Smoke billows from the Airport Self Storage facility in Salem on May 3, 2021 (Courtesy/Marion Polk Traffic, Crime and Severe Weather Alerts)
A Salem man charged with setting fire to a storage facility on Turner Road that caused $1 million in damage started the blaze with a flare gun he stole from Walmart, according to a police affidavit used to justify his arrest.
Police have identified 189 victims from the Monday night blaze. Tristin Sillman, 22, was charged in Marion County Wednesday with second-degree arson and first-degree criminal mischief.
On Tuesday, Salem police detective Jeffry Gordon spoke with Joshua Hillburn who said he witnessed Sillman fire a flare gun into the air near the storage unit on 2142 Turner Rd S.E.
Hillburn told police he confronted Sillman about the dangers of shooting a flare gun. But Sillman pointed the flare at the storage units and fired, Hillburn told police.
Hillburn said he saw the flare go into a storage unit through a void near the roof.
Police found Sillman, who is homeless, at Cascades Gateway Park where he initially denied any involvement, according to the affidavit.
On the path leading to Sillman’s camp, a detective found packaging for a flare gun.
While being interviewed by police at the station, Sillman offered the explanation that he fired the flare at the car of someone whose dog had been in a dog fight.
Sillman told police he bought the flare gun at Walmart. But Sillman was captured on video footage stealing the flare gun and ammunition on May 1, the affidavit said.
Sillman, who police said provided inconsistent statements throughout the interview, told police he was initially untruthful so he could avoid responsibility.
Later, police said Sillman admitted to firing the flare gun toward the storage facility.