Forest Service boss decries arrest of worker in planned burn

Oct 25, 2022, 3:06 PM | Updated: Oct 26, 2022, 7:42 pm
FILE - This Dec. 7, 2016 photo, shows the entrance to the Malheur National Forest near John Day, Or...

FILE - This Dec. 7, 2016 photo, shows the entrance to the Malheur National Forest near John Day, Ore. Rick Snodgrass, the U.S. Forest Service "burn boss," was arrested Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, by a county sheriff after a planned burn at Malheur National Forest spread onto private land. He was conditionally released. Prescribed burns are set intentionally and under carefully controlled conditions to clear underbrush, pine needle beds and other surface fuels that make forests more prone to wildfires. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)

(AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The head of the U.S. Forest Service has denounced the arrest by an Oregon sheriff of a Forest Service employee after a planned burn in a national forest spread onto private land.

The criticism by Forest Service Chief Randy Moore was followed by a statement from Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter in which he defended the arrest on Oct. 19 of a U.S. Forest Service “burn boss” on allegations of reckless burning.

“I respect the sheriff’s discretion and decision to make an arrest in this case,” Carpenter said Tuesday. Sheriff Todd McKinley occasionally briefs Carpenter on an investigation into the case, the prosecutor said, adding that it could last for weeks or even months.

Once it’s completed, “a decision will be made as to whether a charge will be made or not,” Carpenter said.

Burn Boss Rick Snodgrass told the local Blue Mountain Eagle newspaper that his arrest by McKinley disrupted the chain of command while the Forest Service crew was conducting the prescribed burn in the Malheur National Forest. Snodgrass was taken to the county jail in Canyon City, where he was conditionally released.

“Other individuals were able to pick up the slack, fortunately, that were well-trained,” Snodgrass said. “He put not only my guys at risk out there, their safety, but he put that land at risk, as well as all of Bear Valley.”

Prescribed burns are set intentionally and under carefully controlled conditions to clear underbrush, pine needle beds and other surface fuels that make forests more prone to wildfires.

McKinley said the prescribed fire burned about 20 acres (8 hectares) of land belonging to the Holliday family before it was brought under control. But Chad Holliday estimated that almost 40 acres (16 hectares) of the family property was burned.

In a message, posted Monday to all the U.S. Forest Service’s more than 25,000 employees, Moore said he won’t “stand idly by without fully defending the Burn Boss and all employees carrying out their official duties as federal employees.”

“In my opinion, this arrest was highly inappropriate under these circumstances,” Moore said on the agency’s website.

The arrest underscored simmering tensions over management of federal lands in rural, conservative eastern Oregon.

In 2016, right-wing militants staged an armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in adjacent Harney County to protest the treatment of ranchers Steven Hammond and his father, Dwight, who were both convicted of arson for setting fire to federal range land and sent to prison. They were freed early after being pardoned by then President Donald Trump.

Carpenter has warned that Snodgrass’ federal employment “will not protect him if it is determined that he acted recklessly,” adding it may raise the standard to which he will be held.


This story has been corrected to change U.S. Forest Service “burn boss’,” name from Randy to Rick.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Today in History: December 4, the “Million Dollar Quartet”

Today in History Today is Sunday, Dec. 4, the 338th day of 2022. There are 27 days left in the year. Today’s Highlights in History: On Dec. 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered for the first and only time for a jam session at Sun Records in Memphis. […]
22 hours ago
A Palestinian flag and a poster showing Ammar Adili, 22, who was shot and killed by an Israeli bord...
Associated Press

Palestinians say killing caught on video was unjustified

HAWARA, West Bank (AP) — A makeshift sidewalk memorial with a Palestinian flag and a mourning notice paid tribute Saturday to a 22-year-old Palestinian whose death at the hands of an Israeli border police officer — four pistol shots from close range — was captured on widely shared amateur video. A day after the shooting […]
22 hours ago
FILE - A flu vaccine is readied at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans...
Associated Press

Flu season worsens as 44 states report high activity

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. flu season keeps getting worse. Health officials said Friday that 7.5% of outpatient medical visits last week were due to flu-like illnesses. That’s as high as the peak of the 2017-18 flu season and higher than any season since. The annual winter flu season usually doesn’t get going until […]
22 hours ago
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin introduces the B-21 Raider stealth at Northrop Grumman Friday, De...
Associated Press

Keep COVID military vaccine mandate, defense chief says

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he wants to keep the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place to protect the health of the troops, as Republican governors and lawmakers press to rescind it. This past week more than 20 Republican governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Family says coyote attacked toddler outside LA home

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A coyote ambushed and injured a 2-year old girl outside her Los Angeles home in a daytime attack before her father chased the animal off, her family said. Home security video obtained by KTLA-TV shows the animal grab and drag the toddler across her lawn and sidewalk, just seconds after her […]
22 hours ago
FILE -  Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz, speaks during a press conference at the American University of Beir...
Associated Press

Longtime Arizona GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe dies at 80

PHOENIX (AP) — Jim Kolbe, a Republican congressman who represented a heavily Democratic region of Arizona for more than two decades and was a proponent of gay rights, has died. He was 80. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement that Kolbe died Saturday. Ducey ordered flags lowered until sunset Sunday. Kolbe served in […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Forest Service boss decries arrest of worker in planned burn