The suspect arrested in connection with the three-alarm fire that broke out at the former Blue Heron Paper Mill in Oregon City in December 2020 was found guilty of several charges Friday in Clackamas County Circuit Court.
Enrique Omar Mejia, 30, was convicted of first-degree arson, second-degree arson, second-degree burglary, second-degree criminal trespassing and second-degree disorderly conduct. He is scheduled to be sentenced in late May 2022.
The fire at the former paper mill property that is now owned and being redeveloped by the Confederate Tribes of Grand Ronde occurred on December 5, 2020.
Police were first alerted to the scene before the fire had actually broken out, when a passer-by at a nearby lookout noticed suspicious activity at the site. Officers responded to the scene and soon located — and arrested — a suspect later identified as Mejia.
That’s when they saw the smoke coming from one of the buildings. Officers called Clackamas County Communications 911 (CCOM) and reported the fire, which eventually prompted a third alarm, drawing assistance from Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, Canby Fire and Gladstone Fire to assist the Clackamas Fire crews.
After about 30 minutes of battling the blaze, with crews on the roof and inside the structure, the emergency order came to evacuate the building. Shortly thereafter, the southeast corner of the fourth floor collapsed, causing the structure to become unstable and dangerous.
“We came dangerously close to losing multiple firefighters that day,” Battalion Chief Jonathan Schierman later said in an emotional statement.
Officials credited the ongoing, high-level training at Clackamas Fire that allowed crews to recognize the danger and act appropriately.
Clackamas Fire Investigator Rich Stenhouse was called to the scene to determine the origin and cause of the fire. Stenhouse has spent much of his 39 years in the fire service investigating fires.
Officials credited the “strong, consistent work” of Stenhouse along with the original criminal investigation by Oregon City Police in helping bring this incident to a close.
“It has always been rewarding to hold individuals accountable for their actions that endanger the lives of firefighters,” Stenhouse said in a statement.
Clackamas Fire District currently employs six fire investigators who work out of the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal.
Their job is to help lessen the frequency and severity of human-caused fires by investigating their origins and educating the public with the hope that stronger preventative measures will be taken. When necessary, fire investigators are called to testify in court in order to support their findings.
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