Six accused of starting Oregon blazes amid devastating wildfire season
At least six men in Oregon have been accused of intentionally setting blazes during the state’s devastating wildfire season, according to a report.
There is no evidence that the suspects were motivated by politics, despite conspiracies that such an animus has fueled the fires that have burned more than a million acres, Oregon Lives reported.
Instead, some of the blazes were attributed to petty beef, relationship troubles and enjoying the “smell of smoke,” officials said.
One of the alleged arsonists, Jedediah Ezekiel Fulton, 39, was discovered setting fires July 28 in the woods outside Glide after he became upset with a member of a local forest protection organization, the outlet reported.
“Jedediah was mad because the guy from (the Douglas Forest Protection Association) would not help him and not give him a ride to town,” authorities wrote in a probable cause affidavit.
Then, Elias Newton Pendergrass, 44, was busted in connection with the Sweet Creek Fires on Aug. 30 after threatening to burn down the town of Mapletown if his girlfriend broke up with him, the outlet reported.
Others appear to have troubled backgrounds.
Jonathan Wayne Maas, 44, was busted for starting a blaze Sept. 9 near a disc golf course in Dexter, about 20 miles from the Holiday Farm fire that has spread to 170,000 acres.
Maas — whose rap sheet includes convictions for forgery, burglary and firearm possession – confessed to authorities that he tossed a flare into a forested area in the hopes of starting a fire, the outlet reported.
Then two days later, 53-year-old Samuel Piatt, who is homeless, told officers that he “likes the smell of smoke” when he was busted for lighting a large pile of leaves in Oregon City, the report said.
Another homeless man, Domingo Lopez Jr., 45, was accused of going on a 12-hour spree that began Sept. 13 in which he set multiple brush fires along Interstate 2015 in Portland, the outlet reported.
He admitted to the fires and was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, authorities said.
Glenn Corbett, a professor of fire science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said the wildfire coverage could be motivating those with incendiary tendencies to commit the crimes.
“All that people are talking about right now is these fires, it’s on TV and in the newspapers,” Glenn told the outlet. “I would imagine this could be sort of a motivator for people who had those types of tendencies to begin with. It can certainly move them to becoming a participant.”
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