The man who allegedly started a chemical fire at the Lebanon Walmart left the store, met up with a friend, admitted to setting the blaze and said it was just a “trial run,” said prosecutor Coleen Cerda during a hearing in Linn County Circuit Court on Friday afternoon.
“He poses a substantial risk of doing this again, in his own words,” Cerda added.
Joel Lee Reynolds Jr., 49, was charged with first-degree arson.
Judge Rachel Kittson-MaQatish set his bail at $100,000, as requested by Cerda, and scheduled the next hearing in the case for May 28.
The pool chemicals fire was reported at 12:49 p.m. Tuesday at the Lebanon Walmart, 3290 S. Santiam Highway.
Investigators determined that several pool chemicals inside the store had been mixed, and the chemicals then ignited.
“What exactly happened is still under investigation. All we know is two chemicals were mixed,” said Detective Tim Trahan of the Lebanon Police Department. The investigation will include surveillance cameras inside the Walmart, he added.
While fire damage inside Walmart was mostly contained to one aisle, the smoke contaminated a large portion of the store, according to a Lebanon Police Department news release.
Walmart remains closed due to the fire, and the cost of the damage is not known, the news release states.
“Walmart has suffered substantial damage due to this man’s action. … Walmart is out millions and millions and millions of dollars,” Cerda said.
When officers arrived, Walmart employees were already evacuating customers from the store.
Due to the risk of chemical smoke exposure, surrounding businesses were evacuated at the direction of the Lebanon Fire District, the news release states.
About 100 employees and an unknown number of customers were inside the store when the fire started. No injuries have been reported, according to the news release.
Reynolds has a limited criminal history in Oregon, according to the state’s online court database.
However, A Lebanon Police Department news release states that he has had multiple contacts with police. In 2018, he was trespassed from the Walmart store after a theft arrest, the news release states.
Cerda said Reynolds was convicted in Lebanon Municipal Court of third-degree theft.
Investigation into the fire continues. Those with information about the case should contact Lebanon Police Department Detective Chris Miner at 541-258-4314.