Two wildfires occurred in Love County on Wednesday evening that could be the work of a dangerous firebug.

Two wildfires occurred in Love County on Wednesday evening that could be the work of a dangerous firebug.

At 9:30 p.m., a blaze ignited four miles south of Shadyville near Marietta and destroyed 25 acres.
Firefighters from Marietta, Shadyville, Thackerville and Greenville arrived on scene about 10 minutes after the fire was reported, said Tracey Smithwick, emergency management officer for Love County. “They think it was a possible arson.”

Dry conditions and high wind speeds fed the fire.

Those same conditions were the reasons county commissioners renewed the seven-day county-wide burn ban on Monday. Burn bans are still in place in Carter, Marshall, Johnston, Murray, Atoka, Coal and now Bryan counties.

And that wasn’t the only fire Wednesday evening. At about 10:15 p.m. firefighters from Thackerville and Greenville then had to put out a small fire in the Brown Springs area that burned an acre of land, said Smithwick.

“It could have been a lot worse than what it was because the wind was blowing pretty good out of the north at about 20 miles per hour like it was today,” said Smithwick.

The fire was reported by an enforcement officer for the Department of Wildlife, who saw “a vehicle speeding away from that scene,” Smithwick said. “Law enforcement barely saw the taillights after he saw (the fire).”

Burnt matches were reportedly found at the scene of the fire in Brown Springs. There is speculation that the arsonist could be spreading matches over open fields and lighting fires by throwing a lit cigarette onto the unlit matches, after taping the lit cigarette to another box of matches, said Smithwick.

State officials found similar evidence after a fire near the Lake Murray Village area.
“Arson is a kind of crime that’s hard to prove. I would probably say there’s a 50/50 chance of catching him or not catching him,” he said, “unless you see somebody doing it.”

State officials have been searching for evidence linking the alleged arsonist to nearly seven fires. State officials are still digging for clues and scouring the two counties where the fires occurred for concrete evidence.

Investigators are on the search for the driver of a late 1990s or early 2000s model red Dodge or Chevy full-sized pick up. Although the owner of the red pick-up is not a suspect in the investigation, the driver will be questioned, since a vehicle of that description was seen in some of the areas where fires generated.

Anyone with information regarding these or other fires is urged to contact the state’s arson hot line at (800) 522-8666.