Oregon Residents Help Officials Arrest Man Accused Of Starting Wildfires

Oregon Residents Help Officials Arrest Man Accused of Starting Wildfires

Oregon Residents Help Officials Arrest Man Accused Of Starting Wildfires

A man wanted on charges that he started two wildfires in rural Oregon on Monday was spotted walking along a roadway by three local residents who, after a struggle, tied him to a tree until law enforcement officers arrived, the authorities said.

The authorities said that a witness saw the man, Trennon Smith, 30, of Veneta, Ore., strolling along a gravel road at about 2 p.m. and igniting two wildfires near the Rogue River Ranch in southwestern Oregon.

Firefighters quickly contained and put out the fires, which had burned less than an acre, according to the Curry County Sheriff’s Office. The authorities had a description of the man who set the fires from witnesses, and several agencies searched for him that afternoon. But it was the three Curry County residents who found him by a roadway near the fires, Sheriff John Ward of Curry County, said in a statement.

“The suspect became very combative with the three residents and had to be tied to a tree to subdue him,” Sheriff Ward said. Mr. Smith was treated by an ambulance crew for injuries that he received from “falling down,” Sheriff Ward said. The suspect was charged with two counts of first-degree arson and one count of reckless burning.

It was not immediately clear if Mr. Smith had a lawyer. Sheriff Ward did not immediately respond to an email and call seeking comment on Tuesday night.

The fires came at a precarious moment for the state, which, along with the rest of the Pacific Northwest, is facing abnormally high temperatures this week as a heat wave blankets the region. Heat warnings and advisories have been issued for the entire region, where 13 million people will most likely face triple-digit temperatures by the end of the week.

Multnomah County, Ore., and the city of Portland issued emergency declarations ahead of the heat wave, and plan to open cooling centers.

Since the West coast is less humid than the eastern parts of the country, extremely high temperatures there lead to dangerously dry conditions in forests, said Tony Fracasso, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. A small fire, like the ones that Mr. Smith is accused of starting, could quickly grow and pose a threat, Mr. Fracasso said.

Sheriff Ward said that quickly putting out the fires on Monday in Curry County had “most certainly averted a catastrophe and saved lives.”

“If the fires had not been contained and if they got out of control,” he added, “they could have blocked all the residents and visitors from having an escape route.”

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