A grand jury has indicted a 41-year old man for setting a fire in Phoenix, Oregon on September 8, the day the Almeda Drive Fire started near Ashland. Michael Jarrod Bakkela was arraigned on 2 counts of Arson in the First Degree, 15 counts of Criminal Mischief in the First Degree, 14 counts of Recklessly Endangering Another Person, and one count for Unlawful Possession of Methamphetamine.
Mr. Bakkela, who is being held on bail of $5 million, is accused of starting a fire that damaged 15 properties between Phoenix and Medford that contributed to the Almeda Drive Fire.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office announced September 15 that at least 2,357 structures were destroyed in the Almeda Drive Fire, which started north of Ashland and rapidly spread northwest through Talent, then Phoenix, and was finally stopped south of Medford.
The wording of the indictment implies that the fire allegedly started by Mr. Bakkela merged with the Almeda Drive Fire.
From Oregon Live:
According to the county Sheriff’s Office, residents in the 1100 block of Quail Lane called 911 at 5:09 p.m. Sept. 8 to report that a man, later identified as Bakkela, was lighting a fire near the railroad tracks behind their home. A deputy took Bakkela into custody a short time later.
Detectives suspect Bakkela drove into a gated area, parked a vehicle, started a fire and then fled north before he was stopped, according to the Sheriff’s Office.