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Southern Oregon police make arson arrest for second blaze set during Almeda Fire

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday it has arrested a man for arson after he allegedly started a fire while a chaotic wildfire grew nearby.

Police accused Michael Jarrod Bakkela, 41, of starting the fire near the railroad tracks in Phoenix, Oregon. The case is separate from the devastating Almeda Fire, which swept through Phoenix and Talent this week, causing widespread destruction. The latest information provided from the state suggests at least four people were injured and two died from the fire, and at least 600 homes were lost.

In a statement, the sheriff’s office said around 5 p.m. Tuesday while the Almeda Fire burned, “residents witnessed Bakkela lighting a fire behind their house on Quail Lane.” Deputies and Oregon State Police troopers who arrived at the scene said they saw Bakkela “standing close to a very large fire threatening several homes.”

Bakkela has been charged with two counts of first degree arson, 15 counts of first degree criminal mischief and 14 counts of reckless endangering.

Bakkela has a long history of drug charges, and was originally held by police for a related probation violation. He is currently being held at the Jackson County Jail.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting