BARTON COUNTY—Law enforcement authorities are investigating a series of arson fires and have made an arrest.
Just before 4:30 Sunday, law enforcement authorities in Barton County began receiving phone calls about hay bales on fire, according to Sheriff Brian Bellendir.
Three fire calls were made to 911 and two more were discovered by citizens and extinguished. All the fires occurred within 45 minutes of each other.
Citizens had reported seeing a silver Chevrolet four-door at the locations and Barton County Sheriff’s Office deputies immediately began searching for the vehicle.
In at least one instance, the suspect was observed setting the fire. All of the locations were East of US 281 Highway between Ellinwood and Great Bend.
An Ellinwood city police officer observed a vehicle matching the suspect vehicle’s description eastbound on NE. 10th Rd. traveling towards the City of Ellinwood at a high rate of speed.
Sheriff’s deputies were able to intercept the vehicle and stopped it in Ellinwood. Accelerants and a fireplace lighter were observed in the vehicle.
Deputies arrested Gunner Mayhugh, 18 of Great Bend, at the scene on requested charges that include five counts of arson. Mayhugh is being held on a $100,000 bond on each count, according to Bellendir.
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.
The Kansas State Fire Marshal’s office was contacted, and a dog trained to detect accelerants was brought to the various locations.