June 24, 2015 Edition

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Miscanthus fires could
be caused by arsonist

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

A string of fires attacking bales of harvested miscanthus along Hwy. 91 South have left local fire departments scrambling to figure out what is happening.

Recently appointed Hoxie Fire Chief Chris Ditto said he believes it to be the work of an arsonist due to how the fire was set in strategic areas. The Hoxie fire department has been dispatched four times since June 13 to fires located north of Egypt were local farmers have been growing the plant.

Miscanthus, used as an alternate and renewable source of bio-fuel, is a newer crop to Lawrence County. The plant takes two years to grow before it can be harvested. The crops set on fire had already been harvested and set alongside the road in bundles.

The fires have been set in three different locations owned by three separate landowners, according to Ditto. However, each field fire has been targeted at the miscanthus crop.

According to Ditto, Alicia, Sedgwick, Walnut Ridge, Cache, Bono and Valley View departments also responded to at least one of the miscanthus fires. The Arkansas Forestry Department assisted with splitting the bales.

The Hoxie Fire Department and Lawrence County Sheriff's Office are continuing with the investigation. Ditto said any information that could lead to the cause of the fires is crucial.

Those with information may call the Hoxie Fire Department at 886-5722 or the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office at 886-2525.

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