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September, 2008

Bedford County Man Convicted of Felony Woods Arson

A 21-year-old Lynch Station man was convicted of felony arson for starting a fire that burned about an acre of woods in Bedford County.

Michael M. Pollard was sentenced to two years in jail (suspended after 30 days served); three years of supervised probation, and restitution to the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) following a plea bargain to one Class 6 felony count.

“We're very pleased with the outcome,” said Todd Kready, VDOF forester in Bedford County. “It's the culmination of a year-long probe by a number of VDOF investigators and the Commonwealth Attorney's Office in Bedford.”

Kready responded to a wildland fire the evening of Feb. 28, 2008. While working to suppress the fire, he spotted a footprint, called the VDOF bloodhound team and stayed all night at the site to ensure the crime scene didn't get contaminated. When the tracking team arrived the next morning from far Southwest Virginia, the bloodhound followed the scent directly to the front door of Pollard's home. Pollard was interviewed by a VDOF investigator and subsequently confessed to starting that fire and another that burned about ¼ of an acre.

 “The Lynch Station area had experienced a number of suspicious fires during the previous 12 months,” Kready said. “Being able to track this suspect and have him confess to two woods fires meant that he would not be able to threaten the lives and property of other Bedford County residents.”

State Forester Carl Garrison said, “The VDOF law enforcement officers involved in this case demonstrated their commitment to protecting the citizens of Virginia. Their hard work, persistence and dedication led directly to the arrest and conviction of Mr. Pollard.”

New Day Camp A Success

Students learn during an outdoor classroom session at Camp  Albemarle.Nineteen middle school students from Charlottesville city and Albemarle county recently got acquainted with natural resources, through C.A.M.P. (Charlottesville/Albemarle is My Place), a one-week day camp based at Camp Albemarle. Campers learned about the importance of local farms, forests, wildlife, and other resources in sustaining both environmental health and human quality of life. C.A.M.P. included hands-on experiences in the outdoors and opportunities to connect with local places. Experiences included walking the bed of the Moorman's River, measuring trees on a family farm, eating locally-grown produce, canoeing on the reservoir, and swimming in lakes. Campers also worked on two service projects - trail mapping and birdhouse construction - to improve the landscape of Camp Albemarle.

VDOF and the local office of Cooperative Extension sponsored C.A.M.P., with support from Thomas Jefferson Soil & Water Conservation District, Virginia Museum of Natural History, and the Rivanna Conservation Society. Funding was provided by a grant from the Ballyshannon Fund.

VDOF Provides Fire Support in North Carolina

VDOF sent firefighters and equipment to assist supressing the Evans Road fire in North Carolina.A lightning strike on private land turned into a large wildfire near Fairfield in eastern North Carolina. As the Evans Road Fire grew to encompass 40,704 acres, suppression support was needed from neighboring states. At the height of the blaze, 275 personnel, 10 tractor/plow units, 32 engines, and one helicopter were deployed.

VDOF supplied Strike Team Leaders, and Engine Operators and Engine Bosses. Windy weather and a limited water supply complicated suppression efforts for firefighters. The fire burned in shrubby swamp lands amid large amounts of organic vegetation in the soil. The blaze consumed more than 24,000 acres in the nearby Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

In an email to State Forester Carl Garrison, North Carolina State Forester Wib L. Owen wrote, “I want to thank you for the support you and your staff provided to NC on this incident.  I don't know what we would have done without our Southern Group friends and partners.”

The Evans Road Fire was reported as 95% contained as of September 2.