ROGUE RIVER, Ore. — A wildfire that caused evacuations for people living north of Sams Valley just over a week ago was sparked by an explosion at an "illegal marijuana extraction laboratory," according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO).
911 calls reporting the fire started coming in to dispatch just after 2:30 p.m. on August 2, the agency said. Firefighters responded to the 18700-block of East Evans Creek Road, but the flames spread quickly — eventually burning 155 acres and causing people to evacuate their homes while deputies closed down the road.
Deputies arriving at the scene reportedly learned that the fire started in a "makeshift structure" that housed a butane honey oil (BHO) lab.
"The process generally involves the use of flammable solvents to extract oils from marijuana plants, creating a concentrated form of the drug," JCSO said. "Detectives with the Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team (IMET) arrived to assume the investigation while JCSO deputies assisted with evacuating nearby homes and traffic control."
Deputies found and arrested 24-year-old Michael A. Cashmareck of Pennsylvania later that afternoon, lodging him in jail. He was later indicted by a grand jury on one count of unlawful manufacture of cannabis and two counts of arson incident to manufacture of cannabinoid extract in the first degree, JCSO said.
The IMET team that continued its investigation into the operation found that it was not legally permitted as a grow site.
"Detectives continue to investigate the case, including the possible involvement of additional suspects," JCSO said. "Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the IMET tip line at (541) 618-1847."