Monday, October 17, 2016

The FBI has launched an investigation into a series of suspected arson fires along the Bakken oil pipeline construction in Jasper County.

FBI investigates series of fires along Bakken oil pipeline
UPDATED 9:34 PM CDT Oct 16, 2016

REASNOR, Iowa —The FBI has launched an investigation into a series of fires along the Bakken oil pipeline construction in Jasper County.

Officials say the fires could be due to arson.

Fire chiefs say the machines were engulfed in flames when crews arrived late Saturday night.

A backhoe and two bulldozers were considerably damaged by the fire.

"They were burning pretty good," Sully fire Chief Mike Vander Molen said. "There was a lot of fire. We could see the glow and the smoke from a couple miles before we got here."

Assistant Chief Don Steenhoek, of the Reasnor Fire Department, suspects pipeline protesters are to blame.

"(It's) pretty senseless," he said. "They're not getting back at the pipeline. They're just hurting the guys trying to make a living and put it in."

Chris Merten, who owns the property where the fire burned, said he's frustrated because it's the second fire in three months.

"Whoever's doing it, they're not only affecting the progress of this, but they're actually on private property when they're doing their pickets and burning stuff," Merten said.

Area residents like Sasha Mueller and Tommy Wilken said they're concerned for their safety.

"It was a little intimidating with how big (the fire) was," Mueller said.

"Just heard some booms and seen a glow coming from that building and got up, got some shoes on and came outside to see nothing but lights and sirens," Wilken said.

Other residents said if protesters are to blame, there are better ways to show their opinion.

"There's no point in running equipment and ruining the people that have to do their jobs," said Rochell Oldham, of Newton. "It's senseless."

"I don't think destroying millions of dollars of equipment is anywhere near the right way to do it," Mueller said.

Fire departments from Reasnor, Sully and Newton sent crews to the scene.

No one was hurt during the incident, officials said.

The investigation remains ongoing.

In August, vandals had set fire to pipeline equipment near Reasnor, Oskaloosa and Newton.

Those fires caused $1 million in damage, but there have been no arrests made in those cases.KCCI reached out to the Jasper County Sheriff's Office for comment, but no one was available.


Arson suspected in latest Dakota Access pipeline fire

The Associated Press


Authorities suspect arson in the latest burning of heavy equipment being used in the construction of the four-state Dakota Access pipeline in central Iowa.

The Jasper County Sheriff's Office says the blaze late Saturday near Reasnor, Iowa, caused about $2 million damage to an excavator and three bulldozers. The equipment is operated by a contractor for Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners.

Opponents have for months been protesting the $3.8 billion, nearly 1,200-mile project pipeline, warning its construction could jeopardize water supply and damage cultural artifacts.

Another suspected arson of construction equipment happened on Aug. 1 at the same site, about 30 miles east of Des Moines.

No arrests have been made in either fire. The Iowa Fire Marshal Division and the FBI are investigating.


State and federal authorities say a fire that caused about $2 million in damage to Dakota Access pipeline construction equipment was likely intentionally set.

The Jasper County Sheriff's Office received a call at 11:38 p.m. Saturday that several pieces of construction equipment were on fire in the area of Salmon St. and Highway F. 62, near the town of Reasnor.

According to a news release Monday, Jasper County deputies responded to the scene and saw three bulldozers and one excavator on fire. Reasnor, Sully and Newton Fire Departments also responded.

A preliminary investigation indicates the fires were set intentionally set to the equipment, owned by a company contracted by Houston-based Dakota Access LLC to build the underground oil pipeline.

According to the release, this is the same location that equipment was believed to be intentionally set on fire on Aug. 1.

The Iowa State Fire Marshal and FBI are investigating this case. Anyone with information regarding these incidents is asked to contact the Jasper County Sheriff's Office.


Media Release
Jasper County, Iowa
October 17, 2016

On October 15th, 2016 at approximately 11:38 pm, Jasper County Sheriff Office Dispatch received a 911 call. The caller indicated that they observed several pieces of construction equipment on fire near the area of Salmon St. and Hwy F 62, near the town of Reasnor, Jasper County, Iowa.

Jasper County Deputies responded to the scene and observed three bulldozers and one excavator on fire. Reasnor, Sully and Newton Fire Departments also responded to the scene.

Preliminary investigation indicates that fires were intentionally set. The equipment was operated by one of the companies contracted by the Dakota Access Pipeline project. The damage estimate was approximately $2,000,000. This is the same location that equipment was believed to be intentionally set on fire on August 1st, 2016.

The Iowa State Fire Marshall, ATF and FBI are all investigating the case.
Anyone with information regarding these incidents is encouraged to contact the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office. Any suspicious vehicles and/or persons seen in and around these areas may have information or be related to these cases.

For immediate release, John R. Halferty, Sheriff


Arson investigation underway on three Bakken pipeline sites
Nearly $1 million in equipment damaged in Jasper County fires Published: Monday, Aug. 1, 2016 12:17 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016 11:05 a.m. CDT

Caption(Mike Mendenhall/Daily News)
Heavy equipment was left charred on Monday morning at three construction sites along the Bakken pipeline route in Jasper and Mahaska Counties after suspected arson over the weekend. The Jasper County Sheriff's Office and Newton Fire Marshal are investigating fires at sites west of newton and southeast of Reasnor. Mahaska County law enforcement is looking into a similar fire at a site 8.5 miles north of Oskaloosa.

Caption(Mike Mendenhall/Daily News)

Equipment fires at three construction sites in Jasper and Mahaska counties on the Dakota Access Pipeline construction route over the weekend are being treated as acts of arson by local law enforcement.

The Newton Fire Department and Jasper County Sheriff's deputies responded to the fire at approximately 6 a.m. Monday in a farm field on South 12th Avenue West, about 4.5 miles west of Newton. A local resident called 911 to report the blaze.

According to Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty, two machines were damaged at the Newton site — one was smoldering and the other was still ablaze when firefighters and deputies arrived on scene. The damaged pieces of equipment were identified as a bulldozer and a track hoe.

Deputies in Jasper County are also investigating a second fire on Salmon Street about 2.5 miles southeast of Reasnor.

The Newton Daily News confirmed a third report of suspected arson in Mahaska County over the weekend involving equipment on the DAPL route about 8.5 miles north of Oskaloosa.

"We believe it's an obvious, intentionally set fire. It wasn't like the equipment overheated," Halferty said at the scene near Newton.

As of Monday morning, investigators did not have any suspects in the case. Halferty said the fires could have been set by a single person, but law enforcement is not ruling out the possibility of multiple suspects.

Construction began on the crude oil pipeline in Jasper County last week. Halferty said the fires are the first local reports of vandalism related to the project.

According to investigators, the combined estimated damage at the Newton and Reasnor construction sites is approximately $1 million. Damage was located in the bulldozer and track hoes' engine and cab compartments. Halferty said the machinery is likely a total loss.

The equipment is owned by Huston-based subcontractor Pe Ben U.S.A. and Precision Pipeline of Eau Claire, Wis. is running the Jasper County job sites.

A representative from Precision Pipeline declined to comment Monday, but work site superintendents told the Jasper County Sheriff's Department the fires would set construction back about one day. Precision has experienced minor cases of vandalism on other project sites but has never had equipment set on fire in Iowa.

Halferty said the state fire marshal and Iowa DCI have also been notified of the incidents. The Jasper County Sheriff's Office and the Newton Fire Marshal are leading the investigations near Newton and Reasnor.

Law enforcement is working the case on minimal evidence, Halferty said, and the sheriff's office is asking for the public's assistance in the case.

"We want to rely on the public. If they notice anything call it in," he said. "We'd encourage them to call in something that may or may not be suspicious. If we don't know about it, it's hard to follow up on."

Scott Miller, a deputy at the Mahaska County Sheriff's Office, said Monday four pieces of heavy equipment were found burned on the pipeline route at 175th Street and Kent Avenue between Oskaloosa and New Sharon. Investigators believe the fire was set early Sunday morning.