Sheriff: Hornbrook Man's Injuries Point Toward Fire-Related Death

Authorities have identified a Hornbrook man found dead in the wake of the Klamathon Fire, but some of the circumstances remain a mystery.

Posted: Jul. 12, 2018 3:22 PM
Updated: Jul. 12, 2018 3:32 PM

YREKA, Calif. — Investigation into the death of a Hornbrook man seems to indicate that his death was directly caused by the Klamathon Fire, according to the Sisikiyou County Sheriff's Office (SCSO).

A deputy found the man's body on Friday, July 6 after the Klamathon Fire had passed through Hornbrook, moving north. The deceased man, later identified as 72-year-old John Karl Bermel, was found near a "heavily fire-damaged" residence on Pilot Street.

What remains of John Karl Bermel's home after the Klamathon Fire.

An autopsy of Bermel's body found that his injuries were consistent with a "fire-related death," according to SCSO. However, investigators are still awaiting the results of a toxicology report—the outcome of which will be used to determine a definite cause of death.

“On behalf of the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, I would like to take this opportunity to extend our condolences, thoughts, and prayers to the victim, his family, and friends in the aftermath of his death," said Sheriff Jon Lopey.

Bermel's neighbors describe him as a nice, sensible man. He often appeared with other members of the community at meetings on water utilities.

Sheriff Lopey told NewsWatch 12 that Bermel's car was found off Copco Road—seemingly packed and ready to escape the approaching flames. SCSO does not know why Bermel apparently left his car and went back to his house.

The case of Bermel's death is still under investigation, and anyone with information about the incident is urged to contact the SCSO’s 24-hour Dispatch Center at (530) 841-2900.

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