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Transient fire starter charged in blaze at Scout Reservation

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A transient man with a long criminal history is facing multiple charges after deputies from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) arrested him for starting a brush fire at the Sand Hill Scout Reservation in Spring Hill.

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HCSO Deputy Public Information Officer (PIO) Michael Terry said that on May 17, shortly after 5:30 p.m., a training deputy conducting a routine training exercise at the Sand Hill Scout Reservation noticed a plume of smoke rising from somewhere nearby.

When he investigated, Deputy J. Nelson found that the smoke was emanating from a brush fire near power lines located off the main road. Standing near the fire was 30-year-old Marques Thomas, who tried to flee on foot. When deputies finally chased Thomas down, they took him into custody and found him in possession of a lighter that was allegedly used to start the brush fire.

Meanwhile, crews from the Hernando County Fire Rescue (HCFR) and the Florida Forest Service arrived to extinguish the fire, which, according to fire officials, consumed 15 acres.

In a May 18 update, FFS stated that the fire size reached 46 acres and was still 100 percent contained. Thomas was taken to the Hernando Detention Center, where he was booked on charges of intentional or reckless burning of lands, felony criminal mischief, trespass, and resisting arrest. He also faces an additional felony theft charge after an employee at a nearby 7-Eleven store reported having a video of Thomas stealing from the store earlier that day.

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According to Terry, Thomas has an extensive criminal history spanning more than a decade involving home invasion, robbery, theft, and felony battery in Pinellas County. Thomas may face additional charges in Hernando County as the investigation into the incident continues.

Marques Thomas/ HCSO
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