The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office on Friday night warned residents of Corbett not to set up illegal checkpoints, even if their stated purpose was “keeping the community safe.”
The admonition came hours after the sheriff’s office said deputies responded to reports of a brush fire near Corbett, and discovered fireworks near the scene.
Neighbors heard several pops, spotted the flames and quickly extinguished the blaze, deputies said.
The sheriff’s office tweet about the fireworks was shared nearly 5,000 times on Twitter.
Hours later, the sheriff’s office said residents had set up checkpoints around the town.
“While we understand their intent is to keep the community safe, it is never legal to block a public roadway or force other citizens to stop,” the sheriff’s office said in a tweet around 9 p.m. Friday. “This type of action increases the risk of injury to everyone at one of these roadblocks. We have had extra deputies patrolling Corbett all day and will through the rest of the weekend."
The sheriff’s office did not say whether the groups of people left when asked or how many people they had contacted. The agency has not said if investigators learned more about who lit the fireworks that sparked the short-lived fire.
Fears of violence have sparked anecdotal reports of vigilantism across the state, after several right-wing groups began spreading false rumors that the devastating wildfires were started by anti-fascists. Investigators are looking into at least one of the fires as possible arson, but authorities have uniformly stated that there is no evidence to suggest any of the fires are politically motivated.
Law enforcement agencies have increased patrols in fire-affected regions to deter thieves from breaking into evacuated homes and business.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Sergio Olmos and two independent journalists were approached Thursday by armed men in Molalla who told them to leave the city, Olmos said on Twitter. Photos posted by Olmos and a second journalist show armed men standing by the road and looking at the reporters.
“I was interviewing a couple, two men with rifles approached our group and asked what we were doing and what we’re taking pictures of,” Olmos said Thursday afternoon in a tweet. “Then [they] told us it was time to leave.”
Justin Yau, an independent journalist who was with Olmos at the time, said on Twitter the armed group was “wary of outsiders based on rumors of arsonists starting fires in the area.”
K. Rambo of The Oregonian/OregonLive contributed to this report.
—Jayati Ramakrishnan; 503-221-4320; email@example.com; @JRamakrishnanOR
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