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arson burns open more than forest

It was a sunny day on May 11th, 2024 around 7pm when I received a message from a friend alerting me to a fire that had accured on the backside of the Preserve.  This is many hours after the fire had begun and this is the only notice I had received from anyone in the community, which we will get more into detail on that later.  I was up front fully outfitted with protective gear chipping downed branches for use in composting and trail covering material.  I had no idea what was happening, my security system was not in that area yet and so I received no alerts on my end (I have since increaed my coverage).  The moment I got the message from my friend I quickly put away what I was doing and went up to the spot to see what had happened.  It was horrendous, over 30 feet in diameter of burned forest and yet if this had happened only a month later it could have been so much worse.  They destroyed my H├╝gelkultur style fence that I built last year and all of the vegitation I had been nurturing in that area to create a living fence.  While the devistation of the burn is unsettling, it is what happened after that is the most disturbing.

I had moved to Columbia County, specifically Clatskanie city in August of 2022 where I purchased 30 acres of old logging forest to create a preserve and protect nature.  While I thought I was accustomed to small town behaviour growing up in small towns my whole life (graduating class of 12 people in Alaska), nothing could prepare me for the extent of what I was to experience.  Over the course of almost 2 years I have been met with countless threats, hate speach, intimidation, theft, property damage, trespass, and now arson.  This is a story for later that involves deception, entrenched abuse of city power, hate groups, and so much more.  For now, let's focus on the arson as it has uncovered a very scary part of life in Columbia county.   


Putting out the fire - 5/11/2024 ~1:00-3:00pm

This is the image I received along with the text "it was earlier today".  The remants of a fire that burned long enough, hot enough, and high enough to scorch tree branches well over 30 feet above the ground.  If you look at the green area just to this side of the fire you can see how deep this fire burned.  This fire covered at least a 30 foot diameter area, $1,000 in damages.  It will take years to re-store what was lost in this little area.  As everyone I spoke to has commented, we are grateful it was not a month later - this could impacted the entire city of Clatskanie and would have wiped out the perserve.  Much of the landscape in this area is difficult to navigate by foot and with the winds and thickness of the forest, it could have ravaged everything.

The people you see in this photo are from Pelham Cutting, Inc.  , time of their arrival is still unknown at time of this post. They are a mechanized logging company out of St. Helens Oregon.  While they do the opposite of what we do here at the preserve, I am grateful they understood the damaging impacts of fire and stopped to help.  However, you may be asking why is a logging company putting out a fire in Clatskanie when the fire department is only 1 mile away (<3 minutes).  I had thought that it was because they didn't know, but that later turned out to not be the case.

I had met with Fire Chief Steve Sharek and Investigator Nick a few days later (5/13/2024) at their office since no one had responded to several emails I had sent regarding this incident.  I had yet to get my eye witness information you will read about below, so at that time I was more concerned that no one notified me that there was a fire on my property and further more that it was being classified as a "brush fire" or "reckless burn".  For those familiar with the law, a "reckless burn" is an entirely different thing than "arson" and they have very different meanings.  This is why I stopped in to meet with them, because it didn't seem right to me that it wasn't being classified as arson - it was clear as day to me what had happened and I later confirm with eye witness account and even a text from the Arsonist.  As I introduced myself to the Chief and Nick they both were friendly and receptive, which helped the process.  I began to outline what had happened at my property, explain my frustration that no one from their office notified me, and outline why it was clearly arson.  I shared that even the attending fire fighter that day belived it to be arson.  They expressed gratitude for me stopping in to explain more and give context.  What I explained to them was that when I purchased the property there was all kinds of elicity activity that I discovered going on up at the pull off, basically anyone that was stopping there was most likley up to no good.  From that pull off, people would trespass onto the property through two specific well worn paths and continue their elicit activity.  I shut-off that access a little over a year ago after discovering what was happening, trying to protect the preserve from things like this and also remove harborage for bad actors in our community.  I constructed a natural fence in H├╝gelkultur style encourging natrual vegitation to make a living natural fence.  In the photo above and following you can see the development of that and as you'll read later was the reason the arsonist burned the preserve.    

**I will add that as of writing this, no one from the fire department has responded to any of my emails.  I was able to get two return phone calls from Chief Sharek who said he would look into the timeline of the reports of fire and the response time of the fire department.  In the last phone call he indicated that the Columbia County Sheriff has continued to be a no show in regards to coordinating for reclassification of the fire from "reckless" to "Arson" which the evidence clearly shows it is arson.


Sheriff Notified - 5/11/2024 8:44pm

After being notified by my friend and arriving on the scene, I called the non-emergency dispatch to report the incident.  I wasn't aware of the local sheriff being contacted and since they fire department had downgraded it to a "brush fire" then there was no reason to contact them on their side.  This is important to note, while the attending fire persons recognized it as arson it was still downgraded to "brush fire".  This is troubling, especially for myself and my nieghbors.  By downgrading this there is no further investigation or action by the fire department or law enforcement.  The fire department clearly communicated to me they had no intent on doing any further investigation.  Essentially it's just swept off into the forest as if nothing really happened here and so the arsonist is left free to do it again.  This is not just our fire department as you'll see, this same kind of systematic behaviour is found in our sheriff department as you'll read.

After reporting to dispatch, an Officer McFarland with the scappoose police department made contact.  While I thought it was odd to get the scappoose police for a Clatskanie crime, it wasn't the first time I was diverted to a non-sheriff department to be dismissed.  As I spoke with Officer McFarland I discovered he was in training with the Columbia County Sheriff Department under the direction of Corporal Luedke.  So I was technically being served by the sheriff department in a way, but really as the story goes on I find out how there really is no service being provided by either.

To start the case (Case#  2400212290) I provided what little evidence I had the night of the incident.  Picture of Pellham cutting putting out the fire and pictures of the burned area from highway 47.  At that point he stated it would be several days at least before I hear back from the sheriff office in regards to this.

**I will note that during the phone conversation with Officer McFarland, you could hear Corporal Luedke in the background saying they recognized the vehicle and knew who the guy was.  This is important to note because not only did the sheriff know of this individual, but they willingly chose not to do their duty.  As you'll read later, this is not the only issue they have had with this person.  This person has committed other misdeamenors in our county and not only has the sheriff not issued the bare mininmum citation but has in most every instance let them go free without any penalties for their actions.

Tresspassers - 5/12/2024 4:10PM

The two individuals that trespassed the next day after the arson have not been found to be connected with the arson as of the writing of this post.  I have identified the male trespasser, but not the female yet.  This is being pursued with law enforcement and is being shared here as part of the story.

After seeing the damage and the specific areas the arsonist burned I was convinced they would be back.  They were trying to burn open the old trails that I cut off over a year ago.  So I quickly extended my security system up to this area in hopes of catching the perpetrator coming back to the scene of the crime.  I will note that I have have had cameras lower into the perserve forest below this area from when I cut off the trails and I have not had any trespass since that day until now.  It was highly suspect to see someone the very next day. 

While there is no immediate connection with these trespassers and the arsonist at this point, the trespassers behavior is highly suspect.  In one of the security videos the male trespasser comments pointing towards my no trespass sign and saying "that must be why they had all that here" meaning my big natural fence area, which to some could appear as brush.  Even after acknowliding the no-trespass sign they proceed to try and climb over the blockage I put down the night before only to move over to another section of my natural fencing and break it apart. 

I proceeded with my new leads and went to social media asking if anyone can identify these two, which thanks to some kind cocmmunity members I was able to identify the male and get a confession of his trespass.  He did keep stating that he was not responsible for the actual fire, I had nothing else I could do but turn this information over to the authorities in hopes they would discover the truth.  However, for those living in Columbia county we know that the Sheriff will not actually do any investigate work for crimes and you are truly left on your own.  They won't do anything unless you can pin point the exact location, name, and next of kin for the persons who committed the crime and even then you might not get them to do anything.  With that said, I continued with my investigation because just trespass doesn't make them the arsonists.   

Evidence Found - 5/13/2024 3:52pm

This was the day I sat with the Fire Cheif and inspector recounting the details and my observations as to why it was arson.  In that conversation they made a point to state there was no evidence found to suggest there had been arson and while my story was compelling they didn't have anything futher to go on.  At this point I was still left with it being classified as a "brush fire" or "wreckless burn".  Feeling a little hopeless in the support of the public safety offices that are meant to keep us all safe, I went back up the site to look around for myself.  While checking things out more I found a blue lighter beneath some brush in a burned area.  Without disturbing it I called the Chief to have them look at it.  Both the chief and Nick drove up to the scene, observed the lighter, and instructed me to notify the sheriff office of evidence.  I called non-emergency dispatch and waited for a deputy to call.  


Seeking more information - 5/13/2024 8:09pm

Feeling more hopeful as new evidence appeared and while waiting for a deputy,  I continued my investigation.  I had already realized that social media was limited to mostly internet trolls and a few kind individuals who helped me identify the trespassers, it wasn't going to get me any further at this point.  As I stood in that pull off, I recognized that people regularly drive Highway 47 and so I thought it was a safe bet that someone saw something that day.  So I created a crude sign, which I painted up better the next day, to ask for help.  From that sign I got my most concrete evidence by the eye witness who contacted me on 5/16/2024.

Thankfully I was able to get what information I needed before ODOT unit #2105 who posted a "sign violation" notice on it dated 5/20/2024 at 3:16pm and then a few days later pushed it to the side of my property.  While my phone number was on the sign, I was not contacted by anyone from ODOT in regards to the sign violation.  Living in a small town of ~1,500 people it makes you wonder why no one can just pickup the phone and let you know - this is some of that behaviour I mentioned early in the article.  This is the same situation I found with the fire department who claimed they couldn't contact me because they didn't know who owned the property, which didn't make any sense when I shared that story with the previous property owner.  I am still sorting out if this behavior is just a lack of consideration or if there is unspoken issues related to me or my purchase of the property.

Evidence in waiting - 5/14/2024 8:49pm

It was somehwere around 8pm that I recieved the call from Officer McFarland calling about the evidence, which had been sitting at the crime scene now for almost 24 hours from when I called it in.  In that phone call the officer asked something that I thought was really odd.  He said something to the effect that they are too busy to come out and if I could get a plastic bag, pick it up without touching, and put somewhere for them to retrieve when they were in the area.  As frustrating as it seemed that this was not being taken seriously, I agreed.  I went back up to the crime scene and made a video of me retrieving the evidence so it was clear I never touched it other than with the plastic bag as I retrieved it.  I wrapped it up and put it in my gate post for them to retrieve.

It wasn't until the 5/17/2024 that I was contacted by a Deputy Nolan to let me know they retrieved the lighter the day before.  That is at least 2 days the evidence sat in my gate post waiting to be picked up.  In that conversation with Nolan she commented that the sheriff office was not going to do anything with my arson case because it didn't have any additional elements like trespass, property damage, etc.


Reckless burn vs Arson - The law is clear

This is where things started to get problematic and started to sound similar to other issues I had experienced with the sheriff department and addressing crime.  Deputy Nolan's statement didn't line up with the law, the law does not require there to be additional elements to distinguish between it being a crime (misdeamenor or felony).  Unlawful burning is a crime no matter what it is classifed as, "reckless burning" is a misdemeanor per ORS 154.335.  Law enforcement is supposed to at the very least issue citations for misdemeanors and possibly arrest depending on the severity of the crime.  As I have discovered with other misdemeanors, the sheriff's office largely ignores them and most often never even writing reports that would leave evidence of a misdemeanor even occuring.  I have experienced this on numerous occasions and why I have to go to such lengths to try and get justice.

My situtation was clear within the law as it is written, this was Arson in the second degree per ORS and potentially Arson in teh first degree given that my property was designated a nature preserve well over a year before the incident.  At this point I had identified that it was a person who intentionally committed the fire and it damaged more than $750 in damages - arson in second degree.  This later gets further evidence to support this in a text message from the arsonist who admits to doing it and intentionally doing it.

Eye Witness - May 16th 10:15am

This photo you see here is from an eye witness who saw the fire being started.  I am very grateful for this person and their action to take a photo and contacted me on May 16th, 2024 with the information.  I am also grateful that they kept as far back from the individual for their safety.  The eye witness commented that they said something to the arsonist to try and discourage them, but the arsonist was aggressive and confrontational towards them.  The eye witness immediately went to the fire department to report what was happening.

When I shared this with the fire department they explained that they do not just immediately act on a report until it comes through the 911 system.  While this eye witness did their best in reporting the incident, it did not get acted on because it did not go through the beaurocratic channels required by the fire department.  It is my understanding from speaking with the fire department that this was the same in regards to the Pellham Cutting, Inc. reporting of the incident.  I have not retrieved the 911 call logs to determine when it got reported, how many reported it, or when the fire department finally acted.  I do know it was after Pellham had put out a majority of the fire.

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Hot on the trail - 5/16/2024

The new information from the eye witness gave me something I had not had yet.  It confirmed it was arson without a doubt.  We identified not only that it was a person, but the vehicle and showing him committing the crime.  I quickly got this to the Sheriff thinking it would help put an end to this case, but the local sheriff had no intention on doing anything with this case as you will learn and as of writing this they have still made no arrest or contact with this individual.

In the eye witnesses statement, they indicated the man was traveling with a woman and I would later discover also a child which the arsonsist confirms in their text.

With this I take back to social media in hopes the new information will provide new evidence and get me closer.  Thanks to kind individuals it starts giving me places to check, which I share with the sheriff who is nothing but crickets now.

My first stop is local gas stations with the idea that he would need to fill up with gas possibly and while they did not see him at their store they did spot him at the Safeway bottle check area, which for our town is a source of trouble.  I stop by there and pass on my information asking if anyone had seen the vehicle - a local said the truck had been seen for the past few days at an apartment complex behind safeway but not for a while now.  I tried the liquor store and a few others before making it to the local RV park where the trail started to take shape.

At the local RV park the park host was able to share with me some higher resolution photos of the arsonsits truck, showed it more clearly than I had already.  I of course sent this to the sheriff with no response.

The RV park said they sent him up the road to the next RV place and so I continued on receiving word from them that he had been there but they sent him on.

It's getting late by this time, but more leads were coming in on social media.  People having seen him at Beaver Falls, Quincy, railroad tunnel in Westport.  All of them dead ends, but I strated to get the picture of this person.  This was likely not the first time they had been in our city and probably not the first time they had caused trouble, which I learn later was a valid thought.  One more lead came in on social media, it was a long ways away in Warrenton.  I thought I would try the Sheriff department one more time, just maybe someone there might be open to doing their job and dealing with crime.  I called non-emergency dispatch and explained the situation.  It wasn't until near midnight that I heard back from a rather disgruntled Deputy George who wanted spend more of the time on the phone repremanding me for doing their job than actually just making a call to Warrenton police to have this guy apprehended or identified.  I hung up and decided I would see how I feel in the morning, if I'm up for it I will drive to Warrenton to see what I can learn.

Positive ID - 5/17/2024

Wide awake at 5:30am, I decide I'm ready to do this.  I grab some coffee at the local shop and make the drive out to Warrenton KOA where the lead was.  The KOA was not open when I arrived so I drove around, asked a few people staying there and then moved over to the state park across the street.  After driving through the loops I found a park ranger who I explained the situation to, they introduced me to a few other rangers who knew this guy and truck.  They even had a picture of this "license" plate, which was obviously of no use since it was a paper permit.  This gets me right here along with so many other things that I have learned along the way.  The columbia county sheriff has had multiple contacts with this guy and in the vicinity of this vehicle.  How is it that they did nothing?  How is it that this guy has been allowed to roam free with out even a citation that could potentially have lead to a warrant and jail time.  If they had only taken action on the minor offenses like license plate we may never have seen him escalate into other misdemeanors and eventually into arson.  Who knows what he could do next given there is no penalty for his behavior, how has the Sheriff emboldened this man to cause crime in our county.


The rangers said they had kicked the guy out at 5pm the night before and he was headed south towards Sea Side and Cannon Beach.  From here I stopped into the local police stations, leaving messages with those that were not open.  Seaside was open and was kind enough to communicate that the man had been positively identified and that Columbia County Sheriff was notified, that they were notified a while ago (don't know the specifics on when).  They also commented that they have been unable to apprehend the man because Columbia County would not authorize them to make the arrest, that columbia county refused.  Why is Columbia County not doing their job or giving the authorization for someone to do it?

After learning this I realized it's just time to pack it up and head home, that there is no hope left.  After having Columbia County Sheriff fail to address multiple misdemeanors against me over the past year and now failing to do their job on an arson case, I was left no other path but to try and reach out to the DA, news sources, and county commissioner in hopes of getting answers.  Why doesn't the Sheriff process crimes?  Why do they not address misdemeanors (crimes)?  They seem more than ready to hand out citations for traffic violations, which are less of an offense than a misdemeanor.

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First Contact - 5/18/2024 5:16pm

During the course of my travels I managed to get the arsonists phone number. I thought long about what I wanted to say, how violated I felt from his actions, the damaged he caused, and so much more.  I was upset and tired, I just decided to message him no thinking he would respond.  He did though and proceeded to give me a dreict statement of his actions.  He verified exactly what I thought, he was burning open old trails to violate my property.

This was the last piece I thought I needed, how could the Sheriff not do something now.  I have written proof from the perpetrator admitting to arson.

Throughout all of this and now even more I am faced with the knowledge that this person als has a young girl with him.  Aside from the arson at this point I am thinking the sheriff needs to get on top of this, who knows what is happening to this young girl and her mother.  Is that the woman traveling with him, the mother of this girl or what is the story?  I have given them more than enough probabl cause to engage with this person, to determine what is happening and make an arrest.

I will add that Officer McFarland did indicate they were talking to DHS, which I hope means they are planning on arrest and trying to sort out where the young girl and mother will end up rather than on the streets.

How many times has the sheriff made contact with this person not to have better knowledge of what is going on and why hasn't he been dealt with before.


District Attorney - 5/20/2024

In turning to the DA I actually received a response, somewhat hopeful but now it being over a week since my reply and no response I am not entirely sure what to think.

At least he acknowledges that the Sheriff is supposed to prosecute misdemeanors (ie trespass, theft, property damage, etc) even though they don't and most often don't write reports for.

As of this writing 5/28/2024 they have still to do anything with my arson case.

Summary - 5/28/2024

There is something very wrong with the local law enforcement and other institutions that are intended to provide public services.  As I have mentioned multiple times, I have learned through the course of my investigation many people who have indicated the sheriff refuses to process misdemeanor offenses against them.  Much of the time telling them lies that they can't because there needs to be secondary elements associated with it for them to process it.  As written by the DA, that is simply just false.  A misdemeanor alone is enforceable and at the very least earns a citation if not arrest.  I am concerened for the citizes of columbia county that so many crimes get lost and people continually are getting violated from inaction by the sheriff.  With the sheriff not writing reports the only record left is the initial call into dispatch or 911.  It's no wonder people don't feel safe here, there is no safety provided to the citizens.  


I have made my best effor to include as much information as I could and provide as acurate as possible dates and times.