Aspiring weatherman arrested for starting wildfire to get Facebook views

He said in a post, 'I do not think these are being set intentionally', and instead attributed the blaze to 'dry air mass'

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The Independent US

An aspiring weatherman has been charged with arson in the United States after he admitted to starting a wildfire so that he could film it for Facebook.

Johnny Mullins regularly posted videos on social media entitled “Weather Outlook”. His final video, filmed in a burning forest, had nearly 3,000 views at the time of his arrest for second-degree arson.

“It’s really too bad because he’s not a bad kid – he’s just misguided,” James Stephens, the local police chief in Mullins' home town of Jenkins, Kentucky, told local media.

“He enjoyed the attention he got from the Facebook stuff.”

The 21-year-old continued to post updates on the blaze on his timeline until he was apprehended. 

On 5 November, he wrote:  "A forest fire warning is out for all of the eastern Kentucky Mountains.

"Burning hot spots is causing numerous of fires to continue to spread across the mountains."

He added: "I do not think these are being set intentionally.

"We have a very dry air mass that continues to stay in place and we are under dangerous drought conditions.

"We do not have any rain chances in the forecast, well not enough to help the fire threat."

Wildfires broke out across the south-eastern United States in November, affecting parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgia. Authorities suspect arson might have been a factor in more than 20 of the fires.

A teenager in Harlan County, Kentucky was also arrested for arson in early November, and in Tennessee, authorities said on Friday that a man had been charged with setting fires and vandalism causing more than $250,000 in damage and threatening homes outside Chattanooga.

No arrests were announced in most of the rest of the suspicious fires, which have been destroying forests in and around the southern Appalachian mountains. The relentless drought across much of the South has removed the usual humidity and sucked wells and streams dry, making the woods ripe for fire, Associated Press said.

Tens of thousands of acres have burned, about a dozen of the largest fires remain uncontained and many people have been froced to evacuate their homes to escape the fast-moving flames.

States of emergency were declared in some of the affected areas to facilitate state and federal spending on the response.

More than 5,000 firefighters and support staff from around the country have joined the effort, Shardul Raval, director of fire and aviation management for the southern region of the US Forest Service, told Associated Press.

Mr Stephens said Mullins did not realise the severity of his actions. "He likes to do Facebook videos and have people follow him on his 'weather forecast', so that's pretty much why he did what he did," the officer said. He added: "He didn't realise how much danger he was putting other people in."

But members of the public were less understanding. 

A man posting under the name Briggs Allen, from Bristol, Virginia, commented below one of Mullins' posts: "I hope they lock your stupid ass up and throw away the key! You are a common arsonist."

Other people on the social media site expressed the same sentiment, including suggesting Mullins "go to hell", and stating with apparent satisfaction that his career in weather reporting was over, before it had begun. 

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