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Sheriff: Man starts wildfires, detained by locals in southern Oregon

Three residents apprehended the man and tied him to a tree until police arrived.
Credit: KGW News

SALEM, Ore. — A man who reportedly ignited wildfires in a remote, forested corner of Oregon was apprehended by three local residents and tied to a tree until police arrived, a sheriff said Tuesday.

Federal, state and county authorities responded to a radio call Monday from a U.S. Bureau of Land Management employee who reported a man was walking along a gravel road and setting fires, in the forest some 25 miles northwest of Grants Pass. Ground crews, assisted by local residents, and three helicopters quickly got the two fires under control, Curry County Sheriff John Ward said.

Meanwhile, three local residents located the suspect walking on the road near the fires and detained him.

“It was reported that the suspect became very combative with the three residents and had to be tied to a tree to subdue him.,” Ward said in a statement. "An ambulance crew was asked to respond due to some injuries that the suspect apparently received from falling down.

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After being treated at a hospital for his injuries, Trennon Smith, 30, of Veneta, Oregon, was being held on Tuesday in the Curry County jail on charges of arson and reckless burning, Ward said. Court documents did not say if he has an attorney. Bond was set at $100,000.

The area where the fires occurred is only accessible either by the Rogue River or Forest Service and BLM roads. Lodges are nearby in the remote region, used by rafters and fishermen.

“The quick actions on getting the fires out most certainly averted a catastrophe and saved lives,” Ward said. “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.”

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