Wildfire news, February 11, 2009

Esperanza fire arson trial

Testimony on Tuesday included Raymond Lee Oyler’s experience as a volunteer firefighter trainee at Cal Fire’s Beaumont station. Cal Fire Batallion Chief Andrew Bennet, who would later be the Incident Commander of the Esperanza fire, testified that he had a conversation with Oyler, charged with murder for the deaths of five firefighters in the fire, in the summer of 2006.

A driver of a gasoline truck said he talked with Oyler while Oyler watched the fire at a gas station. The driver said there was no car around and Oyler did not appear to be buying gas.

North Carolina: three charged with setting fires

Three people were taken into federal custody for setting fires in the Nantahala National Forest and on private land on Feb. 5 and 8. Multiple fires were set, with the largest being 58 acres. Charged with the crimes are Michael Shawn Graves, Hope Ann Graves, and Jadrien Deese.

From the Cherokee Scout:

In the criminal complaint, Rick Devore, a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service, said he was notified of three fires on Forest Service land off Morrow Road on Thursday. Devore investigated and determined the fires appeared to be arson. Devore said he knew that arsons in the Morrow Road area of the Nantahala National Forest have been a frequent occurrence dating back to the 1990s.

Devore was patrolling Morrow Road about 7:11 p.m. Sunday due to the previous arsons. He saw a fire on the side of the road with grass burning near Appalachia Lake Recreation area on Morrow Road. It appeared that the fire had been recently set.

About 500 feet farther toward the Tennessee state line, there was another fire. A third fire was on private land. Devore concluded that the fire had just been set. Speeding toward Shuler Creek Road, he saw a vehicle traveling toward Tennessee.

Devore said he stopped the vehicle. Deese was the driver, Hope Graves was the front-seat passenger, while Michael Graves was in the back seat along with two young children.Deese signed a waiver of rights, confessed and gave a signed statement, Devore said. Deese said that while riding, she, Michael Graves and Hope Graves talked about fires from the previous Thursday on Morrow Road. They noticed an area that had not been burned the previous week, and as a group they decided to light fires in the areas that had not been burned.

Deese and Hope Graves set fire to the grass using a cigarette lighter, Deese said. They stopped a second time and Hope Graves set fire to the grass. They stopped a third time, and Michael Graves set fire to the road bank. They were stopped by Devore shortly after that.

Michael Graves confessed to about the same facts as confessed by Deese, Devore said. However, Graves said he had gotten out of the vehicle on the second fire with his wife and tried to help set the fires, but his lighter didn’t work.

Hope Graves also confessed, Devore said. In addition, she said Thursday that Deese was bragging to her that she and Joshua Mealer, also of Farner, Tenn., had set fires at Campbell Cove Overlook in Polk County, Tenn., on Thursday, Devore said in the criminal complaint.

Graves also confessed to being present with Michael Graves, Deese and Mealer on Feb. 5 off Morrow Road. She said Mealer got out of the vehicle and said, “Watch this.” Mealer then set fire to grass and leaves on the bank.


Friday afternoon (U.S. time) we are going to host another live interactive discussion right here, this time with Jack Cohen. Some of the topics will be:

  • Is Prepare, Stay, and Defend feasible? (Known in Australia as “Prepare, Stay and Defend OR Go Early”
  • What are the likely causes for so many people in the recent fires in Victoria, Australia being killed in their homes and also in their vehicles while evacuating?
  • Can Prepare, Stay, and Defend work in the United States?
  • How much Preparation must be done in order to Stay and Defend?

More details are HERE.

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