Published Dec 1, 2016
The Associated Press and other reputable sources are reporting the arrest of Keith Eugene Mann, a 49-year-old man from Franklin, North Carolina. Federal prosecutors charged Mann on November 30, 2016 with one count of destroying property by means of fire.
Early media reports erroneously said the accused arsonist's name was "Keith Eugene Mann Franklin," instead of "Keith Eugene Mann" from Franklin, NC.
Authorities accuse Mann of starting two wildfires inside the Nantahala National Forest in Macon County.
One fire was reported on Thursday, October 27th. Investigators believed it was set intentionally. Five additional blazes nearby were also suspected to have been the work of an arsonist.
On Thursday, November 22nd, the second wildfire was reported. Reports say authorities found burnt matches next to a cardboard box at the scene the next day.
Keith Eugene Mann has reportedly confessed to setting both of those wildfires. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on those charges.
If, however, those fires caused the deaths of any individuals, Mann may face additional charges.
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters was quoted on November 30th as saying the death toll has climbed to seven; however, three people who were trapped in the fires on Monday were successfully rescued.
Mayor Waters said more than 400 buildings have been damaged in the county.
Fanned by high winds, the wildfire torched Gatlinburg with insane speed. It's a miracle that more people didn't lose their lives.
Recent rain doused the region but fire official Bobbie Strawser said a blaze "could still rear its head."
We grieve with those who lost friends, relatives and loved ones in this tragedy, in addition to all the lose of property and pets.
We're grateful to all those who risked their lives for their neighbors, family and for people they will never meet. May God bless them all.
Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail, News, Closures, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Accident, Information, appalachian trail hikers, and Keith Eugene Mann arson forest fire wildfire arrest
Published Nov 16, 2016. The Nantahala Outdoor Center survived the flames of wildfires that threatened so many areas of North Carolina and Georgia along the Appalachian Trail.
Published Nov 10, 2016. On Thursday, November 10, 2016, forest service officials with the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests implemented a total fire ban.
Published Dec 9, 2016. With sadness, anger and relief we report that two teens from Tennessee have been arrested for aggravated arson in the wildfires that raged in the region.