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McCreary man charged with violating open burning law

Alleged violator jailed on unrelated bench warrants
Note: An individual charged by police or in a warrant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceeding.

Dave Baker/Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife

FRANKFORT, KY (Thu 10 Nov 2016) - Police charged a McCreary County man with setting a brush fire Tuesday after a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officer observed him igniting leaves in a Whitley City ditch.

Officials with the Kentucky Division of Forestry said the suspect is the first person charged in connection with a string of 181 wildfires across southeastern Kentucky, fires which have burned 29,455 acres since October 29, 2016.

"I was coming past the Big M Plaza when I saw this person bending down, setting the ditch on fire near the Catholic Church," said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Capt. Stuart Bryant. "It was really moving when I called the Whitley City Fire Department. It would have gotten pretty bad, pretty quick if the fire department hadn't gotten out there so fast."

Bryant cited the suspect, 48-year-old Charles Logan Watters II of Whitley City, for burning during a burn ban and burning before 6 p.m. McCreary County instituted its burn ban October 26, 2016.

Watters was arrested on bench warrants for failure to pay court fines in two unrelated cases and lodged at the Leslie County Detention Center.

The fire, which consumed a small part of an overgrown hillside, burned to within 15 feet of the Big M Discount Store. "He said he was going to burn it off to look better," Bryant said.

Thanks to the quick response of the Whitley City Fire Department, Bryant said, the burned area did not exceed the size of a car. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Chris King assisted at the scene.

Currently 64 of Kentucky's 120 counties have burn bans. A burn ban prohibits any open burning of any open flame in the environment and includes but is not limited to campfires, bonfires, leaf burning, debris burning, fire training, agricultural burning and natural land management. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is working with the Kentucky Division of Forestry to assist in investigating wildfires in an attempt to find and prosecute individuals that cause wildfires.

Hunters in Kentucky's woodlands for this weekend's opening of modern gun season for deer are urged to report any wildfires or suspicious fire-related activity by calling the Poaching Hotline at 1-800-25-ALERT (1-800-252-5378).

This story was posted on 2016-11-10 12:20:59
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