Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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April 16, 2014

Former SW.Va. firefighter charged with 4 counts of arson

GRUNDY, Va. — A former Southwest Virginia firefighter has been charged with four counts of arson for fires he allegedly set last month in Buchanan County.

Investigators with the Virginia Department of Forestry have charged Shane Rife, 19, of Grundy, with four felony counts of woods arson, John Campell, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Forestry, said Tuesday. Rife is a former member of the Grundy Fire Department.

Rife is charged in connection with the 65-acre Spruce Pine fire that occurred on March 21 and the 375 acre Airport Mountain fire that was reported on March 19. No structures were threatened by the two fires, Campbell said.

“It was just acreage — strictly a land-based fire,” Campbell said. “Both occurred last month.”

Rife had been a member of the Grundy Fire Department for less than one year.

Help from the community led to the successful investigation, according to forestry officials.

“The success of this investigation is a credit to the Virginia Department of Forestry’s law enforcement officers, other law enforcement and fire-fighting cooperators in the area and the local community,” John Miller, director of resource protection for the Virginia Department of Forestry, said.

Miller said the forestry department’s investigative team worked with Buchanan County Commonwealth Attorney Gerald Arrington 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 wildland fire investigator said in a forestry department press release. “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.”

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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