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Police: Pot lab explosion started East Evans fire

A man is in jail on drug and arson charges — accused of starting the 155-acre East Evans fire Aug. 2 — when his illegal marijuana extraction laboratory exploded and spread to nearby wildlands in Sams Valley, police said.

Michael A. Cashmareck, 24, faces arson and marijuana charges for his alleged role in starting the wildfire that prompted multiple evacuations and left at least one firefighter injured, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives with the Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team determined that the fire started in a “makeshift structure” believed to have been producing butane honey oil, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Julie Denney. Butane honey oil is made by using highly flammable butane as a solvent to extract concentrated THC from marijuana.

Denney said the structure where the fire started was a “post-extraction” operation, meaning the lab was in the process of removing the solvent from the mixture.

“It involves removing the butane or other solvent from the finished product, generally through evaporation,” Denney said in an email. “The fumes can be very volatile, especially when a heat source is involved in the process.”

At about 2:38 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, 911 dispatchers got the first call reporting a wildfire in the 18700 block of East Evans Creek Road, according to the sheriff’s office.

By the time crews arrived, the fire had expanded to roughly 5 acres, according to the sheriff’s office. Within hours, crews issued Level 3 “Go” evacuations as the fire grew that evening.

That same day, Jackson County sheriff’s deputies arrested Cashmareck on first-degree arson charges stemming from the lab, according to the sheriff’s office. A grand jury indicted Cashmareck on Aug. 6 on two counts of first-degree arson incident to the manufacturing of a cannabinoid extract. He is also accused of starting a fire that “represented a threat of serious physical injury” and that the “economic loss is greater than $50,000.”

Cashmareck made a court appearance Tuesday afternoon, records show. He remained held Tuesday in the Jackson County Jail on $500,000 bail.

The sheriff’s office described Cashmareck as a Pennsylvania man, but Jackson County Circuit Court records showed an address in Roseburg. He also faces a charge of unlawfully manufacturing a marijuana extract, a Class B felony.

Detectives are still investigating the possibility that other people were involved in the BHO lab, according to the sheriff’s office. Anyone with information was asked to call the Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team’s tip line at 541-618-1847, and reference case No. 19-16098.

On the day of the fire, sheriff’s deputies also arrested Claire Cashmareck, 25, on a felony charge of hindering prosecution. As of Tuesday, no charges had been filed in Jackson County Circuit Court related to the arrest, records show.

Court documents filed last week by Deputy District Attorney Alyssa Claseman showed that prosecutors will seek steeper penalties on grounds that Cashmareck was part of an “organized criminal operation” and that the harm was “greater than typical.”

One firefighter was airlifted for serious injuries he sustained while working overnight on the northeastern flank of the fire.

Crews with the Oregon Department of Forestry contained the fire within roughly 24 hours using 15 aircraft and hundreds of personnel, previous news stories show.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office released this photo of the where the East Evans fire started on Aug. 2 from an explosion allegedly caused while making the marijuana extract butane honey oil. Jackson County Sheriff's Office photo.
Michael A Cashmareck faces felony arson charges accusing him of starting the East Evans fire with a suspected marijuana extract lab. Jackson County Sheriff's Office photo.