ASHLAND, Ore. — It's now been one year since the Almeda Fire burned north from Ashland and destroyed much of Talent and Phoenix. According to the Ashland Police Department, there are still no definitive answers in the investigation into how it started.
Ashland Police has been the lead investigative agency on the case since the beginning, with help from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Oregon State Police, Medford Police, and consultation from the FBI.
"As of now a suspect has not been identified. The Ashland Police Department, along with its partner agencies, will continue to work toward solving this crime," the agency said in a statement on Tuesday marking the anniversary.
"Like other major cases, this case is not considered 'closed' and won’t be until it is seen to full resolution," Ashland Police continued. "The case remains open pending more information becoming available."
According to APD, the investigation has included help from 18 different law enforcement agencies between Oregon, Washington, California, and Alabama. More than 200 people have been interviewed over the course of the investigation, including multiple polygraph examinations.
The fire started around 11 a.m. that Wednesday near a subdivision on the north end of Ashland, not far from the Ashland BMX Park and city wastewater treatment plant. Buffeted by unusually strong, sustained winds, the fire raced northwest along the Bear Creek Greenway between I-5 and Highway 99, eventually expanding beyond the bounds of both and into the surrounding communities.
Three people died in the Almeda Fire, two of them identified. The third is still the subject of investigation. An unidentified man's body was found along the Bear Creek Greenway about a mile away from the fire's point of origin. Investigators are still trying to use DNA to obtain a positive identification.
A man arrested on suspicion of arson in Phoenix on the night of the Almeda Fire, 41-year-old Michael Bakkela, faces a multitude of charges for his alleged actions that day. However, there has been no indication that Bakkela is suspected of starting the initial fire that broke out near the north end of Ashland.
Anyone with information about how the fire began is still encouraged to contact Ashland Police.