The first arrest for arson in the rash of wildfires in western North Carolina has been made. Authorities took Keith Mann of Franklin into custody on Tuesday. He appeared in federal court today in Asheville for the first time. Mann is accused of setting two small wildfires in Macon County.
The U.S. Forest Service alleges Mann used kitchen matches to set fires along Board Tree Road in Franklin and on Jones Creek Road near Bryson City. Both sites are within the Nantahala National Forest. The fire on Board Tree Road became known as the Grape Cove fire and burned 15 acres after starting on October 27th. The fire on Jones Creek Road burned one acre and started November 22nd.
The U.S. Forest Service says Mann was the first to call 911 to alert authorities to the Jones Creek fire. Court documents show after being questioned, a Forest Service agent claimed Mann admitted to setting both fires because he was "bored" and "wanted to see something burn", and that Mann's wife recently left him and that he didn't have "much to live for."
All but one of the more than 20 wildfires that have burned throughout western North Carolina the past month are "human caused" according to authorities, though that does not necessarily mean all are arson. The Boteler fire in Clay County was caused by a lightning strike. North Carolina governor Pat McCrory announced a reward of up to $10-thousand for information that leads to arson arrests.