UPDATE: Man Killed During Penninger Fire Identified by Authorities

Detectives are looking for tips from anyone with information regarding the fire on Tuesday that spread south and east from the Bear Creek Greenway near Family Fun Center in Central Point.

Posted: Jul 20, 2018 4:07 PM
Updated: Jul 21, 2018 5:27 PM

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. —

UPDATE: The Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office has identified the man whose body was found near the Bear Creek Greenway following the Peninger Fire, according to a statement from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO).

Investigators identified the man as 60-year-old Robert Lee Walker through a fingerprint comparison.

An autopsy on Friday confirmed that Walker died during Tuesday's fire, JCSO said, and not before. Deputy State Medical Examiner Dr. James Olson, MD, reached the conclusion that Walker died as a direct result of thermal injuries sustained during the fire on Tuesday, July 17.

Detectives say that Walker was homeless and living along the Bear Creek Greenway. His family has been notified of his death.

On the morning of Thursday, July 19, Walker's body was spotted by Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) and Fire District 3 officials who were surveying the burned area by helicopter. JCSO detectives, Fire District 3 personnel, and a medical examiner investigator responded to the scene.

Detectives continue their investigation into the fire, which was determined to be human caused. Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the JCSO tip line at (541) 774-8333. Refer to case #18-14794.

(Updated as of 4 p.m. on Friday, July 20)


UPDATE: A body has been found next to Bear Creek within the area burned by the Penninger Fire, according to a news release from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO).

Detectives are still in the process of a death investigation, and have not yet determined whether the person died before or during the fire. The victim has not yet been identified, but JCSO says that they do think it is the body of a man.

On Thursday morning, July 19, JCSO and Fire District 3 officials were surveying the area burned by the Penninger Fire. The purpose of the flight was to survey the damage caused by the fire and to help assess needs for future law enforcement and fire suppression efforts along the Bear Creek Greenway.

Instead, at about 11:23 a.m., officials in the helicopter spotted a body next to Bear Creek.

Deputies cordoned off the area while JCSO detectives, FD 3 personnel and a medical examiner investigator responded to the scene. The body was found near a suspected transient camp.

At this time, JCSO says detectives are working to identify the man. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause and manner of death. No further information is available for release at this time.

(Updated as of 3:20 p.m. on Thursday, July 19)


INITIAL REPORT: Investigators working to find the cause of the Penninger Fire are asking for tips from anyone with information about its origin, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO).

The fire was first reported on Tuesday, just after 4 p.m. Witnesses said that they saw a column of smoke near the Bear Creek Greenway, just behind the Jackson County Expo and Family Fun Center.

Within a matter of hours, that solitary column of smoke grew to a hazy brown sheet over Central Point, as the fire quickly spread east over fields of dry grass, hopping roads and damaging both outbuildings and homes, causing hurried evacuations. Nobody was injured in the fire, according to JCSO.

Sheriff's detectives and fire investigators with Fire District 3 would like to talk to anyone with information that could assist in the investigation—that includes anyone who was around the Bear Creek Greenway between the Expo and Pine Street during the hours of 3 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.

Investigators say that "some people may not realize they have information that could help" in solving the case, according to JCSO.

The number for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office tip line is (541) 774-8333.

There have been a rash of recent fires originating in the Bear Creek Greenway—possibly originating from cooking fires at transient camps, according to fire investigators.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 2730
CountyCasesDeaths
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California Coronavirus Cases

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Tonight: Today was our first dry day in a while, although we can't rule out a stray shower or thunderstorm popping up in extreme northern portions of Lake or Klamath counties. Models are hinting that most of this should stay to our north, towards the Bend area. Any lingering clouds today will quickly dissipate by the evening. However, it could prove to be a breezy night in portions of Siskiyou County. Low temperatures will drop down to the upper 30s to low 40s in Northern California, the Klamath Basin, and in the Cascades. Along the coast and in the Rogue Valley, lows will be in the upper 40s to low 50s.

Tomorrow: Our Wednesday will be substantially warmer compared to our Tuesday. Relief from the heat in the form of cloud cover will be absent. High temperatures will be in the upper 80s to low 90s in the Rogue Valley and in Northern California. Highs will be in the mid 80s in the Klamath Basin, mid 70s in the Cascades, and in the upper 60s to low 70s along the coast. The breezy conditions in Siskiyou County from tonight will carry over into Wednesday, and gusts could reach 25 mph in some coastal communities as well. 

Extended: Thursday will be even hotter than Wednesday, and it'll just be a continuation of the stale weather pattern we're about to be in. Skies should remain clear for the forseeable future, and blistering heat looks to be in store for the weekend. We could be talking about high temperature in the upper 90s to triple digits in the Rogue Valley and Siskiyou County. Highs could be in the 90s in the Klamath Basin, in the 80s in the Cascades, and in the 70s along the coast.

Most of the beneficial rain that fell over the weekend was concentrated over the coast, meaning that drought conditions probably didn't improve much in the Rogue Valley and points eastward. As we stay dry and hot throughout the rest of the week, we'll be watching for the return of favorable fire conditions, especially in Lake County. The good news is that winds appear to be light towards the end of the week, which should limit the wildfire threat to some degree.

A FREEZE WARNING has been issued for our westside valleys in Jackson, Josephine and Curry Counties until 8 AM Wednesday. Low temperatures in these areas will fall down to near and even below freezing overnight. The coldest temperatures will be in the Applegate and Illinois Valley where temperatures could dip into the upper 20s. With widespread frost and possible freezing temperatures, be sure to protect and cover any sensitive plants.
Tonight: The clear and warm day will give way to a clear and mild evening. Temperatures for inland areas this evening will stay solidly in the 50s and 60s through the 8 P.M. hour, meaning this will be a near picture perfect evening for a barbecue or Wednesday evening walk. Overnight low temperatures will also stay more mild than recently, falling into the mid to upper 30s in our westside valleys with mid to upper 20s east of the Cascades. The coast will see temperatures staying in the 40s through the overnight hours. 
Extended: Beyond Wednesday, we'll see a very gradual and slow cooling trend through the rest of the workweek, but temperatures will remain above average. Easter Weekend will start off dry, but clouds will increase and by Easter Sunday, we could be looking at some chances for rain for at least parts of our region. We'll be keeping a close eye on this system and your holiday weekend forecast. It's possible wet weather could continue into next week with cooler temperatures.

Stay updated on the StormWatch 12 forecast on-air and online.

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