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Two teens arrested in charge of starting grass and brush fires

Two teens have been arrested and charged with starting grass and brush fires in south Georgia, where firefighters have been battling wildfires that have burned more than 175,000 acres (70,800 hectares).

A 16-year-old boy has been charged with setting a small brush fire near Jesup, authorities said Thursday. Another boy, age 12, is charged with starting a small grass fire near Waycross, where Georgia's largest recorded wildfire started April 16.

Both are being charged as minors and have been released to their parents, authorities said. The fires were quickly extinguished and burned less than an acre (0.4 hectare) each.

"These fires were all very small and were knocked out quickly by the fire departments," Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner John Oxendine said Thursday. "But with conditions as dry as they are, they could've become very major."

Both fires were unrelated, and authorities do not believe they are connected to six larger fires being investigated as suspicious by the Georgia Forestry Commission's arson investigation task force, which made the arrests, said Darryl Jones, a forestry spokesman.

Jones said both boys admitted setting the fires when investigators questioned them.

The largest wildfire which has scorched 107,360 acres (43,500 hectares) of forest and Okefenokee Swamp land started April 16 when a tree fell onto a power line near Waycross.

Another large fire started by a lightning strike in the swamp last weekend has burned 68,650 acres (27,800 hectares).

Authorities also are searching for a third person, described as a witness.

One of the arrests was made after bloodhounds found a footprint left at the fire scene, according to the Georgia Forestry Commission's arson investigation task force, which made the arrests.

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