AP-OR--Oregon Wildfires, 1st Ld-Writethru,375
Wildfire destroys 2 Oregon homes, fake firefighter arrested
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By STEVEN DUBOIS
PORTLAND, Ore. — Wildfire has destroyed another two homes in the Columbia River Gorge, and sheriff’s deputies arrested a man who falsely claimed to be a firefighter, officials said Thursday.
The destroyed homes were in the same area where one home previously burned and there were no injuries, said Lt. Damon Simmons of the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office.
The fire has scorched 52 square miles (134 square kilometers) east of Portland but Simmons said firefighters aided by cooler temperatures have managed to contain some of the blaze.
“The fire laid down overnight, it didn’t do a lot,” Simmons said, adding that there was a 20 percent chance of rain in the area but also a risk of lightning strikes.
The man who claimed he was a firefighter was identified as Cody Cunningham, 23, and arrested on charges of theft by deception and a parole violation, said Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese.
Cunningham pretended to be a firefighter and tried to get clothing and gear from a firefighting crew, Reese said.
“We don’t know what his intentions were, but certainly they were not good,” Reese said.
Court records did not list an attorney who could speak on Cunningham’s behalf and he has not made an initial court appearance when most defendants are assigned public defenders. Attorney Jonathan Thomas Sarre, who represented Cunningham for a previous arrest and conviction, could not be reached to comment. A telephone answering machine for his office did not allow callers to leave messages.
Deputies are out in force to deter looting at evacuated homes, questioning people who do not have a reason for being in the wildfire zone, Reese said.
Thousands of residents have evacuated as firefighters battle blazes throughout Oregon, including one ranking among the biggest in the U.S.
That fire in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness has blackened 277 square miles (717 square kilometers), officials said Thursday. Thunderstorms brought rain that briefly cleared the air Wednesday night, and there’s a chance for more precipitation Thursday and Friday. Cool weather is forecast with temperatures in the upper 60s and 70s.
A flash flood watch is in effect through Thursday evening in southern Oregon.
The Oregon State Fire Marshal said land scarred by previous wildfires might be unable to soak up the potentially heavy rain.