3 charged with setting forest fires in Nantahala NF

Management, timber harvest, roadless issues

3 charged with setting forest fires in Nantahala NF

Postby ~jeff~ » Sun Feb 15, 2009 3:43 am

Man, 2 women allegedly set fires Thursday, Sunday night in Nantahala National Forest

Hope Ann Graves and Michael Shawn Graves

Cherokee Scout.Com
February 2009
Three people have been taken into federal custody for setting fires off Morrow Road in the Nantahala National Forest and on private land Thursday and Sunday night.

Michael Shawn Graves and Hope Ann Graves, both of 341 Calvin Lane in Farner, Tenn., and Jadrien Deese of 1510 Sunny Point Road in Murphy appeared in U.S. District Court in Asheville this week before U.S. Magistrate Dennis L. Howell on a criminal complaint that they used fire to commit a felony. A detention hearing is set for 10 a.m. today.

Steve Lohr, district ranger for the Tusquittee District of the U.S. Forest Service, said a man and two women have been taken into custody for allegedly setting fires in far western Cherokee County. They were arrested about 75 yards into Tennessee. Multiple fires were set in the Morrow Road area near the Tennessee line Thursday and Sunday. Lohr said the biggest fire burned about 58 acres. One of the smaller fires was near a house, but no structures burned. There has been a history of suspected arson fires in that area occurring annually.

In the criminal complaint, Rick Devore, a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service, said he was notified of three fires on Forest Service land off Morrow Road on Thursday. Devore investigated and determined the fires appeared to be arson. Devore said he knew that arsons in the Morrow Road area of the Nantahala National Forest have been a frequent occurrence dating back to the 1990s.

Devore was patrolling Morrow Road about 7:11 p.m. Sunday due to the previous arsons. He saw a fire on the side of the road with grass burning near Appalachia Lake Recreation area on Morrow Road. It appeared that the fire had been recently set.

About 500 feet farther toward the Tennessee state line, there was another fire. A third fire was on private land. Devore concluded that the fire had just been set. Speeding toward Shuler Creek Road, he saw a vehicle traveling toward Tennessee.

Devore said he stopped the vehicle. Deese was the driver, Hope Graves was the front-seat passenger, while Michael Graves was in the back seat along with two young children.Deese signed a waiver of rights, confessed and gave a signed statement, Devore said. Deese said that while riding, she, Michael Graves and Hope Graves talked about fires from the previous Thursday on Morrow Road. They noticed an area that had not been burned the previous week, and as a group they decided to light fires in the areas that had not been burned.

Deese and Hope Graves set fire to the grass using a cigarette lighter, Deese said. They stopped a second time and Hope Graves set fire to the grass. They stopped a third time, and Michael Graves set fire to the road bank. They were stopped by Devore shortly after that.

Michael Graves confessed to about the same facts as confessed by Deese, Devore said. However, Graves said he had gotten out of the vehicle on the second fire with his wife and tried to help set the fires, but his lighter didn
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