Are Antifa Members Starting Oregon Fires? Arson Rumors Explained

Oregon Fires

Getty An orange smoke-filled sky is seen above Estacada, Oregon, on September 9, 2020.

Much of Oregon is currently on fire. According to one dashboard manned by Oregon Emergency Management, there are 37 active fires and more than 805,000 acres burned. But rumors about antifa starting the Oregon fires or six antifa members being arrested are not true. Oregon officials are noting that no antifa members have been arrested in connection with the fires, but there have been some arsonists connected with some of the blazes.

Read updates about all of the fires burning in Oregon right now. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Said Antifa Has Not Started Any Wildfires

In a post shared on Facebook, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office reported that antifa has not started any fires and rumors that six antifa members were arrested are false.

Douglas County Sheriff

FacebookA Facebook post from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office wrote:

Remember when we said to follow official sources only. Remember when we said rumors make this already difficult incident even harder? Rumors spread just like wildfire and now our 9-1-1 dispatchers and professional staff are being overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires in DOUGLAS COUNTY, OREGON.

THIS IS NOT TRUE! Unfortunately, people are spreading this rumor and it is causing problems.

Do your part, STOP. SPREADING. RUMORS! Follow official sources of information such as local emergency response websites and pages, government websites and pages and local reputable news outlets.

Please, share far and wide!

Jackson County & Ashland Law Enforcement Also Confirmed Antifa Was Not Starting Fires

Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara also confirmed with Oregon Live that the Almeda fire they’re investigating wasn’t caused by antifa. The police chief said in an email: “One thing I can say is that the rumor it was set by Antifa is 100% false information. We have some leads, and none of it points in that direction.”

In a post on Facebook, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon also stated that antifa was not behind the fires.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office on FacebookThe Jackson County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook.

The Facebook page noted:

One increasingly problematic issue related to the disastrous fires in Jackson County is the spreading of false information. There are numerous FALSE reports of arrests and other situations over the past days that are the content of postings, fake stories and gossip.. When you see or hear a story please check official sources only to verify the information.

Please don’t re-post and spread misinformation based on some unverified random post or meme. Rumors make the job of protecting the community more difficult.

We are inundated with questions about things that are FAKE stories. One example is a story circulating that varies about what group is involved as to setting fires and arrests being made.

THIS IS NOT TRUE! When official information about the investigation is available it will be on reputable government, fire and law enforcement internet sites and social media pages.

Do your part, verify information you hear through official sources and DON’T spread rumors

Protesters Were Arrested in Portland for Starting a Fire Near a Police Precinct, but This Was Not Connected to a Wildfire

On September 7, 15 protesters in Portland were arrested after a fire was started outside a police precinct, KTVZ reported. The outlet reported that the crowd was chanting “burn it down” about the police precinct.

However, this case is separate from the wildfires and did not result in a large-scale fire. The group lit a mattress on fire, then added another mattress and some yard debris, police said. Officers didn’t immediately engage because lives and structures weren’t threatened, and they extinguished the fire.

Some of the Wildfires Have Been Caused by Arson

Despite there being no antifa arrests, some of the Oregon fires have been caused by arson.

Law Enforcement Today reported that some of the West Coast fires may have been a “coordinated and planned attack.” This website describes itself as having a staff comprised mostly of career cops and their avid supporters. The site did not list any named sources for the information about “coordinated attacks.” It simply wrote that unnamed federal sources told them that some arsonists were on the run and some were in jail, and some of the cases might be “linked” with more “attacks” coming. However, the sources were never named in the article.

Julia Carrie Wong of The Guardian tweeted that the publication was backing the rumors and not law enforcement’s statement about the fire.

Some of the fires were started by arson, however there has been no indication as of the time of publication that any of these fires were coordinated.

KEZI reported on September 10 that Milton Loice Moran, 48, was arrested in Junction City, Oregon, for lighting a mortar-type firework north of the city. The fireworks were illegal. KEZI reported that Moran admitted that he knew it was dangerous and had ignited a firework near someone’s home and near his carpentry shop.

On September 8, KHQ reported that Christine Comello, 36, was arrested after being suspected of starting a series of fires in east Spokane. One of the fires was near an oil drum under a tree that could have exploded.

On September 9, Q13 Fox reported that a 36-year-old man from Puyallup, Washington, was arrested and accused of starting a fire on SR-167. Jeff Acord said he saw the fire and had been driving in the other direction. You can see a video he made about the incident and learn more in Heavy’s story here. He was previously arrested in 2014 after being found with ammunition and a gun during a Ferguson protest, KOMO News reported. In his video, he claimed the Ferguson arrest was a misunderstanding.

Oregon Live reported on September 2 that Elias Newton Pendergrass, 44, was arrested on suspicion of causing the Sweet Creek Milepost 2 fire that burned almost 400 acres.

Then on September 9, KMTR reported that a man was seen starting fires in the Dexter, Oregon, state recreation region along Highway 58. They said the man had arm tattoos and was seen lighting two fires. He had a black German shepherd with him and was driving a green SUV, either a Ford or a Chevrolet.

Although not in Oregon, 37-year-old Anita Esquivel was arrested on September 7 and was accused of arson in Monterey County, California, KION reported.

Authorities are also investigating the Almeda fire as being possibly caused by arson after finding human remains in the ashes, Oregon Live reported. This was confirmed to not be connected with antifa, as mentioned in the section above.

According to information known so far, there is no reason to believe these cases are connected.

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