Thanks to the Hotshot Wakeup Person (HWP), I ran across what appeared to be excellent reporting on the Arrested Burn Boss incident in Oregon from the Blue Mountain Eagle. In the spirit of “catching people doing something right”, check out their story.
A Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations officer had been requested for the Oct. 19 burn. This was not a standard arrangement, according to current and retired Forest Service officials. The request was made directly in response to verbal harassment and perceived threats the crews had reported on the previous day of burn operations on Oct. 13. That law enforcement officer was not able to be on the scene due to an injury, but the burn went ahead.
Because that officer was not on scene, there was no law enforcement authority on the federal side when the sheriff arrived.
Ludwig describes a scenario in which federal and local law enforcement authorities could have “concurrent jurisdiction,” meaning both could arrest individuals if they had probable cause to believe a crime had been committed. She sees nothing that could prevent a sheriff from arresting a federal employee, which is exactly what happened. But given that the confrontation between McKinley and Snodgrass happened while both were in the process of carrying out their lawful duties, it could have gone the other way, with the sheriff being placed under arrest.
“If somebody interferes or obstructs (a federal officer), in general, that could lead to a federal charge,” Ludwig said.
HWP wondered how the situation might have changed had the FS been able to fill the requested FS LEO slot. Some people think perhaps both sides would have arrested each other; I think the two law enforcement folks would have communicated in their own shared verbal and nonverbal language, from their shared understandings of their work, and worked it out with no arrests. Who knows?
Also I wonder how necessary it is to do prescribed fire in those specific locations (where it is felt necessary to have LEO support), Maybe people with a wildfire background can add their perspective.