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A fire that caused $500,000 in damage to equipment at a Mountain Valley Pipeline construction site is being investigated as arson.

The fire occurred Saturday night in the Smith Mountain community of northern Pittsylvania County, the Pittsylvania Sheriff’s Office said.

A passer-by spotted the fire about 11 p.m. Saturday and called 911. When authorities arrived, they found the earth-moving equipment — referred to as a Caterpillar PL 87 — ablaze. There were no injuries reported, and no other equipment was damaged.

The Pittsylvania fire marshal’s office determined that the blaze was intentional.

On Friday, a protester was arrested at a pipeline site on Oxford Road in Climax after she locked herself to a piece of equipment.

Emma Howell, a 27-year-old Florida resident, locked herself to a horizontal drill in protest of the controversial 300-mile interstate natural gas pipeline, temporarily halting its construction. Other opponents of the pipeline joined her at the site in support.

Once she was removed from the drill, officers arrested her and took her into custody, according to the Pittsylvania Sheriff’s Office. Officers charged her with criminal trespassing, a Class 1 misdemeanor, before she was released from custody on a $2,500 unsecured bond.

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