Wildfires have now claimed the lives of at least 15 people across California, Oregon, and Washington as wildfires continue to rage in all three states.

Arson investigations have been launched in two separate wildfire incidents in all three states.

In the first case, arson investigators are looking into the suspicious origins of a deadly Oregon wildfire that began in the town of Ashland and destroyed hundreds of homes and killed two people.

The remains of two victims have been found in ruins from the blaze, which erupted on Tuesday and roared through a third day in the midst of a spate of wildfires across Oregon, according to a spokesman for the state fire marshal.

More bodies are expected to be discovered as search teams comb through the wreckage of dwellings that were engulfed during a chaotic evacuation of populated areas along the path of the swiftly spreading flames, Ashland police chief Tighe O’Meara said.

“We tried to get people out as fast as we could,”[Ashland Police Chief Tighe] O’Meara told Reuters by phone. “Chances are there are going to be bodies in some of those homes. The likelihood of much larger (fatality) numbers is significant.”

Police Chief O’Mara indicated there were “good reasons” for the blaze to be investigated as arson.

“We have good reason to believe that there was a human element to it,” O’Meara said, according to Reuters. “We’re going to pursue it as a criminal investigation until we have reason to believe that it was otherwise.”

Investigators are also looking into a body that was found near the origin of the fire as part of the criminal investigation, KDRV-TV in Medford reported. Officials have not elaborated.

In a second incident, one man has been arrested for starting a blaze in Phoenix,Oregon.

A man is in custody, charged with two counts of arson and numerous other charges after allegedly starting a fire in Phoenix the night the Almeda Fire was raging.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said that deputies responded to the 1100-block of Quail Lane just after 5 p.m. on Tuesday night, to an area off Barnum drive between Highway 99 and the railroad tracks. The 911 caller reported seeing a man igniting a fire behind their home on Quail Lane.

“Due to the impending fire, the witnesses had to flee their home and could not be interviewed immediately,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

When deputies and troopers form Oregon State Police arrived, they found 41-year-old transient Michael Jarrod Bakkela standing near “a very large fire” that was threatening several homes. Bakkela reportedly denied starting the fire.

In a third suspected arson case farther up north, one man may have incriminated himself in the start of a Washington state blaze via social media.

Puyallup police and state troopers arrested a 36-year-old Puyallup man Wednesday for allegedly starting a large brushfire which temporarily shut down state Route 167 and several ramps near Meridian Avenue.

A man with the exact same name as the one police arrested recorded a Facebook live of that fire saying he reported it to first responders.

Puyallup police told KIRO7 News they were made aware of the Facebook live — which showed his interaction with officers — after the arrest.

Puyallup police and state troopers arrested a 36-year-old Puyallup man Wednesday for allegedly starting a large brushfire which temporarily shut down state Route 167 and several ramps near Meridian Avenue.

A man with the exact same name as the one police arrested recorded a Facebook live of that fire saying he reported it to first responders.

Puyallup police told KIRO7 News they were made aware of the Facebook live — which showed his interaction with officers — after the arrest.

Here is the video posted on Facebook. The man had earlier attended a BLM “protest” he had also filmed.

In the fourth case, Washington troopers quickly followed up with a second arrest.

Troopers said someone saw a man setting fire to grass with a match near State Route 512 and State Route 7 and called police. Troopers arrived at the scene, chased the man, and took him into custody.

Thursday’s arrest comes one day after a 36-year-old Puyallup man was arrested for allegedly starting a large brushfire which temporarily shut down state Route 167 and several ramps near Meridian Avenue.

Meanwhile, in California, A 55-year-old transient was arrested Monday evening on suspicion of multiple counts of arson in Marin County.

Officers joined the Novato Fire Protection District in responding to a report of a tree on fire in the 1500 block of Novato Boulevard. Another fire was discovered in the area of Diablo Avenue and Novato Boulevard, which officers attended to using fire extinguishers from their vehicles, police officials said.

As fire crews worked to contain both fires, officers searched the area and located a suspect lighting a fire on Front Street. Officers detained the suspect, identified as John Davies. Fire crews responded to a third fire, and successfully contained and extinguished all three fires. No structures were damaged and no one was injured.

I find it interesting that in January of this year, Australian authorities arrested 24 people in connection with that nation’s massive wildfires. While a combination of poor land management decisions, urban sprawl, and drought are the leading causes of the historic Western blazes, Americans should be concerned about the number of arsons identified and the motivation of any convicted of these crimes.

 

 
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