Man Says He Was on Meth When He Started GA Wildfire

Joe Kovac Jr. – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

MACON — A man who busted into a remote cabin with an ax and set fire to a couch, sparking a blaze that burned nearly 700 acres in Middle Georgia’s Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, has pleaded guilty to first-degree arson.

Prosecutors said the fire in November 2022 destroyed the cabin and consumed 687 acres of the 35,000-acre refuge, which lies east of the Ocmulgee River near Juliette, between the cities of Forsyth and Gray.

Michael James Authement, 61, said he was under the influence of methamphetamine when he committed the crime. At a hearing on Thursday in Jones County Superior Court, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by another decade on probation.

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Other than attributing the episode to Authement’s drug use, it never became clear to investigators why he torched the couch or what led him to the cabin.

The district attorney for the eight-county Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, T. Wright Barksdale III, said Authement did not know the cabin’s owner.

“It absolutely makes no sense,” Barksdale said after Thursday’s hearing.

The DA added that Authement had been in the refuge “just floating around high and set the couch on fire.”

In the wake of the blaze, Authement was tracked down by investigators using trail-camera footage and other means, Barksdale said. “When you set fire to 600 acres, you kind of let the world know.”

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The refuge is home to mature loblolly pines and the red-cockaded woodpecker. Barksdale said that, while the fire was “not catastrophic” to the woodlands or wildlife, it was the largest swath of land burned in an arson incident in the region in his memory.

©2024 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Joe Kovac Jr. – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution MACON — A man who busted into a remote cabin with an ax and set fire to a couch, sparking a blaze that burned nearly 700 acres in Middle Georgia’s Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, has pleaded guilty to first-degree arson. Prosecutors said the fire in November 2022 destroyed […]

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