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Man with machete accused of starting July wildfires

Sept. 10, 2020 Update: This article dates from July 29, 2020, and is not related to the Almeda fire that started on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Ashland and burned hundreds of homes in Talent and Phoenix, Oregon. The cause of the Almeda fire and a death potentially linked to the start of the Almeda fire remain under investigation. The Mail Tribune will provide more information about the investigation as more details emerge.

A man armed with a machete was arrested Tuesday on accusations he started six wildfires in Douglas County.

Jedediah Ezekiel Fulton, 39, of Sutherlin was being held Wednesday in the Douglas County Jail with bail set at $50,000.

He was charged with two counts of first-degree arson plus menacing, reckless burning and interfering with a firefighter or emergency medical technician, according to Douglas County Circuit Court records.

On Tuesday at about 11 p.m., Douglas Forest Protective Association firefighters responded to a fire four miles northeast of Glide near McComas Creek. Glide is a community east of Roseburg.

Firefighters found multiple fires burning at a previously logged site. While attempting to pinpoint the location and size of each fire, they found a suspect believed to have started the fires. They asked the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to respond and take the suspect into custody, according to the Douglas Forest Protective Association.

The man at the scene, later identified as Fulton, was armed with a machete. He told the firefighters to give him a ride into Glide or he would set additional fires, the sheriff’s office said.

Deputies arrived and located the man. He was taken into custody and admitted to setting multiple fires in the area. Fulton told deputies he had been in the forest for about three hours and was attempting to get help, according to the sheriff’s office.

Meanwhile, firefighters found six fires in the McComas Creek area, with the largest fire measuring about a quarter-acre. The combined total of all six fires was estimated at about one acre. Firefighters remained on the scene of the fires overnight and into Wednesday, mopping up hot spots and securing control lines, according to the Douglas Forest Protective Association.

In 2018, Fulton was arrested after he entered a McDonald’s in Sutherlin and told workers to make him 35 double cheeseburgers. When employees refused, he destroyed a banner, then attacked a worker, tackling her to the ground. Fearing for the woman’s life, a witness pulled out his concealed handgun and told Fulton he would shoot him, according to a Sutherlin Police Department report.

A police officer arrested Fulton. While Fulton was being driven to jail, he threatened to kidnap the officer’s family, the report said.

In addition, Fulton said he should have stabbed the employee and the witness who held him at gunpoint. He used a sexist epithet to describe the female employee and a racist epithet about the witness. Fulton said he should have taken the witness’s gun and killed the police who responded to the scene, according to the police report.

“Because that’s exactly what I’m capable of. I’m going to go into the woods and when you m----- f-----s come near me, I’m going to shoot you. That’s my promise to you,” Fulton allegedly told the police officer.

A judge later found him guilty of second-degree criminal mischief and second-degree criminal trespassing. Fulton was fined $150, ordered to pay $35 for the McDonald’s banner and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, with 26 days suspended and credit for four days spent in jail, according to Douglas County Circuit Court records.

Kyle Reed, fire prevention and public safety officer for the Douglas Forest Protective Association, said he doesn’t have any information about whether Fulton was involved in any other recent fires in Douglas County.

The county has seen a spate of scattered rural fires over the past two weeks, including two other clusters of fires, according to recent press releases from the Douglas Forest Protective Association.

Some have been linked to known causes, like a tree contacting power lines, and a grass and brush fire sparked by a cigarette, while others remain under investigation. Firefighters have been able to tackle and contain the fires.

“The rains we had in May and June made a huge difference for the early part of the season,” Reed said. “The benefits of that are gone now.”

Everything from grass to large-diameter trees and logs have dried out, meaning fires that start will spread quickly, he said.

“Every year we ask for the help and cooperation of the public. This year with COVID, it’s even more important to mitigate the causes of fires. If we have a large fire incident, there’s uncertainty about how many resources will be available. Usually when there’s a large fire, we pull resources from across the state and country. There are questions about how freely those resources will be able to move around this year,” Reed said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Firefighters mop up the McComas Creek fires on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of the Douglas Fire Protective Association
The McComas Creek fires burn through vegetation. Photo courtesy of the Douglas Fire Protective Association