USA — A fire that burned nearly 3,000 acres of the GeorgeWashington National Forest was purposely set, investigators concluded Thursday.
“We are investigating the fire as a criminal act,” U.S. Forest ServicePatrol Capt. Woody Lipps said in a statement.
Lipps said an investigation concluded that “no natural events likelightning” or camp fires were to blame.
The penalty for arson includes five years in prison and fines starting at$10,000. Costs of fighting the fire also can be charged to someone convicted ofarson. The cost of battling the Peavine fire is estimated at $240,000.
The fire, which was fully contained Thursday, began with 10 smaller fires overthe weekend and ultimately spread to 2,870 acres in the Peavine Mountain area ofAmherst County.
No one was injured fighting the fire and no homes were threatened.
An aerial view of the fire pattern helped investigators conclude it was arson,U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Donna Wilson said.
The Forest Service began brought in 153 people to put out the fire out. Mostwere released, while others continued with cleanup efforts.
“What were doing now is looking for hot spots in stumps and large logs andmaking sure everything 100 feet around the perimeter is extinguished,”assistant zone fire manager Greg Bostic said.
Forest Service roads in the Peavine Mountain area, along with the section of theBlue Ridge Parkway between Otter Creek Campground and U.S. 60, were still closedas of Wednesday night.