Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Arson Suspected in 12 Mile Swamp Fires; about 75 Acres Have Been Burned in 2 Months

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Arson Suspected in 12 Mile Swamp Fires; about 75 Acres Have Been Burned in 2 Months

Article excerpt

Byline: terry brown

Authorities believe arsonists are to blame for a series of suspicious fires that consumed more than 75 acres of conservation land in north St. Johns County during the past two months.

The wildfires have occurred in the northern portion of the Twelve Mile Swamp Wildlife Management Area, a 20,000-acre conservation area extending from south of County Road 210 to just north of Florida 16 between U.S. 1 and Interstate 95. The Florida Division of Forestry and the St. Johns River Water Management District have offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the fires, said water management district spokeswoman Teresa Monson.

Neither the Water Management District nor the Division of Forestry would comment about the ongoing investigation and possible leads at this time.

The wildfires were set in the northern portion of the conservation lands in the Stratton Road area. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission allows 200 hunting permits per year in the area. The acreage was originally part of a private hunt club and a portion of the Twelve Mile Swamp is still logged by Rayonier Inc.

"We've had problems with wildfires in that area before," said Division of Forestry area supervisor Gary Carpenter. "We are seeking evidence on five different fires that have have been set within the management area recently."

The arson investigation units of the Florida Agricultural Law Enforcement Division and the St. Johns County Fire and Rescue Department are handling the case. According to information provided by the Division of Forestry, the willful, malicious or intentional burning of the area is a felony crime punishable by a fine up to $5,000, five years in prison, or both.

Forestry officials do controlled burns in some forested areas in order to cut down on undergrowth. …

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