NEW SHARON, Iowa -- Fire ripped through three separate job site locations causing millions in damages along the Dakota Access` Bakken oil pipeline early Sunday and Monday morning near the cities of New Sharon, Newton, and Reasnor.
"It appears that all evidence says these vehicles were intentionally set on fire and we're calling it an arson at this point," said Jasper County Chief Deputy Duane Rozendaal.
The first in Mahaska County proved to be most costly, approaching $1.5 million in damages to multiple pieces of equipment.
"Initially, we thought we had three and as we were working to take care of these three, my third trucker noticed a fire to the south of us and that's when we found we had a fourth one," said New Sharon Fire Chief Steve Gerard.
Early Monday morning, Jasper County officials received a similar call from both Newton and Reasnor, with damage hovering at $1 million.
"When you get to the magnitude of $1 million worth of equipment, some of it being brand new, you are talking about some serious felonies," Deputy Chief Rozendaal said.
Investigators believe someone could be targeting equipment designed to build the controversial pipeline which would carry nearly 500,000 gallons of crude oil per day across land in 18 Iowa counties.
"Yes, there were some heated discussions in regards to the way they obtained land but that doesn't have anything to do with the guys doing the work at the sites," Rozendaal said.
In response to the damage, Dakota Access said, "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."
Chief Gerard hopes whoever is causing the damage understands that they're putting the lives of others in danger.
"I don't speculate an opinion one way or another about the pipeline," Gerard said. "What I am concerned about is responders that respond to this. They jeopardize us also."
The State Fire Marshall along with the Department of Criminal Investigation are working in collaboration with both Mahaska County and Jasper County.
So far, no arrests have been made.