MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Cass County teen has been charged with felony wildlife arson after intentionally setting a blaze Wednesday that damaged over 70 acres and endangered several homes.

Anthony James Wittner, 17, told investigators he started a forest fire because mosquitoes were bothering him, according to the Cass County Attorney’s Office.

Authorities received the first report of a fire Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. near the west side of State Highway 371 near the Pike Bay Town Hall.

When deputies arrived, they noticed another fire about 100 yards south. Deputies decided to try to head off the suspect 300 yards south of the second fire.

A deputy eventually encountered Wittner near an abandoned railroad bed, who then fled but was arrested a short time later. The suspect initially denied starting the fires and blamed someone else. But during a later interview, Wittner confessed to lighting the second fire.

Ten homes were evacuated due to the fire, but none were damaged.

Wittner is being held at the Northwestern Minnesota Juvenile Detention Center in Bemidji, and he may be tried as an adult. His next court appearance is scheduled for June 3.


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