A log loader being used for thinning operations in the Ashland Creek watershed was marked with graffiti and its fuel deliberately contaminated last weekend, authorities said.
Crew members discovered the graffiti Monday morning and operated the loader for about an hour before it sputtered to a standstill, postponing work for the day, said Ashland Fire & Rescue Forestry Division Chief Chris Chambers.
"Sometime between 6:30 Friday night, when the crew left the location, and 4 a.m. on Monday is when the vandalism happened," Jackson County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Andrea Carlson said.
"The suspects wrote some graffiti on the log loader and also dumped some fluid into the fuel tank to make the log loader inoperable."
A mechanic who was called to the job site to repair the equipment said the loader's fuel likely was contaminated with water, Chambers said. After replacing filters and removing the contaminated fuel, the equipment worked properly, he said.
Carlson said the phrase "kill cops not trees," was written on the side of the loader, which is owned by Columbia Helicopters.
"Dab squad" and a series of abstract symbols were also scrawled in permanent marker on the side of the loader, Chambers said.
An investigation into the incident is being led by the sheriff's department, Carlson said.
"Unfortunately, the crew on the scene there have never had any trouble in that area and they don't have any suspect information," she said. "We're looking into it the best we can, seeing if we can track anything down. At this point there is not a whole lot of information to go off of."
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the sheriff's department at 541-774-6800.
Read more in the Daily Tidings on Thursday.