Curry County, OR – An alleged arsonist accused of starting two forest fires in a remote area of public land near Grants Pass was tackled by local residents and tied to a tree to stop him from fleeing the scene, according to police.
The Curry County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) received a call from the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Medford office at approximately 1:45 p.m. on July 25 advising that two “active fires” had been spotted near the Mariel Lodge and the Rouge River Ranch, Curry County Sheriff John Ward said in a press release the following day.
The location of the fires was in the “far northeast portion” of the county, and was accessible “either by river or Forest Service and [Bureau of Land Management] BLM roads,” Sheriff Ward noted.
The sheriff said a BLM employee happened to be in the area of the fires and had reported seeing a white male walking along the gravel road igniting the blazes.
Multiple agencies responded to the scene to fight the fires and locate the suspect, including the Southwest Oregon Department of Forestry, USFS, BLM, the Coos Forest Patrol, the Douglass County and Josephine County Sheriff’s Offices, and the CCSO.
The location of the fires posed a particularly significant risk because they also had the potential of blocking the only escape route out of the area, according to the sheriff.
Three helicopters and ground crews that included local residents managed to quickly get both fires contained and under control, Sheriff Ward said.
Meanwhile, three civilians spotted the alleged arsonist walking along the roadway nearby and “detained him” until law enforcement could respond to take him into custody, the sheriff said.
“It was reported that the suspect became very combative with the three residents and had to be tied to a tree to subdue him,” Sheriff Ward added.
He was later identified as 30-year-old Trennon Smith.
An ambulance crew also responded “due to some injuries that the suspect apparently received from falling down,” Sheriff Ward said.
Smith was transported to Three Rivers Hospital in Grants Pass to be medically cleared and was subsequently booked into the Curry County Jail on two counts of first-degree arson and one count of reckless burning.
His bond was set at $100,000, according to The Oregonian.
Sheriff Ward said Smith also had a valid warrant for his arrest for violating his probation out of Lane County.
The CCSO is continuing to investigate the incident.
Sheriff Ward noted that the Curry County District Attorney may also work with federal agencies on prosecuting the case.
“The cooperation and partnership between all agencies when something like this occur is remarkable,” Sheriff Ward said. “The quick actions on getting the fires out most certainly averted a catastrophe and saved lives.”
“The total area burnt is less than one acre,” he added. “If the fires had not been contained and if they got out of control, they could have blocked all the residents and visitors from having an escape route.”