18-year-old admits to starting fire

18-year-old admits to starting fire

02 April 2008

published by www.journalnow.com

An 18-year-old admitted yesterday that he accidentally started a wildfire on Sauratown Mountain that burned for six days before it was contained, officials said.

David Rucker was charged with a misdemeanor in connection with the fire, said Michael Huffman, a spokesman for the N.C. Division of Forest Resources.

A juvenile, whose age was not released, was also charged in connection with the fire, officials said.

Rucker turned himself in to the Stokes County Magistrate’s Office yesterday afternoon and was fined $25 for starting the fire and $120 in court costs, Huffman said.

Rucker and the juvenile were charged in accordance with N.C. General Statute 14-140 for “burning material whereby other property was endangered/destroyed without keeping and maintaining a careful watchman in charge of the burning,” Huffman said.

Starting an accidental wildfire is punishable by a fine between $10 and $50, according to the state statute.

It was unclear yesterday how the fire started. Authorities say they believe that it was an accident.

The forest-resources division said it has completed the investigation into the cause of the fire.

Stokes County court officials did not have any paperwork or additional information yesterday about the charges against Rucker or the juvenile, said Jason Tuttle, the Stokes County clerk of Superior Court.

The Stokes magistrate’s office in King refused to give out any information about Rucker.

The fire on Sauratown Mountain burned 350 to 400 acres. It was reported last Wednesday about 5:30 p.m.

Officials declared the fire 100 percent contained Monday afternoon.

The state has lifted a ban on opening burning, but Huffman said that people should still exercise caution.

“We always ask folks to think about what they’re doing before they burn,” he said. “That’s statewide. We just ask folks to use common sense when burning in the forest and at home.”

Accidentally starting a fire in the forest or at home is often very innocent, Huffman added.

“They get distracted, and think they can go in for a second…. Before you know it, it’s into a wildfire situation,” he said.

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