Armed gangs ‘protecting property’ in wildfire evacuation zones are confronting individuals at gunpoint, Oregon police say

The melted sign of the Oak Park Motel destroyed by the flames of the Beachie Creek Fire is seen in Gates, east of Salem, Oregon (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The melted signal of the Oak Park Motel destroyed by the flames of the Beachie Creek Fire is seen in Gates, east of Salem, Oregon (POOL/AFP by way of Getty Images)

Armed teams are patrolling wildfire evacuation zones in Oregon to “protect property” and stopping “individuals within the community”, police have mentioned.  

Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts mentioned at a press convention on Monday that  police are seeing “a group of different individuals that are actually trying to protect property.”

“They actually have been armed and are stopping individuals within the commune out there,” Mr Roberts mentioned.

“First thing I’d ask them to do is please stop that. We have reached out to a number of them. If they see somebody suspicious, call us. Let us handle it. It is illegal to stop somebody at gunpoint.”

The sheriff defined that police are following up on reported incidents however that they had been typically unfounded and had been individuals helping the group or going again to their very own houses.

“Many of the people we have seen going into these areas are actually going in to get another load of their personal belongings,” he mentioned.

The sheriff defined that the division had responded to 330 requires service over the previous week within the evacuation space, a 400 per cent improve on the week earlier than.

He urged individuals to proceed to report suspicious behaviour to the police, expressing concern {that a} state of affairs might finish “tragically” as a result of an “overreaction” by armed teams.

“The very last thing I need to see is one thing tragically occur as a result of anyone is overreacting to one thing they imagine is legal and it’s not,” he said.

Numerous wildfires have burned in Oregon’s forested valleys and along the coast, causing mass evacuations. Oregon officials have not released an exact death toll but at least eight fatalities have been reported.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown said communities have been “substantially destroyed” and warned there could be numerous fatalities.

This years fire season has already devastated the west coast with California also having experienced wildfires advancing unprecedentedly.

Experts have warned the fires, which have long occurred in the area, have become more frequent and more intense as a result of climate change.

“There’s a lot of panic and alert going around with the belief that people are running around setting fires,” Mr Roberts said.  

“There’s a lot of misinformation about folks trying to set fires I want to reassure everybody that we are on this and if you see anything suspicious call us.”

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