At least two people have been arrested for arson in connection with the unprecedented wildfires that are sweeping across the west coast of the United States. So far, 26 people have been killed and many more are missing in some of the largest fires in the region’s history.
The area has seen very little rain in recent months and it has been very hot. The dryness along with high temperatures and strong winds have created conditions for fires to thrive. While the exact cause of every fire remains unknown, some of these fires likely occurred naturally, but it is also clear that many of them have been caused by human recklessness.
One of the first major fires were reportedly caused by a botched gender-reveal party, in which a couple accidentally created a massive fire while setting off a gender-themed explosive device in a dry field. In the days since, at least two people have been arrested for arson in connection to wildfires on the west coast.
In California, a 37-year-old woman named Anita Esquivel was accused of intentionally starting fires on Highway 101 and was booked for arson after she was found by police.
A 41-year-old man from Oregon named Michael Jarrod Bakkela was also arrested for arson in connection with the wildfires. Bakkela initially was arrested on Tuesday for a probation violation on an original charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine. On Friday, authorities charged him in connection with the fire, which he denied starting, according to ABC7. Bakkela was described as a “transient” by some media outlets, and the police have not yet revealed the evidence that they have against him.
Considering the very volatile political climate that we are in the middle of, people on both sides of the aisle have attempted to use these tragic news stories in order to score political points and make their opponents look bad. Officials were forced to respond to allegations that these fires were intentionally set by either far-left or far-right extremist groups, saying that there is no evidence to support these claims. So far, the people who have been arrested for arson in connection with these fires appear to have a history of drug abuse and mental illness and have no obvious political affiliations.
For the past week, residents of Oregon and California have shared intense photos and videos of bright red or orange skies. The smoke has caused unhealthy breathing conditions for most of California, according to air quality monitors.
Sadly, these fires may be burning for quite a while. At least eight of Oregon’s wildfires are expected to burn “until the winter’s rains fall,” Oregon Department of Forestry Fire Chief Doug Grafe said Friday.
Oregon Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps said that the state is preparing for a “mass fatality incident.”
Fires are common in this part of the country at this time of year, but the size and scale of these fires are certainly unprecedented for the area.
We will have more details on this story as they become available.