Fire in Oregon is now being investigated as a possible arson: ‘We’re going to pursue it as a criminal investigation’


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(Natural News) JACKSON COUNTY, OR –For days, Oregon has been the victim of ongoing an raging wildfires throughout the state.  One of them, started in Ashland, Oregon, is now being investigated as an arson.

(Article by Chris Elliot republished from LawEnforcementToday.com)

The fire has been blamed for the destruction of roughly 600 homes so far and has claimed over 3,000 acres.  Now, Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler reports that two bodies were located in the aftermath.

Sickler reported that the Jackson County Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit has started their investigation surrounding the two bodes that were located.  Sickler told the Mail Tribune that nothing has been ruled out as to the cause of the fire:

“We are still in the early stages [of investigation].  Nothing’s been ruled out – it’s still an active investigation.”

This particular fire appeared to have started on September 8th and spread “at an extreme rate,” said Sickler.

As the fire spread, Sheriff’s Deputies and other local law enforcement tried to evacuate as many people as they could.  However, some completely refused to evacuate their homes.  Sickler said:

“We had people refuse to leave their homes.  We don’t know what their status is because we had to move on…This is an event that is larger than anything I’ve been a part of with regards to the loss of property and the destruction to the community.”

Tighe O’Meara, the Police Chief for Ashland Police Department advised that they were viewing the fire as possible arson.  O’Meara told Reuters:

“We have good reason to believe that there was a human element to it.  We’re going to pursue it as a criminal investigation until we have reason to believe it was otherwise.  

O’Meara did not provide much information as to why they believe that this wildfire may be an arson.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown reported that over 10% of the state’s population had been evacuated due to the fires.  She said:

“We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across our state.”

Police officials report that the fire departments working the active scenes have made progress but noted that the Almeda fire was still very much active.  They also ask that people stay out of the area of the fires as their presence could interfere with firefighters dumping fire retardant and water in the area.

While that arson investigation is underway, police were able to arrest one man for allegedly starting another fire in the same area.  On September 8th, people called the police after seeing a man light a fire behind their home in Phoenix.

Oregon State Troopers and Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputies responded and found Michael Bakkela who was standing in the area.  They report that Bakkela “was standing close to a very large fire threatening several homes.”

When police contacted him, they probation violation but did not specify how he violated.  On September 11th, they charged him with two counts of arson, 15 counts of criminal mischief, and 14 counts of reckless endangering.  Police have not released how they developed probable cause for Bakkela’s arrest regarding the arson.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, Mike Moran, told ABC News that there was a large amount of damage that resulted in the fire that Bakkela allegedly started.  Moran said:

“There are numerous homes, many of which are burnt completely, some are just heavily damaged, that are part of the 15 counts of criminal mischief.” 

The FBI released a statement warning against social media rumors of left or right wing extremists starting the fires.  They said:

“FBI Portland and local law enforcement agencies have been receiving reports that extremists are responsible for setting wildfires in Oregon.  With our state and local partners, the FBI has investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue.

“Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away [from] local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control.  Please help our entire community by only sharing validated information from official sources.”

Read more at: LawEnforcementToday.com


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