A 29-year-old resident of the Tollgate subdivision just west of Sisters has been arrested on charges he started three small fires in the area Monday – but not a fourth, much larger blaze, which burned over two acres, Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies said.
Around 10:20 a.m. Monday, deputies were dispatched to a domestic dispute in Tollgate, where a woman called to advise that her son, Joshua Christopher Sarles, had left the house and said he was “leaving to start a fire in the woods,” said Sgt. Troy Gotchy.
About 20 minutes later, as deputies searched for Sarles, the Hinkle Butte lookout reported a column of smoke from the area of Graham Corral, located west of Tollgate, Gotchy said.
Deputies and fire personnel found the fire on Spur Road 500, off Hwy. 20 West near milepost 97. Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville dispatched crews who contained the fire, which burned 2.2 acres, Gotchy said.
Sarles eventually returned to the home in Tollgate and was contacted by a sheriff’s deputy and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer.
An investigation found that Sarles had started three fires in the Graham Corral area, Gotchy said. Law enforcement located the three sites and learned all three fires were out and had not caused any damage.
Sarles was arrested and taken to the county jail in Bend, facing three counts of reckless burning and one count of second-degree disorderly conduct related to the fires.
“At this time, there is no evidence linking Sarles to the 2.2-acre fire off the 500 spur road,” Gotchy wrote in a news release Tuesday morning. However, he said that fire also was believed to be human-caused and remained under investigation.
Anyone with information related to that fire was asked to contact dispatchers at (541) 693-6911 or Crime Stoppers at 1-877-876-TIPS, or use the form at KTVZ.COM’s Crime Stoppers Web site. You can remain anonymous, and you could be eligible for a cash reward.
The first crews on scene found about a half-acre of brush and timber burning around 10:30 a.m.
Strong winds made the initial attack difficult. And the initial responding crews said it could have been a lot worse.
"The weather made it relatively easy today, with it being cooler and moist," said Victor Pelayo, the incident commander. "If it'd been an 80- to 90-degree day it could have ended differently."
The two blazes that broke out northwest of Bend on Saturday, June 7th, merging to become the nearly 7,000-acre Two Bulls Fire, also were determined to be human-caused, suspicious and possible arson, as was a third, much smaller blaze south of Skyliners Road last Tuesday. A reward fund for information in those fires has topped $40,000.