The Edmond Sun

Local News

August 6, 2012

Sheriff’s office adds investigators on Luther fire, arrests alleged looter

LUTHER — Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office deputies continue to investigate the possibility that the Luther fire was intentionally set, a spokesman said.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Mark Myers said the agency has assigned three deputies to the arson investigation and is still searching for the suspect. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 869-2501.

Myers said an eyewitness called dispatchers about 4 p.m. Friday and said that a white male driving a 2008 black Ford F-150 was tossing out a newspaper that had been set on fire. More than 2,000 acres were burned and dozens of homes were destroyed, causing millions of dollars in damage, Myers said.

On Monday, the OSCO released the Luther 911 fire call. In the audio, a witness who had just come off the turnpike, was on 150th Street just west of Luther Road. He reports seeing a white male driving a black or dark blue Ford pickup truck headed east on 150th. The fire started burning near a house.

“It’s a grass fire. He threw somethin’ out!” the witness says.

Myers said dozens of first responder agencies assisted in evacuations and fighting the flames when they were first reported on Friday. The OSCO reports that 47 structures were damaged as a result of the flames.

In addition to getting people to safety the OSCO also assisted in saving several animals including horses, cows and other livestock, Myers said. As of 8:30 a.m. on Saturday the Luther joint command center was still operational with representatives from fire departments, law enforcement, emergency management and the Red Cross, Myers said.

On Saturday, the OSCO was notified about a man who was seen running out of an evacuated house in Luther around 1 p.m., Myers said. The house is located near North Harrah Road and East Covell Road, where the wildfires forced dozens of people to evacuate from that area on Friday for safety reasons, Myers said.

Myers said the witness followed the suspect in her vehicle until a deputy arrived. The deputy stopped the vehicle and spoke with the driver, he said.

“The driver admitted to taking a flat screen television from the victims’ house, and the TV was found inside the vehicle by the deputy,” Myers said. “The deputy also found drug paraphernalia inside the vehicle.”

Myers said the deputy located the home owner who confirmed that no one had permission to retrieve anything from his house.

The driver, Jesse Johnson, 30, of Luther, was taken into custody, Myers said. He was booked into the Oklahoma County jail on complaints of burglary in the second degree, and possession of drug paraphernalia, Myers said.

The fire situation report released Monday by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry’s Forestry Services division contains more than 30 fires across the state from Friday through Monday. Incendiary (intentionally set) is listed as the cause of 24 of those fires.  

A governor’s burn ban continues to be in effect for all of Oklahoma. Report any suspicious wildland fire activity on the Arson Tip Line at 1-866-662-7766 (1-866-NO ARSON).

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