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Sabine Parish man arrested on wildland arson charges

October 7, 2010

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said a Sabine Parish man was arrested Oct. 6 on two counts of simple arson.
Strain said Jesse Dale Miller, 30, 1087 Lone Star Road of Many is accused of setting four separate woodland fires off Lone Star Road near the Belmont community in Sabine Parish.
Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Office assisted in the arrest, Strain said.
Units from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s (LDAF) Forest Protection Division and Belmont Volunteer Fire Department suppressed the fires. About one acre of timberland was burned.
LDAF Enforcement Manager Jim Baldwin said LDAF investigators determined Miller was allegedly at the scene of the fire.
“Our investigation found that there were two fires set on each side of Lone Star Road on Monday afternoon (Oct. 4),” Baldwin said. “On Tuesday, LDAF crews went back and put out a fire in the morning and another fire in the afternoon. During our interview with Mr. Miller, he admitted responsibility for the fires.”
During the course of the investigation, Miller led firefighters to a fourth fire they had overlooked, Baldwin said.
According to the Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Office, Miller was arrested in 2007 for simple arson and pled guilty to simple criminal damage to property.
Strain said the entire state is currently under an outdoor burn ban due to extremely dry conditions.
“A small fire could easily flame out of control and threaten life and property,” Strain said. “We’ve experienced tremendous increases in the number of fires and acreage burned the last two months and we’ve already had an extraordinary amount of fires in October.
“Woods arson is a serious matter and my department will investigate all cases fully and press for the maximum punishment.”
LDAF fire crews have responded to 164 fires since Oct. 1. The October fires have burned more than 3,470 acres of wildland, Strain said. By contrast, Aug.-Sept. 2009 figures show that 56 fires burned 152 acres. During the same period in 2010, 407 wildland fires burned more than 3,458 acres, representing a 726 percent increase in fires and a 2,270 percent increase in acreage burned.
Strain said the LDAF extends wildfire detection and suppression services for 18.9 million acres. Of the 18.9 million acres, the LDAF receives wildfire detection and suppression funding from landowners for only 53 percent of the protected area.