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.