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Suspected forest arsonist detained and tied to tree by local residents before arrest

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(NEW YORK) -- A man who was suspected of purposefully setting forest fires in a remote section of woods was tracked down and confronted by three local residents who tied him to a tree until authorities could arrest him, police say.

The incident occurred on Monday at approximately 1:46 p.m. when the Curry County Sheriff’s Office received a call reporting active fires near Mariel Lodge and Rogue River Ranch located in deep southwest Oregon in an area that is only accessible by river or by Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management roads, according to a statement posted by Curry County Sheriff John Ward on social media.

A Bureau of Land Management employee who initially made the call to the United States Fire Service (USFS) in Medford, Oregon, and was in the area of the fires at the time reported that a white male adult had been spotted walking along the gravel road leading to Mariel Lodge and Rogue River Ranch allegedly starting the fires, police say.

The Curry County Sheriff’s Office notified nearby authorities about the fires and requested immediate help to aid in extinguishing the blazes and locate the suspected arsonist.

Sheriff John Ward added that three helicopters were also dispatched to fight the fires while ground crews and local residents of the area also helped to get the two fires contained.

But, according to authorities, it didn’t take long for some local residents to encounter the suspected arsonist in the remote area not far from where the fires had been set.

“Three local residents of that area located the suspect walking on the roadway near the fires and detained him until law enforcement arrived on scene,” said Curry County Sheriff’s Office in a statement on social media. “It was reported that the suspect became very combative with the three residents and had to be tied to a tree to subdue him.”

The suspect -- later identified as 30-year-old Trennon Smith from Veneta, Oregon -- was untied from the tree and taken to Three Rivers Hospital in Grants Pass to be treated for injuries he reportedly suffered from a fall he took sometime during the incident.

“Once he was medically cleared, he was transported by USFS law enforcement to the Curry County Jail and lodged on [two counts of] Arson in the First-Degree … and Reckless Burning,” said the Curry County Sheriff’s Department. “Smith was also lodged on a Detention Warrant out of Lane County for probation violation.”

Sheriff John Ward was grateful for all the help that the Curry County Sheriff’s Department received in extinguishing the fires and detaining the suspect and said that the fires could have burned out of control very quickly.

“The cooperation and partnership between all agencies when something like this occur is remarkable,” said Ward. “The quick actions on getting the fires out most certainly averted a catastrophe and saved lives. The total area burnt is less than one acre. If the fires had not been contained and if they got out of control, they could have blocked all the residents and visitors from having an escape route.”

Authorities say the investigation is ongoing and all information gathered will be provided to the Curry County District Attorney for prosecution. Smith is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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