The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

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March 22, 2013

Illegal burn arrest turns into much more

Officers find marijuana, moonshine at Merit location

MERIT — A Hunt County man was arrested Wednesday afternoon after he was allegedly discovered setting fire to prohibited materials as part of a controlled burn.

But the items which John Harvey Wark was not burning got him into even more trouble with authorities.

Wark, 50, of Merit, remained in custody at the Hunt County Jail Thursday, being held in lieu of $10,000 bond on one count each of Violation of the Clean Air Act and possession of between four ounces and five pounds of marijuana. Wark may also be facing charges for allegedly having moonshine on his property, according to Hunt County Director of Homeland Security Richard Hill.

Hill, who also serves as the Hunt County Fire Marshal, said his officers were called out to a report of an illegal burn at the site in Merit shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday.

“When they arrived at the residence they found the man to be burning prohibited material,” Hill said, adding Wark had been warned about prohibited burns before. “It was also within 300 feet of a neighbor’s house and they have asthma.”

The material Wark was burning had aggravated the neighbor’s condition.

There are restrictions to outdoor burning in Hunt County. Natural materials, such as brush and limbs can be burned, but not treated or painted lumber. No prohibited material — including but not limited to rubber, plastics, wire, insulation and furniture — can be burned.

After Wark was placed into custody, Hill said his officers discovered 27 marijuana plants and a small amount of moonshine at the location. Hill said the arrest was an example of why law enforcement and firefighters need to be careful when answering calls of controlled burns.

“What they were originally responding to can become a different violation with different dangers,” Hill said.

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