A man who was arrested in Oregon after allegedly using a Molotov cocktail to start a wildfire was later released from jail but rearrested less than 24 hours later for allegedly starting six more small fires. The incident comes amid a string of devastating wildfires as northern California, Oregon, and Washington suffer varying degrees of drought following an extremely dry summer.
Domingo Lopez Jr., 45, was arrested after using a Molotov cocktail “to start a small brush fire,” the Portland Police Bureau said in a statement Monday.
“On Sunday, September 13, 2020 at 4:35p.m., East Precinct officers were dispatched to assist Portland Fire and Rescue with a brush fire in the 9600 block of East Burnside Street,” the statement reads. “Officers saw that a section of grass along the I-205 freeway was burning. Firefighters extinguished the fire. No one was injured and no structures were damaged.”
“About an hour later, East officers were flagged down by a witness who pointed out the suspect in a nearby tent,” the statement continues. “Officers arrested the suspect, who confirmed he lit the fire with the device.”
Authorities booked Lopez Jr. into the Multnomah County Detention Center “on charges of Reckless Burning and Disorderly Conduct in the Second Degree,” the statement adds. “Arson investigators are also doing follow-up to see if other charges are warranted.”
Investigators recovered alleged evidence (pictured below) during their initial investigation.
— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) September 14, 2020
As reported by the New York Post, Lopez Jr. was booked into jail Sunday evening on charges of “reckless burning and second-degree disorderly conduct” and released later that night.
“The alleged arson comes as Oregon is one of the worst hit by wildfires devastating the West Coast, with at least 10 dead in the Beaver State,” the Post notes.
The Portland Police Bureau later reported that the same suspect was arrested just hours later for allegedly starting more fires after being released from jail.
“On Monday, September 14, 2020, at 3:37a.m., East Precinct officers were dispatched with Portland Fire and Rescue to a report of multiple fires burning along the west side of the I-205 freeway,” the Portland Police Bureau said in a separate statement. “Portland Fire and Rescue extinguished three of them while passing community members put out the other three. All were caught early. No one was injured and no structures were burnt. Officers located Domingo Lopez, Junior walking along the shoulder and arrested him. They seized a lighter as evidence.”
The suspect was cited six additional times on counts of Reckless Burning and was transported to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.
One of the major fires that recently hit the West Coast — near Palm Springs, California — was allegedly caused by a pyrotechnic device that was used during a gender reveal party.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection issued a press release stating:
CAL FIRE Law Enforcement has determined the El Dorado Fire, burning near Oak Glen in San Bernardino County, was caused by a smoke generating pyrotechnic device, used during a gender reveal party. The fire began at 10:23 am on September 5, 2020 in the El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa. The fire spread from the park to the north on to Yucaipa Ridge that separates Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls from the City of Yucaipa. CAL FIRE reminds the public that with the dry conditions and critical fire weather, it doesn’t take much to start a wildfire. Those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially responsible and criminally responsible.
Much of the West Coast is experiencing moderate to extreme drought, a product of a particularly dry summer. While some of the fires appear to be the result of accidental human ignitions, many unfounded claims about arson have spread online. Lightning storms appear to have caused some fires in California, while one of the most destructive fires in Oregon, the Whitney Fire, appears to have been sparked by a fallen power line. One case of possible arson is the Dolan Fire in California for which a man was arrested on suspicion of arson on forest land.
This report has been expanded to include more details about the causes of the West Coast wildfires.