FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 3, 2011
FORESTRY COMMISSION NABS FOUR WILDFIRE ARSONISTS IN KERSHAW COUNTY
(Columbia, SC)-Law enforcement agents with the South Carolina Forestry Commission have arrested three adults and one juvenile for arson. Among them is a 14-year-old member of the Blaney (Elgin) fire station’s “Explorer” youth program. SCFC officials say his three accomplices helped him start woods fires so he could participate in firefighters’ efforts to extinguish them.
The four are charged with Willfully Burning Lands of Another (SC Code of Laws 16-11-170). SCFC investigators say the three adults assisted in the setting of three fires along Bookman Rd and White Pond Rd in Kershaw County between May 30th and June 3rd.
Charlene Arrington (38), Mark Branham (19), and Jacob Eddings (18) spent last night in jail. The juvenile suspect was remanded over to his grandparents’ custody. During questioning, Arrington admitted to driving the three young men to the arson locations. Branham and Eddings have admitted to helping the juvenile light them.
SCFC investigators became involved when Kershaw County Fire Service officials requested SCFC’s assistance. Elgin firefighters were suspicious of the youth program member’s “readiness level” for the fires he set. In one incident, Forestry Commission Law Enforcement Chief David West says, the boys impatiently called 911 to expedite fire officials’ response to a fire they had set, but to which crews had yet to be dispatched. (audio files available)
Members of the fire department’s Explorer program are trained and equipped as firefighters and are on scene, but, as juveniles, are not permitted to extinguish fires or enter burning or damaged structures. Incidents of arson among the firefighter profession are, sadly, not uncommon. However, this is a rare case in that it involves a juvenile aspiring to become a firefighter.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CALL SCOTT HAWKINS @ 803-360-2231 or (803) 896-8820
This news release reports an arrest. Under the law, all suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The SC Forestry Commission’s mission is to protect and develop South Carolina’s forest resource
For every $1.00 invested by SC in the Commission, the industry produces more than $1,800.00 of economic impact.