A “wannabe meteorologist” from Kentucky was arrested for arson after admitting to starting a dangerous wildfire in order to attract a larger following on Facebook.
Dangerous wildfires have broken out throughout America’s Southeast, prompting numerous evacuations and air quality warnings as well as state of emergency declarations in three states. Though long-standing droughts are partly to blame, many of the fires are the result of arson with a handful of people being arrested so far. One of those recently arrested was Johnny Mullins, a 21-year-old Kentucky native, who is now facing second-degree arson charges in Letcher County, Kentucky. According to the local police chief, Mullins deliberately set a forest ablaze, despite months of drought, in order to add more followers to his Facebook page. Mullins is an aspiring or “wannabe” weatherman, depending on your perspective, and has been posting selfie videos on Facebook showing him at the scene of various fires as a part of his “Weather Outlook” segments. His latest video, taken November 6th and titled “Dangerous Forest Fires to Continue”, showcased a fire he created. In it he ironically warns viewers “you just want to be extremely careful if you’re out there.”
The local police chief told the Associated Press that Mullins admitted to the crime saying that he did it because “he enjoyed the attention he got from the Facebook stuff.” Mullins’ final video received around 2,000 views, though the number nearly doubled when news of his arrest began to spread. It seems that his arrest may have brought him the attention that his videos alone could not. Of the 210 wildfires currently raging through Kentucky, 150 of them – 76% – have been the work of arsonists. So far, only two other people have been arrested in connection with the fires. Many of the massive fires in other states have also been found to be the result of arson. In North Carolina, 20 wildfires burning more than 17,000 acres across the state are currently being investigated as arson.
The devastation from these fires has been massive. Tens of thousands of acres of forest have burned, many in close proximity to national forests and state parks. Alabama and Tennessee have seen a combined 30,000 acres of forest destroyed. Georgia alone is fighting a massive 21,500 acre fire in the north of the state. Firefighters have only been able to contain 20 % so far. It is unconscionable why people would choose to destroy such massive amounts of forest, threatening the survival of wildlife in both the long and short term. Though fires are necessary in all forest ecosystems, naturally occurring forest fires do not take place on such a massive scale nor do they take place so frequently. This is just another sad reminder that many US citizens share the same disrespect for the natural environment that we normally see from corporations.
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