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Officials investigate suspected arson involving Bakken pipeline equipment

Two fires reported in Jasper County, third in Mahaska County

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. (Mike Mendenhall/Newton 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. (Mike Mendenhall/Newton Daily News)
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Police suspect arson was the cause of three fires that caused more than $1.5 million in damage to construction equipment being used to build the Bakken pipeline.

Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty said his office was investigating two fires reported Monday in Jasper County. The fires, which he said appear intentional, caused an estimated $1 million in damage to construction equipment.

“We believe it was intentionally set, we are investigating them as arson cases,” Halferty said.

Halferty said fire crews responded at 5:41 a.m. Monday to an ongoing fire west of Newton. A second fire was reported at 7:23 a.m. that day when construction workers found charred equipment at a site east of Reasnor.

Alex Murphy, spokesman with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said the state was investigating a third fire in Mahaska County.

The fire, reported at around 2:15 a.m. Sunday a few miles north of Oskaloosa, is estimated to have caused between $600,000 and $800,000 in damage, Murphy said.

Murphy said arson is the suspected cause of the fire, which remains under investigation.

Murphy said state and local officials are remaining in contact during their investigations, as it’s possible the three fires are connected.

No arrests have been made in any of the cases, officials said.

Halferty said the public is encouraged to provide any information possibly related to the fires.

Dakota Access LLC spokeswoman Vicki Granado on Monday provided a statement in response to the fires.

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“It is unfortunate that people need to behave in this manner. Americans burning American made equipment which is owned and operated by American companies, employing American union workers, working on a pipeline owned and operated by an American company for transporting crude oil produced in America for American consumers is a shameful act by a group of people trying to disrupt our country’s energy security and independence. We have increased security along the route and are actively pursuing the situation with law enforcement. If caught, we will prosecute to the maximum extent allowed by law, both criminally and civilly. We will not tolerate this kind of activity, which is a safety hazard to all concerned.”

Dakota Access last week received approval from the Army Corps of Engineers for the final permits necessary to begin the project. Construction began earlier this year on other portions of the crude oil pipeline.

The $3.8 billion, 1,168 mile underground pipeline will begin in the Bakken region of North Dakota, cross a section of South Dakota, traverse 18 counties in Iowa and end in Illinois.

The project will place 346 miles of pipeline in Iowa, crossing the state on a diagonal from northwest to southeast.

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