Nov. 30–A man who called 911 to report a wildfire was charged Wednesday with lighting it and trying to set other blazes in the parched mountains of Western North Carolina.
Keith Eugene Mann, 49, of Franklin was charged with one federal count of destroying property of the United States by means of fire.
Authorities said a wildfire was reported to the U.S. Forest Service in Macon County on Oct. 27 in the Nantahala National Forest. Investigators determined it had been intentionally set.
They discovered the remains of five other fires — apparently arson — in the area that had apparently gone out on their own. Wooden stem matches were found near the fires.
On Nov. 22, authorities said, a call came in to 911 operators in Macon County from a man who identified himself as Keith Mann reporting another fire.
Investigators learned that a suspicious Chevrolet pickup had been seen in the area before the fire. And after examining the site of the blaze, investigators found a cardboard box next to burned wooden stemmed matches.
Authorities said Mann was confronted and admitted setting both fires.
Destroying U.S. property by fire carries a mandatory penalty of five years.
Officials have said some of the wildfires in the western part of the state are believed to be the work of arsonists. Gov. Pat McCrory has posted rewards up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of arsonists.
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