ASHLAND, Ore. — The origins of the devastating Almeda Drive Fire that tore through Talent and Phoenix are under criminal investigation, connected to the recovery of a body in the area.
Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler confirmed on Wednesday that a body had been discovered near the origin of the fire in north Ashland, saying that the death was the subject of an "active criminal investigation." However, it wasn't clear at the time if the beginnings of the fire itself were suspected to be criminal in nature.
Ashland Police said on Thursday that it is working with the Sheriff's Office on a criminal investigation concerning the start of the Almeda Fire "including the resulting death that occurred nearby along the Greenway."
Sheriff Sickler clarified at a press conference later in the afternoon that the body was discovered about a mile away from the origin point of the fire, found along the Bear Creek Greenway.
The Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit (MADIU) has been activated, bringing in detectives from Medford, Central Point, Oregon State Police, the Sheriff's Office, Ashland Police, and the Jackson County District Attorney's Office.
The investigation is still in its beginning stages, Ashland Police said.
Fire officials confirmed on Thursday that there are now two deaths connected to the Almeda Drive Fire, though no further information about the circumstances of those deaths has been released.
Preliminary numbers on the Almeda Fire suggest that it burned upwards of 3,000 acres and destroyed 600 homes — displacing thousands. Authorities say it's likely that more people lost their lives, though the number remains unknown.