An Oregon man is accused of deliberately starting brush fires with Molotov cocktails, KATU-TV wrote. Domingo Lopez, Jr. reportedly admitted to starting a series of small fires that authorities contained quickly.
On Sunday, firefighters were alerted to reports of brush burning along a stretch of Interstate 205 that runs through the outer reaches of the city. Authorities were able to quickly extinguish the blazes with the help of passers-by.
About an hour later, a witness claimed that a man deliberately started the fire, and was pointed to a tent where Domingo Lopez Jr. was staying.
As reported, the 45-year-old man admitted to filling a plastic bottle with gasoline and using a wick to light it — a classic “Molotov cocktail.” Police seized the device as evidence and took Lopez into custody.
Hours later, he was released.
On Monday morning, authorities were once again alerted to more fires in the same area, and the same suspect was arrested again. That time, police seized a lighter he had on his person as evidence.
Lopez has been charged with multiple counts of reckless burning. He was also taken to a hospital and ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, officials in and around Portland have warned specifically against the use of Molotov cocktails as wildfires rage across parts of the West. Specifically, protests have been taking place in the city nightly since the death of George Floyd on May 25; in some cases, those protests have turned violent. Further, demonstrators have used incendiary devices such as fireworks and Molotov cocktails and thrown them at the police. They have also reportedly burned mattresses or the content of dumpsters.
Portland Fire and Rescue spokesperson Rob Garrison warned that sparks from those fires, kicked up by high winds, could cause the conflagrations to spread rapidly.
“With this high wind, there’s an extreme possibility for us to have a very large fire get out of control quickly. If sparks were to get into a neighborhood where there is someone with a large dry yard or something, that could be a concern,” he said.
Lopez is not believed to be affiliated with any protests, and his alleged crimes appear to be random mischief and not a political statement.
At least one other Oregon brush fire appears to be tied to criminal activity. As Oregon Public Broadcasting reported, a series of small fires near the town of Sweet Home all erupted within a brief period of time, and officials are looking for a pickup truck that was seen in the area.