After a series of hay bale fires in the county late Sunday afternoon, the Barton County Sheriff’s Office arrested an 18-year-old Great Bend man suspected of starting the fires.
Gunner Mayhugh was booked into the Barton County Detention Center on five counts of arson, with bond set at $20,000 on each count.
Sheriff Brian Bellendir issued a statement Tuesday, explaining that 911 dispatchers began receiving calls around 4:28 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16, about hay bales on fire east of U.S. 281 between Ellinwood and Great Bend.
“Three fire calls were made to 911 and two more were discovered by citizens and extinguished,” the sheriff reported. All of the fires occurred within 45 minutes of each other. “Citizens had reported seeing a silver Chevrolet four-door at the locations and Sheriff’s Office deputies immediately began searching for the vehicle. In at least one instance (the) suspect was observed setting the fire.”
Bellendir said an Ellinwood police officer saw a vehicle matching the suspect vehicle’s description eastbound on NE 10th Road, traveling toward Ellinwood at a high rate of speed. BCSO deputies stopped the vehicle in Ellinwood and observed accelerants and a fireplace lighter inside.
Mayhugh was arrested at the scene.
“Sheriff’s detectives are investigating Mayhugh’s motive and suspect he may have been attempting to divert law enforcement’s attention to prevent the arrest of another person,” Bellendir stated.
The Kansas State Fire Marshal’s office was contacted, and a dog trained to detect accelerants was brought to the various locations. The investigation was continuing as of Monday morning.
The Sheriff’s office was assisted by the Ellinwood Police Department, the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Great Bend Fire Department and the Ellinwood Fire Department.