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Man Indicted For Starting Fire In Phoenix During Almeda Fire

Michael Jarrod Bakkela was arrested in connection with a fire started in Phoenix during the Almeda Fire.
Jackson County Sheriff's Office
Michael Jarrod Bakkela was arrested in connection with a fire started in Phoenix during the Almeda Fire.


A grand jury has indicted Michael Jarrod Bakkela for setting a
fire in Phoenix, Oregon as the Almeda Fire burned last Tuesday. The Jackson County District Attorney’s office made the announcement Tuesday.

Bakkela is charged with a series of crimes including arson, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment, as well as possession of methamphetamine.

He’s being held on 5-million dollars bail.

The Almeda Fire originated as a separate fire in Ashland. Its cause is still
under investigation.

ORIGINAL POST: An arrest has been made for arson in connection with a fire set near Phoenix during the Almeda Fire.

The Phoenix fire start was not the original cause of the Almeda Fire, which started near Ashland on Tuesday.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s office says the suspect is Michael Jarrod Bakkela, a homeless man who was initially held on probation violation related to a methamphetamine possession charge.

Officials say a local resident witnessed Bakkela lighting the fire and law enforcement located him “standing close to a very large fire threatening several homes.

The initial cause of the Almeda Fire is still under investigation.

The Sheriff’s Office also confirmed that a male found dead near the origin of the fire died as a result of fire. The nature of the link between the death and the original fire start is still being investigated.

“If we can determine [that] in fact the fire was human set, and the person died as a result of fire, that very well could be charges of homicide,” said Sheriff Nate Sickler. “But there are many different levels of homicide - whether it’s murder, manslaughter, criminal negligent homicide.”

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.