BREAKING NEWS 1,200 acre wildfire reported five miles north of Beatty Full Story

Sheriff: Structures lost between Almeda and Obenchain fires number nearly 3,000

Task forces have largely completed their counts of structures destroyed, though local teams will need to assess the type of buildings lost in both fires.

Posted: Sep 18, 2020 2:41 PM
Updated: Sep 20, 2020 6:07 AM

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — Nearly 3,000 structures have been destroyed between the Almeda Drive and South Obenchain Fires that began last week, according to the latest update from Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler.

The Urban Search & Rescue Team, Utah Task Force 1, and other search teams have nearly completed its assessments of the burn areas, Sickler said. In the Almeda Fire area — between Ashland, Talent, and Phoenix — more than 2,800 structures were destroyed. Around the South Obenchain Fire, which stretched from Shady Cove nearly to Butte Falls, 153 structures were lost.

(Photo courtesy of Sean Roberts)

Sheriff Sickler said that these numbers do not differentiate between homes, businesses, outbuildings, and other structures. Assessing the precise nature of those structures lost will fall to local teams in the days and weeks ahead.

Jackson County Search & Rescue has focused on searching the Bear Creek Greenway for other potential victims of the fire. Three sets of human remains have been discovered in the Almeda Fire aftermath thus far, including that of 55-year-old Donald Schmidt. Sickler indicated that two bodies have been identified, but the first victim — discovered on the Greenway early in the investigation — is still the subject of inquiry.

There are currently no people considered "critical missing," Sickler said, meaning there is no one who lived in the path of the fire unaccounted for.

The investigation into the Almeda Fire's origin remains underway, with no new information yet available. However, Sickler said that the origin of the South Obenchain Fire is "not considered suspicious," again pushing back against rumors of widespread or organized arson attempts. That fire is being investigated by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Sickler also indicated that evacuation levels on the South Obenchain Fire will further decrease on Friday, allowing residents of Butte Falls and the Indian Creek area outside of Shady Cove to return to their homes. Butte Falls Highway will also be reopening, but only to people who can prove their residency.

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

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