Two years later, Almeda Fire remains under investigation

A screenshot taken from the video of an aerial survey of the Almeda Fire damage area taken on Sept. 8, 2020, by Jackson County, shows the ignition point in the area at left center. There are three vehicles parked at the end of Michelle Avenue, which connects with Almeda Drive. The Ashland Wastewater Treatment Plant is at bottom left. To see the video, click on the link at the botom of the article.
September 6, 2022

Investigators say blaze was ‘human caused,’ say extensive efforts have been made to solve the case

A news release issued by the Ashland Police Department two days before the anniversary of the devastating Almeda Fire started within Ashland city limits before ripping north along the Bear Creek Greenway through Talent and Phoenix, destroying thousands of structures and claiming three lives, lays out some of the efforts taken to determine its ultimate cause, but says the case remains open.

The release, which says it is a joint statement from the APD and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO), recaps the day’s events: On Sept.8, 2020, at 11:04 a.m., a fire started in a dry field along Almeda Street in Ashland. The fire quickly traveled northwest, driven by strong winds. Before containment, the fire destroyed 2,428 structures, damaged 134 more, and tragically claimed three lives.

A photo posted by John Darling on Facebook three weeks after the Almeda Fire started Sept. 8, 2020, shows a scattering of plant cuttings left as an impromptu memorial at what Darling called “Ground Zero … ignition point.” The location is just west of the Ashland BMX Park, just off the southwest corner of the Ashland Wastewater Treatment Plant. Houses in the background front on Glendower Street. Almeda Drive is just south of the BMX park.

Ashland Fire and Rescue, in consultation with the Oregon State Police (OSP) Arson Unit, and the State Fire Marshal’s Office, determined the fire was of human origin. Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies immediately began working to solve this crime, the news release continues. Although the case remains open, investigators are optimistic that, with community support and assistance and continued investigations, they will close this case and give a “small measure of resolution” to the thousands of people affected.

Detectives from police agencies in Ashland, Medford and Central Point, and the JCSO, as well as OSP, cooperated to investigate this criminal act. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was also consulted to provide a possible profile of who may be responsible for this crime.

Overall, 29 investigators from these various agencies, led by primary detectives from the Ashland Police Department (APD) and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO), served nine search warrants and interviewed 154 people spanning eight counties in four different states. This effort was aided using two assigned Jackson County Assistant District Attorneys and four crime analysts. This investigation remains open and ongoing with detectives from APD and JCSO following new leads, exhausting old ones, and remaining dedicated to solving the case, according to the release.

“Although there is nothing we can do to ensure closure for people who lost loved ones and property to this fire, we will continue working hard to provide a resolution to this case,” the release concludes. “We are proud of the way the community came together in the aftermath of the disaster, proving once again: WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER.”

Anyone with any information about the Almeda Fire can call APD Detective Lindsey Rochon-Evertt at 541-482-5211.

Source: Ashland Police Department news release. Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at betling@ashland.news or call or text him at 541-631-1313.

To see the video the image at top came from, click here.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.
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