Chief of the Forest Service decries arrest of worker.
Legal Insurrection readers may recall that in May of this year, I reported that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) had started the two blazes that grew into New Mexico’s largest wildfire in history.
With that in mind, it is understandable that an Oregon sheriff arrested a USFS employee whose planned burn also went awry.
A U.S. Forest Service employee was arrested after the prescribed fire he was managing torched 18 acres of private land in Oregon, authorities confirmed Friday.
The man, known as a “burn boss” for his duties planning and supervising prescribed burns, which are intended to reduce fuel for wildfires, was arrested on suspicion of reckless burning, Grant County District Attorney Grant Carpenter said in a statement.
The Grant County Sheriff’s Office responded to the fire Wednesday afternoon after it sparked a separate blaze on the Darrel Holliday Ranch in the area of Bear Valley, the DA said.
Sheriff Todd McKinley made the arrest at the scene after determining he had “probable cause to arrest the USFS fire boss,” Carpenter’s office said in the statement.
While formal charges are still pending, the USFS has lodged a complaint against the sheriff.
The local district attorney was having no part of that argument.
The head of the U.S. Forest Service has denounced the arrest by an Oregon sheriff of a Forest Service employee after a planned burn in a national forest spread onto private land.
The criticism by Forest Service Chief Randy Moore was followed by a statement from Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter in which he defended the arrest on Oct. 19 of a U.S. Forest Service “burn boss” on allegations of reckless burning.
“I respect the sheriff’s discretion and decision to make an arrest in this case,” Carpenter said Tuesday. Sheriff Todd McKinley occasionally briefs Carpenter on an investigation into the case, the prosecutor said, adding that it could last for weeks or even months.
Interestingly, the wildfire season has now officially ended in Oregon.
The impact of wildfires on the land this year may prove somewhat smaller than last year’s. An estimated 536,693 acres have burned to date in Oregon, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland. Last year, wildfires burned 828,777 acres. And in 2020 – one of the most destructive fire seasons in Oregon’s history – fires scorched well over a million acres and destroyed thousands of homes.
Though the season may be over for most, a handful of fires remain active, said Ted Pierce, a manager with the Interagency Center. Pierce said roughly 1,400 personnel are still deployed in Oregon and Washington, most of them on the Cedar Creek Fire.
Oregon is lucky the “burn boss” and his blaze didn’t create an historic fire, as happened in New Mexico. Perhaps the time has come that our federal employees face a little local accountability when their mistakes damage and destroy the region in which they work.DONATE
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