and officials estimated half of the fires burning were the work of an arsonist.

State and local officials that gathered in Del Rio Tuesday afternoon and sent a stern message to the people intentionally causing these fires.pr

Tennessee’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner David Purkey delivered that message.

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“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, and we are not far behind you,” Purkey said.

Purkey reiterated just how dangerous conditions are right now fire firefighters.

“If one of these first responders is injured, or killed as a result of your actions then the full weight of state government will come down upon you,” Purkey said.

There was good news from Captain Greg Whitehead with the agricultural crime unit who said they’ve made progress in solving some of these arson cases.

“We’ve made 7 wildfire arson arrests in the last 20 days,” Whitehead said.

One of those cases was in Roan Mountain where Carter County authorities charged a volunteer firefighter.

The state said they are still following up on leads in other arson investigations.

“We have many other investigations ongoing right now in multiple counties on these wildfires,” Whitehead said.

State forest officials reminded people that this week Governor Bill Haslam issued a regional burn ban across 51 counties.

Any violation of this burn ban is punishable by up to a $2,500 fine or jail time.

That burn ban is in effect until December 15th.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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