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Locals help police capture Oregon arson suspect by tying him to tree

Dawn light passes through healthy pine trees in Malheur National Forest in Oregon. (Eirik Johnson/For The Washington Post)
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A group of citizens in southwest Oregon took the law into their own hands — literally — apprehending a man suspected of starting wildfires in a forested area and tying him to a tree when he got “combative,” law enforcement officials said.

On Monday a “white male adult was seen walking along the gravel road that leads towards Mariel Lodge and Rogue River Ranch, starting fires,” Curry County Sheriff John Ward said in a statement.

The sheriff’s office alerted local patrols and the southwest Oregon Department of Forestry, it said, asking for assistance in extinguishing the fires and locating the suspect.

“Three helicopters were dispatched … while ground crews including residents of the area quickly got the two fires under control and contained,” the statement continued.

In a dramatic turn of events, three local residents then “located the suspect walking on the roadway near the fires and detained him until law enforcement arrived on scene.”

The sheriff’s office described the suspect as being “very combative” and said he “had to be tied to a tree to subdue him.”

He was later identified as Trennon Smith, 33, from Veneta, Ore.

Smith was treated by an ambulance crew for injuries he “apparently received from falling down” but was later medically cleared. He is suspected of committing arson and reckless burning, the sheriff said, as legal investigations continue. Court documents did not say whether Smith had an attorney, and bond was set at $100,000, the Associated Press reported.

Summer in America is becoming hotter, longer and more dangerous

The total area burned was less than one acre, Ward said, praising the speedy response.

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

As of Wednesday morning, 11 fires were burning in Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Emergency Management. Many Oregonians having been forced to evacuate their homes during the wildfire season this year.

“We need more citizens to be ready to respond like this. Excellent job by all involved!” wrote one person on Facebook in response to the sheriff’s statement. “Wow I’m a speechless what a great community bringing Justice and safety in our neighborhoods,” added another.

Seattle and Portland are sizzling in hottest weather of the summer

Meanwhile, record heat continues to make the Pacific Northwest swelter.

Seattle and Portland are under excessive-heat warnings until Thursday evening, with temperatures teetering over triple digits.

Multnomah County, where Portland is the county seat, issued an emergency declaration this week because of “dangerously hot conditions.” Local officials will open temporary “cooling shelters” and are asking residents to plan ahead and take care of neighbors, especially the elderly.

The heat is originating from a ridge of high pressure, or “heat dome,” which has parked itself in the northeastern Pacific west of British Columbia.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration launched a website (heat.gov) to provide a one-stop hub for the public and decision-makers to find “clear, timely and science-based information to understand and reduce the health risks of extreme heat,” as part of wider climate measures.

Extreme heat has been the greatest weather-related cause of death in the United States for the past 30 years, according to the website — surpassing hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding. Extreme heat also kills members of Black and Native American communities at disproportionately high rates, it added.

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