State investigates possible Woodfin arson attempt
By Heather Berry
Woodfin – Investigators from the North Carolina State Forest Service Law Enforcement were called Monday afternoon to investigate an approximate 10-foot trail of wooden matches and some incendiary devices, appeared to be left by arsonists on Leisure Mountain Road, near the Woodfin Ingles on Merrimon Avenue.
“From what you describe, that sounds like that’s a homemade incendiary device,” said Weaverville Fire Department Battalion Chief Tim Laster at the scene, while talking with residents. “Someone will put a lit cigarette in the center and, when it burns down to the matches, it lights. It won’t take much with all these pine needles,” he added.
Some Woodfin residents discovered the items, after firefighters from the Woodfin Fire Department, Weaverville Fire Department and Reems Creek Fire Department responded to a small brush fire behind the grocery store around 1 p.m. Smoke was billowing from behind the store. The small fire was quickly extinguished near a driveway, but residents took the opportunity to tell firefighters of some suspicious items littered along the side of the road, about 75 feet away. It’s unknown if the items and brush fire are related.
“There are matches all the way, up and down the road, with the heads burned off, and my neighbor found a little bundle of them, wrapped together,” said Jamie Kearns, who walked from her apartment to speak with the firefighters.
Along the southern edge of the roadway, there was a trail of wooden matches resting in dried pine needles. Some matches showed signs of being lit, while others were fresh. One resident told firefighters how a cluster of unlit wooden matches, tied together, had been found last week.
As firefighters investigated and looked for the cluster of matches at the scene, a resident Heather Olson found another suspicious item with an unlit match sticking out. The item looked like a used vinyl electrical connector, possibly for a vehicle, still with wires attached.
Laster called the State Forest Service Law Enforcement to collect the evidence for further investigation.
“I walk along here all the time and I haven’t seen anything else suspicious,” said Olson, a Woodfin resident, who found one of the devices now being investigated by the State Forestry Service. “When I first saw it, I didn’t see the wires and the match, until I picked it up,” she explained. “I guess that was quite a discovery,” she added. “I think someone was trying to set off a fire, and the question is, ‘Why didn’t it? Maybe, that’s a miracle.”
Firefighters responded quickly to the small fire, extinguishing it within minutes. “The county has it set up right now that multiple departments come in quickly on a brush fire,” said Laster. “That way, we have plenty of manpower and plenty of help,” he said.