Cause of Almeda Fire Remains a Mystery: APD

Ashland Police still searching for clues to Almeda Fire’s origin

The Ashland Police Department is asking for help from the public that can help them narrow in on who or what caused the devastating Almeda Fire.

ASHLAND, Ore. — KDRV More than two months after the Almeda Fire burned north from Ashland and destroyed parts of Talent and Phoenix, the Ashland Police Department is still looking for clues to how it began.

The agency said on Thursday that the criminal investigation remains ongoing, and investigators from a multi-agency task force have looked into “hundreds” of leads on the case.

“Investigators have received videos and photographs from many citizens, news outlets and fire crews, and thank those of you who have provided these,” APD said.

Investigators are looking for more photos and video, particularly from the area of the Ashland Dog Park, BMX Park, and the surrounding neighborhoods on September 8 — either before or after the fire started.

“If you have any images to share, or any other information about the Almeda Fire, please contact the Ashland Police Department at 541-482-5211 to be put in touch with an investigator,” APD said.

Ashland Police has been the lead agency on the Almeda Fire case since it happened. Just two days after the fire began Sheriff Nathan Sickler confirmed that the fire’s origins were considered criminal in nature.

The fire resulted in three deaths — 55-year-old Donald Schmidt, 92-year-old Violet Lobdell, and a third person who remains unidentified — destroying more than 2,500 homes and nearly 200 businesses.

A man arrested on suspicion of arson in Phoenix on the night of the Almeda Fire, 41-year-old Michael Bakkela, faces a multitude of charges for his alleged actions that day. However, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has maintained that the case is considered separate from the Almeda Fire’s origin.