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Phoenix fire suspect to get 11 years

Michael Jarrod Bakkela
Defendant accused of causing blaze that destroyed 15 properties and merged with the deadly Almeda fire
Michael Jarrod Bakkela

Michael Jarrod Bakkela, accused of starting a fire in Phoenix that merged with the Almeda fire Sept. 8, 2020, has agreed to plead no contest to one count of first-degree arson and 15 counts of first-degree criminal mischief, with a proposed sentence of 11 years in prison, three years of post-prison supervision and a yet-to-be-determined amount of restitution.

Prosecution and defense lawyers involved with the case presented the tentative sentencing agreement in Jackson County Circuit Court Wednesday afternoon.

Sentences for the criminal mischief counts would be served concurrently. Most of the counts were assigned sentences of 22 months in prison and 2 years post-prison supervision.

Among counts that were to be dropped was a first-degree arson charge and misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment.

The charges stem from a fire Bakkela, 43, is alleged to have set in Phoenix near the intersection of Quail and Barnum lanes the afternoon of Sept. 8, 2020. The blaze destroyed 15 properties and caused at least $600,000 in damage.

Earlier that day, the Almeda fire began in north Ashland and burned through Talent and Phoenix.

Bakkela isn’t considered a suspect in the first deadly, fast-moving blaze, though the two fires eventually merged.

Bakkela also will plead no contest to two misdemeanor charges of animal abuse stemming from the Phoenix fire. The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office added the misdemeanors in October 2020 as a separate case but merged them with the arson case.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge David Hoppe confirmed with Bakkela that he was freely entering into the agreement, which he has signed. The defendant, participating by video, confirmed it.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 9. The proceeding will also provide victims an opportunity to speak before Hoppe issues Bakkela’s sentence.

A five-day trial that had been scheduled to begin Monday has been canceled, according to a court document.

Reach reporter Terri Harber at 541-776-4468 or tharber@rosebudmedia.com.