Wildland firefighter charged with arson

TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma — An Oklahoma Forestry Services wildland firefighter has been placed on administrative leave pending termination. The action came after he was arrested by Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry Special Agents pending charges being presented to the Cherokee County District Attorney.

Mike Malenski was arrested Wednesday in connection with a series of wildfires that were intentionally set in Cherokee County. The 38 year-old previously served as a Forest Ranger II based in Tahlequah.

Forestry Services and other government agencies have been battling grassfires and other blazes much of this year, as a long-term drought continues. Despite temporary relief from rains around the state in recent weeks, the fire challenges have continued.
Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, & Forestry law enforcement officers investigated the fires after receiving calls regarding the possible arson. They will be presenting the case to the Cherokee County District Attorney for prosecution.

As mandated by Oklahoma Forestry Code, Oklahoma Forestry Services enforces all laws related to the protection of forests and woodlands and prosecutes violators. Arson is a felony punishable by up to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.

“We investigate arson and we bring those we catch to justice. It was regrettable that it was one of our own employees,” said Mark Goeller, assistant director in charge of fire operations with Oklahoma Forestry Services.

Mike Malenski worked seven years for Oklahoma Forestry Services.
Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.