As autumn pulls the leaves from the forest canopy, a thick layer of leaf-litter can cover the forest floor.  With only a few days of dry air, this leaf-litter can become the fuel source needed to carry a wildfire through the forest. 

Fire in the forest isn’t always a bad thing—prescribed burning is important to reduce fuel build-up, restore nutrients into the soil, and promote the growth of native species.  Wildfires, however, present the problem of being out of control and have the potential to be catastrophic.  This is why fire safety and arson-prevention become so important in the fall in Missouri. 

Mark Twain National Forest needs your help to stop forest arson.The Forest established an anonymous tip line earlier this year, after the Rozell Fire. A reward is available for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of forest arsonists.

The Rozell Fire burned more than 2,000 acres and destroyed a person's home this past February; and investigators deemed arson to be the cause of the fire.  Forest arson of Forest Service lands is a felony under federal law. 

Forest arson is a common term for deliberately burning forests, grasslands, or brush without the owner’s permission. Unlike prescribed fire, which is planned and conducted by trained professionals through coordination with other agencies and landowners, forest arson creates extremely hazardous, out-of-control wildfires that can threaten life and property.

“Arson is irresponsible, illegal and has the potential to be deadly,” stated Casey Hutsell, Patrol Captain.  “We take every fire investigation seriously and are committed to ending forest arson on the Mark Twain,” he continued. 

Hutsell said that any information can be helpful and he urged anyone with information to call the arson hotline at (573) 364-1745.

Forest Service Law Enforcement is continuing to offer up to $25,000 for information that leads to arrests and convictions in arson cases. The amount of the reward distributed will depend on the actionable nature of the information provided as determined by Forest Service Law Enforcement.

How do I prevent wildfires?

Please contact your local fire department if you have questions about what the conditions are like in your area before burning.  Any outdoor burning should be monitored with the sufficient amount of people and equipment.  Remove flammable and combustible materials adequate to prevent the escape of any outdoor burn.  Before you start a campfire, review campfire safety guidelines.  Ensure you have a shovel and a source of water to put the fire out; never leave your campfire unattended; and ensure the campfire is completely out before you leave it.  Get more information about Mark Twain National Forest online at www.fs.usda.gov/mtnf.  Stay in touch with us on Facebook at ww.facebook.com/marktwainnationalforest.