CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — At least one person is confirmed dead after the Almeda Fire tore north from Ashland through Talent and Phoenix on Tuesday, according to Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler.
Fire and law enforcement officials gathered for a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to discuss ongoing efforts and the aftermath of both the Almeda Fire and the South Obenchain Fire.
The Almeda Fire started around 11 a.m. on Wednesday near a subdivision on the north end of Ashland. It quickly grew to the north and east — burning through parts of Talent, leveling much of Phoenix, and encroaching on the southern areas of Medford.
One fire official reportedly said that the Almeda Fire had wrought the "worst devastation" he'd ever seen. Anything that caught fire was completely destroyed.
Sickler confirmed that investigators have recovered one body connected to the Almeda Fire — found near the origin of the fire in north Ashland — and that death is now the subject of an "active criminal investigation." There are no answers yet as to how the death happened or who it was, and Sickler said that "nothing has been ruled out."
The Sheriff underlined that the Almeda Fire is still burning in many areas, and the parts of Talent and Phoenix still under Level 3 evacuation remain that way for a reason — both for ongoing firefighting efforts and for hazards left behind in the rubble. Sickler urged people to stay away. Deputies and firefighters have found open gas lines, downed power lines, and many other hazards.
Fire officials also addressed the South Obenchain Fire near Eagle Point, which started after firefighting efforts on the Almeda Fire had already started. While both fires are still considered entirely without containment, the South Obenchain Fire has seen extreme growth toward populated areas while firefighters focused their Tuesday efforts on the immediate threat of the Almeda Fire.
Highway 62 north of Eagle Point and through Shady Cove and Trail has been evacuated as the Obenchain Fire continues to grow, scorching at least 25,000 acres at last estimate.
Fire officials cut short the briefing after a new fire began spreading in Central Point.
This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.