6 Accused of Arson in Oregon Amid Rash of Wildfires

September 21, 2020 Updated: September 21, 2020

At least six men have been arrested on arson charges for allegedly intentionally starting fires in Oregon since July.

Wildfires are burning millions of acres on the West Coast, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of families, decimating a number of small towns, and leading to the deaths of dozens.

Domingo Lopez Jr., 45, was arrested on Sept. 14 after allegedly lighting seven brush fires in Multnomah County this month. He was released after allegedly starting a fire but is subject to a police officer hold for a mental health evaluation after allegedly setting six others.

The fires were quickly extinguished.

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Domingo Lopez Jr., left, and a Molotov cocktail he allegedly used to start a fire in Portland, Ore., on Sept. 13, 2020. (Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office; Portland Police Bureau)

Another man was arrested in Clackamas County for setting leaves on fire about 10 feet from a county building in Oregon City, officials said. It was extinguished before causing any damage.

Sammy Piatt, 53, was booked on Sept. 11 on an arson charge and a violation of probation; he admitted to setting the fire, officials said.

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a fire near a disc golf course on Sept. 9 and located a man spotted leaving the area the next day.

“I like the smell of smoke,” Piatt told officers, according to court documents obtained by The Oregonian.

Jonathan Maas, 44, was arrested and charged with first-degree arson.

Two people playing disc golf extinguished the fire, officials said.

Maas has a criminal history including convictions for forgery, burglary, and being a felon in possession of a gun. He told officers that he hurled a flare into a wooded area because he wanted to start a fire, according to court documents.

Elias Newton Pendergrass, 44, was arrested on Sept. 1 in Lane County for arson in connection with the Sweet Creek Fires, which have burned hundreds of acres.

Investigators said in court documents obtained by The Oregonian that Pendergrass had threatened to burn down Mapleton if his girlfriend broke up with him.

Pendergrass admitted setting the fire, officials said.

Epoch Times Photo
Michael Jarrod Bakkela in a file booking photograph. (Jackson County Sheriff’s Office)

Michael Jarrod Bakkela, 41, was arrested and charged this month for allegedly setting a fire in Phoenix, Oregon.

Residents witnessed Bakkela lighting a fire and fled their home in fear that the flames would reach them, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said. The fire ultimately damaged 15 properties.

He faces several dozen criminal charges, including arson and reckless endangerment; he has pleaded not guilty.

Bakkela, described by officials as a transient, has been convicted of crimes linked to drug use and possession. He had methamphetamine on him when he was arrested, deputies said.

Jedediah Ezekiel Fulton, 39, was charged in July with arson and other charges for allegedly starting multiple fires outside of Glide.

Fulton, who was convicted of criminal mischief and criminal trespassing after vandalizing a McDonald’s that turned down his request to make 35 double cheeseburgers in 2018, started the fires because he was upset firefighters wouldn’t give him a ride into Glide, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Fulton admitted to setting the fires, officials said, adding: “He told deputies he had been in the forest for approximately three hours and was attempting to get help.”

The origin of at least one other fire, the Alameda Fire, is under criminal investigation.

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