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Sheriff: Almeda Fire death toll drops to three; evacuation levels being reduced

At a press conference on Monday afternoon, Sheriff Nathan Sickler said that reduced evacuation orders are imminent on both fires, allowing more people to return home.

Posted: Sep 14, 2020 2:29 PM
Updated: Sep 14, 2020 2:43 PM

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — As containment levels on the Almeda Drive and South Obenchain fires rise, fire and law enforcement officials are reducing evacuation levels around them.

At a press conference on Monday afternoon, Sheriff Nathan Sickler said that reduced evacuation orders are imminent on both fires, allowing more people to return home — including for "nearly all" of Shady Cove and Trail, Jackson Couny Emergency Management posted in an update.

Fire officials expressed confidence in efforts on the South Obenchain Fire, with lines holding on all sides except for the very eastern flank, south of Butte Falls.

On the Almeda Fire zone, Level 3 evacuations will be moved south from S Stage Road to Glenwood, allowing residents in the area north of Glenwood to return. 

The number of people believed dead from the Almeda Fire has been adjusted to three as of Monday, Sickler said — down from four on Sunday and five prior to that. The first victim, found on the Greenway about a mile north of the fire's origin in Ashland, has not yet been identified. Sickler indicated that the two others have likely been identified, though death certificates are still being processed by the county Medical Examiner.

Urban Search & Rescue teams are still looking for possible remains, however. Jackson County Search & Rescue in particular has been searching the Bear Creek Greenway. Analysts and federal support are helping to locate the missing.

The Almeda Fire's cause is still under investigation, with Ashland Police leading the inquest.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office also published a list of nearly two dozen arrests made in the Almeda and Obenchain evacuation zones since last week, several on allegations of looting. Oregon law allows for harsher outcomes for those accused of looting during a disaster, Sickler said.

Sickler said that his office currently has "zero critical missing persons" from the Almeda Fire's path, though there are ten unconfirmed missing persons who were not known to live in the burned areas.

This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.

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