Some Oregon residents took the law into their own hands this week, tying a man suspected of starting wildfires in a rural forested area to a tree until police arrived on the scene.
Curry County Sheriff John Ward alleged in a statement that Trennon Smith, 30, of Veneta, Oregon was spotted walking along a gravel road starting fires on Monday.
The sheriff’s office reached out to local law enforcement and the southwest Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) requesting help putting out the fires and locating the suspect, according to the statement.
“Three helicopters were dispatched by ODF while ground crews, including residents of the area, quickly got the two fires under control and contained,” Ward said in the statement. “Three local residents of that area located the suspect walking on the roadway near the fires and detained him until law enforcement arrived on scene.”
“The suspect became very combative with the three residents and had to be tied to a tree to subdue him,” Ward said.
The suspect was reportedly hurt and required an ambulance; Ward said it was from "injuries that the suspect apparently received from falling down."
Officers with the Bureau of Land Management arrested Smith after he was treated for those injuries at a local hospital. He was charged with two counts of first-degree arson and one count of reckless burning. He is also being held on a probation violation.
The alleged arson came as the state is facing a historic and potentially deadly heatwave — as is most of the Pacific Northwest. At least 13 million people could face triple digit temperatures by the end of the week, and heat warnings and advisories have been issued for the region.
Tony Fracasso, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the New York Times that the small flames Smith is accused of setting could have grown and caused a serious threat.
“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,” Sheriff Ward said in the statement “If the fires had not been contained and if they got out of control, they could have blocked all residents and visitors from having an escape route.”
An investigation into the incident is continuing.