Carol Daniel

BIXBY, Mo. (KMOX-AP)- An investigation is underway into the fire that burned about 620 acres of the Mark Twain National Forest.   Officials with the U.S. Forest Service say arson is the suspected cause of the blaze.  The blaze started Thursday morning in Iron County in Southeast, Missouri.

Officials say another fire occurred about 45 miles to the east near Fredericktown.  They believe that blaze was caused when a mower hit a rock, causing a spark that touched off a fire that consumed another 50 acres.

Containment lines completely surround both fires. The Forest Service says the goal is to have both blazes fully controlled by midweek.  Currently, about 100 people are involved in the firefights. No injuries have been reported.  Authorities say the drought and lack of rain have created an extremely high risk for fires and urged people to be cautious.

USDA Forest Service’s Eastern Area Type 2 Incident Management Team has been brought in to assist managing Mark Twain National Forest wildfires.  The incident management team includes  experienced federal, state, and local fire and emergency response personnel from 20 states in Forest Service’s Eastern Region, which stretches from Missouri north to the Great Lakes states east to Delaware and up to Maine.

Mark Twain National Forest had already restricted open fires for the next few weeks due to heightened fire danger, drought conditions and continued hot, dry weather forecast.  Forest Acting Forest Supervisor Teresa Chase said no open fires are permitted except within campfire rings or pedestal grills located in developed recreation areas such as campgrounds and picnic areas.

The Mark Twain National Forest covers over 1.5 million acres in about 29 counties mostly in Central and Southern Missouri.  The federal land was created in 1938 by the WEEKS Act in 1911, a year after a deadly fire destroyed more than 3 million acres, killed 85 people and left the US Forest Service a million dollars in debt.

AP/KMOX © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright  2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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