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GP woman sets 11 fires with stolen flares, cops say

CAVE JUNCTION — A Grants Pass woman faces arson charges after she allegedly stole road flares from a Josephine County Sheriff’s Office substation and used them to ignite 11 fires Thursday, threatening homes, residents and a grade school, authorities said.

Evelyn Maxine Barrera, 25, was arraigned Monday in Josephine County Circuit Court on two counts of first-degree arson stemming from the one-woman burning spree, some of which was watched by witnesses and captured on surveillance videos, according to court records.

Video surveillance from several residences showed a stocky woman later identified as Barrera “walking around with a lit road flare in each hand, lighting fires,” an Oregon State Police trooper wrote in a probable-cause affidavit for Barrera’s arrest that was filed Monday in court.

All 11 fires attributed to Barrera were extinguished Thursday evening by the Illinois Valley Fire Department, the affidavit states.

The fires damaged fences, vegetation and a mailbox on Boundary Avenue, while two fires on Evergreen Elementary School property damaged a fence, and one spread to a nearby yard of a home where people were present, the affidavit states.

One fire was set at the school’s bus barn and another burned in a field behind the school, the affidavit states.

Video surveillance also captured images of someone believed to be Barrera inside the sheriff’s Cave Junction substation, which was ransacked, and a box of roadside flares was missing, the affidavit states.

A rock was used to break into the substation, police said.

Barrera was found Friday evening along Highway 199 near milepost 27 outside of Cave Junction and was taken into custody, police said.

Barrera was lodged Friday in the Josephine County Jail on five counts of first-degree arson, six counts of second-degree arson, 11 counts of reckless burning, three counts of recklessly endangering another, one count each of second-degree burglary and second-degree criminal mischief, jail records show.

Barrera was released on her own recognizance Monday from the Josephine County Jail following her arraignment.

Court records show that Barrera has no other criminal history in Oregon. Her custody-release agreement said she was homeless, unemployed and with a “moderate” criminal history in California.

On Witnesses told police she was recently evicted from the Old Jo RV Campground, which is near the school, the affidavit states.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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