PINEVILLE — Law enforcement officials have accused an SC Forestry Commission employee of using incendiary devices made from cigarettes and matches to start a series of forest fires earlier this year in the Berkeley County.
Berkeley County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested Brad Chance, 52, on March 10. The St. Stephen man is charged with three counts of arson of another’s land, a felony that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Arrest warrant affidavits reveal that the SC Forestry Commission, which is responsible for protecting and managing the state’s public and private forest resources, investigated more than 100 bushfires that occurred between October 2021 and February 2022.
Deputies blamed Chance for starting three fires between January and February, all within an 8km radius of rural land in Pineville, a small community nestled between Marion and Moultrie lakes.
Two of the fires started on Jan. 14 and Feb. 3 near Tanaya Lane and SC Highway 45, according to affidavits. The third fire occurred on February 15 near the Pilgrim Baptist Church, 1339 Colonel Maham Drive.
Chance declined to comment when reached by phone March 14.
On February 15, investigators viewed video footage from the scene of the January 14 fire. In the video, Chance’s blue van was shown moving through the area when the fire was reported, according to affidavits.
Investigators executed a search warrant on February 15 at Chance’s residence. Chance admitted in an interview with investigators that the vehicle seen in the video belonged to him, according to affidavits.
Inside Chance’s truck, investigators found rubber bands, six nails, a lighter, an empty box of menthol cigarettes and some wooden matches, according to the affidavit.
Investigators say those same items were used to construct incendiary devices found at the scene of several fires, according to affidavits.
Chance worked for the commission as a forestry technician in Berkeley and Charleston counties. He was hired for the position in February 2021, according to a press release from the agency. When arrested, he was suspended without pay.
Chance has owned Brad’s Tree Service, a landscaping company, since 2006, according to state records. A post on the company’s social media on March 12 said they were available for tree removal and branch clearing services.
Chance was taken into custody following a joint investigation between the sheriff’s office and SCFC law enforcement officers. He was released from Berkeley County Jail on March 11 after a magistrate posted a personal bond of $45,000.
Call Jocelyne Grzeszczak at 843-323-9175. Follow her on Twitter at @jocgrz.