Investigators search for cause of I-40 fires - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Investigators search for cause of I-40 fires

(WMC-TV) – Firefighters aren't sure if an accident or arson caused a string of recent fires. But they're grateful for the rain that will surely slow down a rash of fires along Interstate 40.

Wednesday night's fire was the third recent fire in the area and now investigators want to know how the fires are starting.

Chopper 5 caught images of a blazing trail along Interstate 40 in North Memphis.

Fire investigators want to know whether the flames were the result of an accident or arson.

"A motorist passing by could have possibly dropped cigarettes or careless disposal of smoking material," said Lt. Wayne Cooke, of the Memphis Fire Department. "They could possibly be intentionally set fires. At this point, we do not know."

Wednesday night's fire was one of several in the past few days along I-40 East between Warford and Covington Pike.

"These have occurred, ironically, at various hours during the day, various days," he said. "So, it's not necessarily a pattern."

The flick of a lit cigarette can quickly ignite the winter brush which is dormant and brittle and the recent windy weather only feeds the flames.

"The winds can very easily cause a fire to grow very rapidly," Cooke said.

Since large fire trucks cannot maneuver in the woods, firefighters have to use off road vehicles called brush trucks which carry about 150 gallons of water.

"So far we haven't had any problem going into the community," Cooke said. "So we've been able to get in and extinguish them quickly without any incident."

For now, wet weather buys investigators a little time to search the blazing trail for clues.

Cooke said it is illegal to burn anything outdoors without a permit.

Whether the fires are the result of an accident or something more sinister, he's asking anyone with information about them to call Crime stoppers at 901-528-CASH.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly