Virginia Dept. of Forestry charges former firefighter with starting 375-acre Airport Mountain fire and 65-acre Spruce Pine fire; officials say community input was key to filing four felony counts of woods arson
April 16, 2014
– Investigators with the Virginia Department of Forestry have charged a 19-year-old Grundy man with four felony counts of woods arson for fires he allegedly started last month in Buchanan County.
Shane Rife, a now-former member of the Grundy Fire Department, was charged with starting the 375-acre Airport Mountain fire and the 65-acre Spruce Pine fire. He had been a member of the Grundy Fire Department for less than one year.
Officials with the VDOF said community input was the key to being able to file charges in these cases.
John Miller, VDOF’s director of resource protection, said, “The success of this investigation is a credit to VDOF’s law enforcement officers, other law enforcement and fire-fighting cooperators in the area and the local community.”
VDOF’s investigative team worked with the local Commonwealth’s Attorney to build the case and perform a direct indictment in the two cases.
“Often when people observe and report something out of the ordinary such information can be invaluable in building a criminal case against a suspect,” a VDOF wildland fire investigator said. “We are indebted to everyone who cooperated in the effort to catch this individual because someone who starts a wildfire puts firefighters and area residents in danger.”
The Virginia Department of Forestry protects and develops healthy, sustainable forest resources for Virginians. Headquartered in Charlottesville, the Agency has forestry staff members assigned to every county to provide citizen service and public safety protection across the Commonwealth, which it has been doing now for 100 years. VDOF is an equal opportunity provider.
With nearly 16 million acres of forestland and more than 103,000 Virginians employed in forestry, forest products and related industries, Virginia forests provide more than $17 Billion annually in benefits to the Commonwealth.