A large brush fire that ignited in the late afternoon hours of July 4 about 9 miles west of Alsea in extreme western Benton County is under control, Oregon Department of Forestry Wildland Fire Supervisor Rick Harris said Tuesday afternoon.
The fire, believed to have been started by fireworks, burned 0.64 of an acre, which converts to approximately 3,100 square yards. Harris said ODF was dispatched to a report of the fire at roughly 4 p.m. Sunday in an area near milepost 31 on Highway 34. The area where the fire started is rural with few homes in the area.
“We have a line around it and for the most part, it is out,” said Harris, who works out of ODF’s Philomath office. “We’ll be checking it for the next probably a week and get our hose pulled off of it and we’ll make sure it has ‘no smokes’ in it for at least three days.”
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office arrested Tristian Forrest, 20, of Lebanon, and Tyler Weeks, 21, of Corvallis, in connection with the fire. The Benton County Sheriff’s Office took custody of the two suspects in Waldport and transported them to jail in Corvallis.
According to information from LCSO, deputies arrived on scene to assist with traffic control and evacuations and learned that “two males associated with a light blue sedan were seen launching a mortar-style firework in the area just before the fire started.”
Later the same day, the LCSO office received a call from a Tidewater resident who reported a similar vehicle driving west on Highway 34 throwing lit fireworks from the vehicle at passing motorists, the report states.
Deputy Zach Akin located the vehicle on Highway 34 driving approximately 90 mph. During the traffic stop, Akin reported that fireworks were seen in plain view. Deputy Maleri Cates, who specializes in fire and arson investigations, interviewed the two suspects “who ultimately confessed to recklessly shooting off aerial fireworks near milepost 31, causing the fire,” LCSO reported.
Forrest and Weeks were both booked on charges of second-degree arson, reckless burning, fireworks offense (arson), first-degree criminal mischief and first-degree disorderly conduct.
The Alsea Fire Department and Central Coast Fire & Rescue (Waldport-Tidewater) also responded to the fire. Along with LCSO, the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Incident Response team was also at the scene.
Philomath Fire & Rescue began a response to the fire but were called off and turned around.