Arson Task Force Will Investigate Roadside Fires - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Arson Task Force Will Investigate Roadside Fires

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KENNEWICK, Wash.- A rash of recent roadside fires is what wildfire experts are talking about.

Firefighters are calling most of the fires arson.

These fires are exhausting resources.

They've already cost local juristictions around a $1 million, not to mention the safety of firefighters, and investigators say the thing that hurts the most, is the fact that they're all preventable.

Since May, nearly 200 unsolved wildfires in the region.

Firefighters believe at least 70 roadside fires like these are the work of arsonists.

"Arson is a very difficult crime to investigate just by its very nature, so we really rely heavily on the public with any information that they may have, and everything that information to come forward to help out that cause," said Kennewick Fire Marshal Mark Yaden.

So many suspicious fires the Benton County Sheriff's Office has changed their wildfire policy.

Now, instead of simply providing public support, deputies are beginning immediate investigations.

The public is also being enlisted for help, asked to report anything out of the ordinary and keep their eye out in rural areas.

Investigators won't say whether the fires are linked or say whether they have any suspects, only saying the series of fires is suspicious. A map of the fires shows the string of locations.

All investigators will say is they need the public's support.

"Somebody who has seen something, somebody who knows something, that just will, could be the clue that seals the deal," said Steve Sautter with Benton County Emergency Management. 

The task force is also working with investigators in Yakima County and Northern Oregon to collect more evidence and see if there's any link between these fires and similar roadside burns there.