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Press Release

Warm Springs Woman Pleads Guilty to Setting Fire Results in Brush Fire Burning Over 50,000 Acres

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Oregon

Defendant Admits Starting Fire Because Her Firefighter Friends Were Bored

PORTLAND, Ore. – Sadie Renee Johnson, 23 of Warm Springs, entered a plea of guilty before U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez on May 19, 2014, to the crime of setting brush and timber on fire on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. 

By her guilty plea the defendant admits that on July 20, 2013, at about 9:15 a.m., she was riding as a passenger in a car traveling on Route 3 near Sunnyside Drive on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in the District of Oregon and she used a lighter to light a small firework and threw the firework out the passenger window into the brush along the side of the road (Route 3) as they were driving.  The lit firework started the brush on the side of the road on fire, which quickly spread northwest.  The fire was called in to dispatch at approximately 9:29 a.m.  The first responders identified the point of origin at milepost 5 on the north side of the road within a 1- to 1.5-acre area.  Within minutes the fire spread and increased in size ultimately burning approximately 51,480 acres of brush on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.  The fire was contained by July 29, 2013, was under control by August 13, 2013, but not declared out until September 13, 2013.  The approximate cost to fight and contain this 51,480-acre fire for the Bureau of Indian Affairs was $7,901,973.  Defendant is required to pay full restitution.

When questioned by detectives, defendant admitted she threw a tiny firework out the window of the vehicle that she lit with a cigarette lighter.  Johnson said her firefighter friends were bored and needed work but she didn’t mean for it to be 30,000 acres.  Defendant stated she thought it would be a two-day fire and be put out.  On July 22, 2013, defendant posted a statement on Facebook stating: “like my fire?”

The defendant is in custody and sentencing is scheduled for September 3, 2014.  Johnson faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and three years of supervised release.

This case was investigated by BIA Special Wildland Arson Investigation Team and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Pamala Holsinger is handling the prosecution of the case.

Updated January 29, 2015