Suspect In Blue Heron Plant Arson Guilty

On Friday, March 11, 2022, the Clackamas County Circuit Court found the suspect who was detained on-scene at the Blue Heron paper mill on December 5, 2020, guilty on counts of arson in the first degree, arson in the second degree, burglary in the second degree, criminal trespassing in the second degree, and disorderly conduct in the second degree. 

On December 5th, 2020, a passerby noticed some nefarious activity from a nearby lookout. Oregon City Police Department responded to the address which at one time was occupied by, and is still known as, the Blue Heron paper mill.

While officers scoured the property looking for the suspect, who they found, arrested, and identified as thirty-year-old Enrique Mejia, they noticed smoke from one of the buildings and called Clackamas County Communications 911 (CCOM) and reported a fire. Crews arrived and the incident rapidly grew to a 3-alarm fire, drawing assistance from neighboring agencies Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue (TVF&R), Canby Fire, and Gladstone Fire.

Nearly 30 minutes into the fire fight, with crews on the roof and inside the structure, the emergency order to evacuate the building came across the radio and, shortly after, the Southeast corner of the fourth floor collapsed causing the structure to become unstable and dangerous. In an emotional statement, Battalion Chief Jonathan Schierman said “we came dangerously close to losing multiple firefighters that day.” It is the on-going, high-level training at Clackamas Fire that allowed the crews to recognize the situation 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 a large portion of his 39 years in the fire service investigating fires. While the circumstances surrounding this investigation were peculiar, one thing was clear, there had to have been some type of human intervention. It was the strong, consistent work of Investigator Stenhouse in conjunction with the criminal investigation and response completed by OCPD that helped bring this incident to a close. Investigator Stenhouse stated “It has always been rewarding to hold individuals accountable for their actions that endanger the lives of firefighters.”

Clackamas Fire District #1 currently employs six fire investigators who work out of the Fire Marshal's Office. Each of these investigators work to ensure that the frequency and severity of these fires is lessened by discovering the origin and cause of a fire and taking that information to 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. 

Sentencing for the defendant will be held in late May 2022.

Source: Clackamas County Fire District #1

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