AUGUSTA, Maine — A former volunteer firefighter with the Pleasant Point Fire Department has been sentenced to 18 months in jail in connection with a rash of wildfires set last summer in Washington County.
Timothy Tiess, 37, of Pleasant Point entered into a plea agreement in Washington County Superior Court in Machias earlier this week. Tiess was accused of starting fires in Marion Township, Edmunds Township, Day Block Township, Wesley, Pembroke and Perry in July 2011, according to Maine Forest Service forest rangers. A total of about 10 acres was burned.
He also was suspected of setting other wildfires as well as structure fires in the Perry and Pembroke area, but could not be conclusively linked to them, according to the forest service.
Tiess, who originally was charged with five counts of arson and one count of aggravated criminal mischief, pleaded guilty to the single felony count of aggravated criminal mischief, while the five counts of arson were dismissed in the plea agreement. He was sentenced to nine months in the Washington County jail and received a consecutive sentence of an additional nine months on a probation revocation for a previous charge in Kennebec County.
He began serving his sentence Tuesday at the Washington County Jail.
Tiess last summer became the subject of an intensive investigation that involved undercover surveillance and a multiagency task force led by Maine Forest Service forest rangers.
The probe into Tiess began after witnesses described a vehicle similar to one owned by him racing away from several of the fire scenes, according to Ranger Sgt. Courtney Hammond of the Maine Forest Service’s Jonesboro office. Tiess quickly became a prime suspect because of his three prior convictions for other fire-related incidents from the 1990s, which involved structures in southern Maine, Hammond indicated in a press release issued Friday from the Maine Forest Service.
MFS forest rangers conducted a search warrant in August at Tiess’ Pleasant Point residence and seized evidence, including a vehicle, which supported the charges against him, Hammond said.
The MFS forest rangers were assisted by the Maine fire marshal’s office, the Maine State Police, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge and the Pleasant Point Police Department. Hammond coordinated the investigation, which also involved eight MFS forest rangers and forest ranger pilots.
“The fire starts were in a large geographic area and were set sporadically over the period,” Hammond said in the press release. “Quick response by Maine Forest Service forest rangers and volunteer firefighters kept the fires from growing into dangerous incidents.”
Bill Hamilton, MFS chief forest ranger, said in the release that rangers were very pleased that they received tips from the public and assistance from other law enforcement agencies.
Those with confidential information on suspicious wildfires by calling with Wildfire Arson Hotline at 1-800-987-0257.
For more information about the Maine Forest Rangers, go to: http://www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/ffchome.htm