Mulberry Woman Sentenced For Burning Ozark National Forest

FORT SMITH (KFSM) — A Mulberry woman was sentenced Wednesday (April 4) to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution for burning  about a half-acre of the Ozark National Forest last spring.

Shelly Raye Winfey, 47, pleaded guilty in December 2017 in U.S. District Court to one count of setting fire to public lands, according to the U.S. attorney’s office

Winfrey also received credit for the 130 days she was held in jail.

At the time of the fires, Winfey said had just had a fight with her boyfriend before drinking a bottle of Vodka in about 45 minutes. A forensic examination determined Winfrey was bi-polar and suffering from schizoaffective disorder, according to court documents.

On April 9, 2017, an off-duty Crawford County Sheriff’s Office deputy and another man saw Winfrey get out of her car and ignite a dead pine tree.

The men tried to extinguish the fire but called the Mulberry Fire Department for help. As the men went deeper into the forest, they found another fire burning about a mile north.

The fire department helped extinguish the second blaze and a third fire that was burning further north. Moments later, officials spotted Winfrey throwing ignited money from her car window, and she was arrested by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

Winfrey set two fires on U.S. Forest Service land and another on private property — but only by a few inches, said Jeff Marvin, chief of the Mulberry Fire Department. Winfrey burned roughly $346 while starting the fires.

U.S. Forest Service

Marvin said his department’s swift response kept the blaze from doing significant damage to the forest.

The Ozark National Forest is one of three national forests in Arkansas.

The other two are the St. Francis and Ouachita national forests.Marvin said the base charge to operate one of the department’s firetrucks is roughly $500 an hour, and three trucks responded to the fires.

The Ozark National Forest covers more than 1 million acres, mostly in Northwest Arkansas, according to the U.S. Forest Service.