Arson suspect indicted on 32 charges in southern Oregon


Authorities stress the arson is not connected to the Almeda Fire, say it did destroy homes

Michael Jarrod Bakkela, September 11, 2020 (Jackson County Sheriff’s Office)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A homeless man accused of setting a fire that damaged and destroyed homes near railroad tracks in southern Oregon has been indicted on more than 30 charges.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office made it clear that Michael Jarrod Bakkela, 41, is charged for an arson that is “separate from the Almeda Fire investigation.” The Almeda Fire destroyed much of the southern Oregon town of Phoenix.

Investigators said the fire was set on September 8 behind a home in the 1100 block of Quail Lane off Barnum Drive, between Highway 99 and the railroad tracks. Residents called 911 shortly after 5 report a man lighting a fire. The witnesses had to flee their home due to the “impending fire,” according to deputies.

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office told KOIN 6 News in an email Wednesday morning that “some homes were destroyed,” but he did not have an exact number. Charging documents list damage to addresses on at least three different roads, suggesting the fire spread from its initial location.

Properties on several roads, as well as the business Rogue Soil, were allegedly damaged by arson Sept. 8, 2020 near Phoenix (KOIN)

A grand jury indicted Bakkela Tuesday on two counts of first degree arson, 15 counts of first degree criminal mischief, 14 counts of recklessly endangering another person and one count of possession of methamphetamine.

Bakkela has a long criminal history in Oregon, including several drug and traffic convictions. He remained in custody at the Jackson County Jail as of Wednesday morning.

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