MOSES LAKE, Wash. — The Grant County Sheriff’s Office is recommending vigilance for farmers after arresting a man and charging him with setting $4,500 worth of hay on fire.
The Grant County Sheriff’s Office arrested Alexander M. Clemons, 19, of Moses Lake, Wash., for investigation of second-degree arson.
Sheriff’s deputies and Grant County Fire District 5 responded to calls at Rathbun Angus in Moses Lake the evening of Oct. 2. They arrived to find several bales of hay fully engulfed, according to the sheriff’s office.
There was no additional damage, said Kyle Foreman, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.
According to the report, witnesses told deputies they saw a white car leaving the scene right before the fire started. Deputies were able to tie Clemons and a white 1998 Subaru Justy to the crime. The Subaru was seized pending a search warrant.
Foreman said the investigation is continuing. More arrests are possible, he said.
Rathbun Angus owner Jen Rathbun said the car passed her while she was on a run. While calling 911, she used her phone to take photos of the vehicle, including the license plate, and of the fire.
Foreman said there have been several cases of haystack arson across the county, and they seem to happen every year. Several cases from the summer in Mattawa remain under investigation, he said.
“It happens in any community where you have remote locations where haystacks are unattended and it’s an attractive target for someone who wants to light one on fire,” Foreman said.
The investigators will continue to follow up on leads and additional witness statements.
“What was good about this case was there were witnesses nearby who noticed the vehicle leaving, got a description of it and then noticed the smoke and the flames,” Foreman said.
Foreman advised growers to keep an eye on their property and report any suspicious activities or vehicles.
“It can be a difficult thing to control because of the remote location of a lot of farms and ranches,” he said. “Just do the best you can and be vigilant for any suspicious activity.”
Rathbun said she takes note of vehicles that enter the property.
“I have no problem pulling them over, or crossing my car in front of them to stop them and say, ‘Hey, who are you and what are you doing down here?’” she said. “If they come down, turn around and head out, I let it go, but if they’re going to come down and hang out, I go immediately and say, ‘What can I help you with?’”
It’s a matter of being proactive, she said, noting she takes down license plate numbers and isn’t afraid to ask questions.
“It’s just disheartening to know that there are people out there who are willing to do that kind of stuff to other people’s property,” Rathbun said.
Anyone with further information is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 509-762-1160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . Tipsters can remain anonymous.