The man responsible for starting that huge brush fire in Bedford County has been charged with a crime. Dennis Ham is charged with the Class Four misdemeanor of “carelessly damaging property by fire.” It does not involve jail time but does carry a fine of up to $250.
Ham told us yesterday that he dumped some ashes behind a shed on his property Saturday morning. Apparently a live spark blew into the woods. Ham tried to stop it from spreading with a garden hose, but the fire raced up the mountain behind his home on Quarry Road near Montvale.
That criminal charge may be the least of Ham’s worries. Local and state officials indicate they intend to hold him accountable for damages, including the cost of fighting the forest fire.
Firefighters battling the flames say the fire has not burned as many acres as first thought. Yesterday, estimates were the fire had destroyed about 2,000 acres since it began Saturday. But after mapping the damage today, it is believed the actually destruction is closer to 1,000 acres.
The fire is still burning, and crews set backfires inside fire lines today in hopes that a controlled burn will help eradicate a future fire threat.