News and Commentary

Forestry Officials Warn Looters Are Targeting Homes Evacuated During West Coast Wildfires
Volunteer firefighter Jacob Ruthrock puts out embers from a fire in Gates, Oregon, on September 10, 2020. - California firefighters battled the state's largest ever inferno on September 10, as tens of thousands of people fled blazes up and down the US West Coast and officials warned the death toll could shoot up in coming days. At least eight people have been confirmed dead in the past 24 hours across California, Oregon and Washington, but officials say some areas are still impossible to reach, meaning the number is likely to rise. (Photo by Kathryn ELSESSER / AFP) (Photo by KATHRYN ELSESSER/AFP via Getty Images)

Oregon forestry officials are warning that looters are targeting homes evacuated over the west coast wildfires and at least two men have already been arrested after clearing homes in Oregon’s Beachie Creek region, one of the areas suffering from major wildfire damage.

Oregon Live reports that deputies arrested Anthony Travis Bodda, 21, and Alexander Justin Jones, 36, late last week, who looted homes in Marion County, Oregon, and then led deputies on a high-speed chase.

“Deputies spotted the [pair’s] van near Gates and began pursuing the vehicle west on Oregon 22, with an assist from the Linn County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police. The van took the exit into the Stayton/Sublimity area and drove through a golf course in a failed attempt to evade their pursuers,” according to Oregon Live. “Authorities used spike strips to disable the van and two suspects, later identified as 21-year-old Anthony Travis Bodda and 36-year-old Alexander Justin Jones, got out and fled on foot.”

At the time, Oregon was being blasted by two separate fires, the Beachie Creek fire, and the Riverside fire, according to an earlier report from Oregon Live. Since then, the two fires have combined to create a mega-fire, which has so far “scorched more than 300,000 acres,” according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

“I am disappointed that while in a state of emergency these people would victimize members of our community,” Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast noted in a statement to media about the looters. “The women and men of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office are committed to holding people accountable if they chose to victimize residents from our evacuated areas.”

Looting amidst wildfires is not a new phenomenon. Just weeks ago, The Daily Wire reported on an incident in California where looters “flooded” a wildfire zone in California, even going so far as to steal a firefighter’s wallet that was left on the dashboard of his emergency response vehicle. Those looters drained the firefighter’s bank account as he was busy battling a major blaze near Santa Cruz.

Now, fires are burning across the west coast, affecting thousands of people in at least three states: Washington, Oregon, and California.

“The raging fires in Oregon have already consumed more than one million acres and forced tens of thousands of people out of their homes,” The New York Times reported Sunday. “Combined with a record-setting 3.1 million acres burned in California and more than 600,000 acres burned in Washington State, the West Coast has been blanketed for days by thick smoke that has left cities bathed in an apocalyptic haze and the worst air quality on the planet.”

Slight changes in weather and wind direction helped firefighters make progress on Saturday, but most blazes are still less than 50% contained. Although authorities anticipate that most of the fires were started accidentally, at least four people have been arrested for starting fires, including one man charged with allegedly sparking off a major Oregon blaze that has so far claimed at least two lives.

RELATED: Four People Arrested For Suspected Arson, Intentionally Setting Wildfires In California, Oregon, Washington

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