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9 arson fires E. of La Pine prompt plea for public tips


At least nine small fires were set off a forest road east of La Pine within a 2-day period last month, and now U.S. Forest Service law enforcers are seeking any tips from the public in hopes of finding who did it.

Firefighters were called out to the blazes March 8 th and 9 th , “which were all quite small,” Forest Service Patrol Capt. Dan Smith said Monday.

The largest grew to about a quarter-acre in size, and all were found within about a half-mile of each other, he said.

The fires were set generally in the area of McKay Campground, though not at the campground itself, and far enough off Forest Road 21 (the road to Paulina Lake) that they were not started by someone in a passing vehicle, Smith said.

Forest Service law enforcement officers were at a training session in Washington state at the time, but La Pine fire officials immediately notified them of the blazes, which also had been rained on before the on-the-ground arson investigation got underway.

As for the delay in public notice, Smith said “sometimes it takes several days” for fire investigators to “put our heads together” and determine what they are dealing with.

“There may be some (fires) we haven’t discovered yet,” Smith said. “They were so small, it’s entirely possible there may be ones we’ve been unable to discover.”

Other details about the nature of the fires or their start are being withheld for investigative reasons, Smith said.

Asked about the rarity of such a cluster of arson fires, Smith said, “It’s not something we see a whole lot of.”

And as for how concerned the public should be, he only would say that’s why the agency was turning to the public for assistance.

“Maybe somebody happened to notice a vehicle or someone in the area” and didn’t think much of it at the time, the investigator said.

Smith also could not comment on whether there are any links to other recent arson or suspicious fires in the area (such as the Two Bulls blazes), putting it this way: “We keep an open mind” about that possibility.

Anyone with any information about activity, individuals or vehicles seen on or near Forest Road 21 on March 8 or 9 that could help identify the suspects is asked to contact Smith at 541-383-5798.

You can also contact the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-877-876-TIPS, or use the form on KTVZ.COM’s Crime Stoppers page. You can remain anonymous, and you could be eligible for a cash reward.

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