Just after 5 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, Allegan County Central Dispatch received a report from a helicopter crew flying over the Allegan State Game Area of a “significant fire” south of 116th Avenue, east of 46th Street, in Valley Township, southwest Michigan.
The crew said the fire was consuming large logs, which turned out to be two decks of cut timber, each approximately 30 feet tall by 150 feet long – and all of it nearly burned to the ground.
Conservation officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources are now seeking the public’s assistance with any information related to the suspected arson fire. Such fires are rare; over the last five years, just 4% of fires the DNR has responded to have been determined to be arson-related.
“Although the investigation is ongoing, initial evidence suggests arson,” said Sgt. Charles Towns, with the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing.”
The fire is believed to have been started between 10 p.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday. Fire-suppression efforts began with the Clyde Township Fire Department, which provides coverage for Valley Township, and were led by the DNR’s fire personnel. Assistance was provided by DNR conservation officers, as well as the Fennville City, Allegan District and Lee Township fire departments.
Billsby Lumber Company, which originally purchased the timber, is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in this case. The estimated value of the lost timber is between $30,000 and $35,000.
Share any tips (which may be left anonymously) via the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline, 800-292-7800. It is available for calls or texts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Timber harvests – along with tree planting, habitat projects, prescribed burns and other efforts – are one way the DNR takes care of Michigan’s forests for current and future generations. Learn more about how the department works to ensure healthy, thriving forests.
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned law enforcement officers who protect natural resources, ensure recreational safety and protect residents by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. Due to the nature of their job, these officers often work with federal, state and local law enforcement officers to ensure public safety. Learn more at Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers.