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As wildfires scorch the West Coast, debate is raging on the internet over what exactly is causing the fires — climate change or human acts of arson. And as Glenn Beck pointed out on Wednesday, it appears the left and Big Tech have already made their determination and have resolved to make that everyone else’s determination, too.
Over the past week, PolitiFact summarily shot down allegations of human-made fires and Facebook announced a sweeping policy to flag and remove posts on the platform suggesting as much.
But that flies in the face of the truth of the matter regarding the wildfires, which is that many of the fires burning through California, Oregon, and Washington state were in fact started by criminals. While reasonable people might argue about the extent to which climate change and/or poor forest management made the fires worse than they otherwise would have been, there can be no doubt that many of these fires would not have existed at all if they had not been intentionally started by humans.
A quick survey of national and local media reports show that there have been at least 13 named individuals arrested on arson crimes in recent weeks.
Here are the details
1. Jeffrey Acord, 36, was arrested in Puyallup, Washington, last Wednesday on reckless burning charges. When police arrived on the scene, Acord reportedly started Facebook livestreaming the incident to act like he had discovered the fire. Acord is a known Black Lives Matter activist who led a BLM rally in June. He had previously been arrested on weapons charges during a 2014 protest in Ferguson, Missouri.
2. Elijas Newton Pendergrass, 44, was arrested under suspicion of starting the Sweet Creek Milepost 2 fire west of Eugene, Oregon, earlier this month. That fire has burned hundreds of acres and prompted evacuations.
3. Christine Comello, 36, was arrested in Spokane, Washington, last week on first- and second-degree arson charges. She had allegedly started fires near a commercial business and an old oil drum that reportedly “gave the fire the potential to explode into something much larger.”
4. Domingo Lopez Jr., 45, was arrested near Portland, Oregon, this week for starting a fire using a Molotov cocktail. A day later, police said he was arrested again for starting six more small brushfires. He was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation and is being held on a total of seven counts of reckless burning.
5. Michael Jarrod Bakkela, 41, was arrested in Phoenix, Oregon, last week on two counts of arson, 15 counts of criminal mischief, and 14 counts of reckless endangerment. According to police, Bakkela is responsible for setting one of the two origins of the Almeda fire, which burned thousands of acres in southern Oregon and has killed two people. As of last week, 50 people remain unaccounted for as a result of the fire.
6. Jonathan Maas, 44, was arrested in Dexter, Oregon, for allegedly starting a fire in the woods near a frisbee golf course.
7. Anita Esquivel, 37, was arrested in Salinas, California, for allegedly starting multiple fires along Highway 101. There were reportedly some indications that Esquivel was connected to Antifa, but the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office has since denied those allegations.
8. Osmin Palencia, 36, a homeless man, was arrested last month for allegedly starting the Ranch 2 Fire in Azusa, California. That fire ended up burning through nearly 5,000 acres of land and took hundreds of firefighters to contain.
9. Ivan Geronimo Gomez, 31, has been arrested under suspicion that he was involved in starting the massive Dolan Fire in Big Sur, California, which has burned through at least 23,000 acres. Gomez was also detained under suspicion of illegal marijuana cultivation.
10. Sammy Piatt, 53, was arrested for setting a pile of leaves on fire near a county building last Friday in Oregon City, Oregon..
11. Jett Avery Thomas, 36, was arrested for allegedly trying to set a hotel gas pipe on fire in Portland, Oregon.
12. John Davies, 55, and reportedly a transient, was arrested earlier this month for starting multiple fires in Novato, California.
13. Jacob Altona, 28, was arrested after being chased by cops along State Route 512 and State Route 7 in Washington. He was alleged to have started a fire in the brush along the highway.
It should be noted that these are only the instances in which law enforcement were able to catch the individuals allegedly starting fires, as well as only the instances in which the suspects names have been released. There have been more reported arrests.
Also, on Sept. 7, after 300,000 acres were reported to have burned the day prior in Washington state, public lands commissioner Hilary Franz said she believes all 58 of the fires were caused by humans.
“Because there was no lightning in the area, we believe all of these fires we saw yesterday were human caused,” Franz said.
While information is still being collected about the fires across the West Coast, it’s fair to call it malpractice to brush aside claims that criminals are responsible for starting many of the fires.