MTNF offers $25,000 reward for Protem-area arson information

The Protem-area home of 84-year-old Les Tennis was completely destroyed in the “Rozell fire”. Tennis escaped with nothing but the clothes he was wearing. Photo courtesy Ron Yarger.

Mark Twain National Forest has established an anonymous tip line for the public and is offering up to $25,000 for information that leads to arrests and convictions in the recent Rozell Fire, which burned more than 2,000 acres in the Protem area and destroyed the home of Les Tennis. The award is available for other forest arson cases as well.
Fire investigators believe that this fire, and other wildland fires that occurred the same day in Taney County, are the result of arsonist activity. Forest arson cases are generally felonies under Missouri state laws, according to an MTNF news release. Forest arson is a common term for deliberately burning forests, grasslands or brush without the owner’s permission. Unlike prescribed fire, described as being planned and conducted by trained professionals through coordination with other agencies and landowners, forest arson creates extremely hazardous, out-of-control wildfires that can threaten life and property.
The Ava/Cassville/Willow Springs Ranger District experienced several incidents of suspected arson in the last year. USDA Forest Service fire officials suspect forest arson to be an ongoing problem in the ACW Ranger District.
“Forest arsonists are gambling with other people’s lives, and this needs to stop,” District Ranger Joe Koloski said in the MTNF statement.
 The amount of the reward  will depend on the actionable nature of the information provided, as determined by Forest Service law enforcement.
Anyone with information that can help catch arsonists is asked to call the Mark Twain National Forest’s arson hotline at 573-364-1745 and provide:
• location and time of the fire;
• name of person responsible, if known;
• description of persons observed at the scene;
• description of any vehicles observed at the scene;
• any other pertinent information;
• and the caller’s contact information for reward purposes (this will be kept confidential).

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