Man tied to Oak Knoll fire faces new charges

Man tied to Oak Knoll fire faces new charges

ASHLAND — The homeless man accused of starting August's Oak Knoll fire is back in jail after he threw a 3-foot orange plastic traffic pole off the Exit 14 bridge onto Interstate 5 Saturday and reportedly screamed at people to give him money, police said.

John Thiry, 40, remained in Jackson County Jail late Monday on $10,000 bail for a felony count of throwing an object from an overpass and two misdemeanor counts of second-degree disorderly conduct.

A driver on the Ashland Street bridge called 9-1-1 after watching Thiry, who was walking along the bridge, pick up the traffic delineator and throw it onto the freeway, said Ashland police Deputy Chief Corey Falls.

"There was a driver on the overpass, in stop-and-go traffic because there's construction going on, and he's watching this unfold in front of him," Falls said.

The traffic pin didn't hit any cars when it fell onto the freeway, Falls said.

Next Thiry walked to the nearby Albertsons shopping center, where he became verbally aggressive and intimidating as he panhandled, according to a police report. Two people whom Thiry harassed in the Rite Aid parking lot ran into the store to call 9-1-1, Falls said.

"The people that he was screaming at to give him money, they ran into the store and called police because it scared them," he said. Police arrested Thiry at 3:15 p.m. Saturday.

The bridge incident occurred not far from where investigators say Thiry ignited a grass fire on Aug. 24 that spread across Interstate 5 and destroyed 11 homes.

After the fire, Thiry was charged with 10 counts of recklessly endangering another and 14 counts of reckless burning. In December, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia found Thiry not guilty of all charges. Mejia said Thiry likely did start the fire, but prosecutors had not proven Thiry was aware of the risks, a condition that would have to be met for Thiry to be considered guilty of recklessness.

Saturday was Thiry's first arrest since being released from jail Dec. 10 after the verdict in the fire case.

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 541-708-1158 or

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