The authorities are investigating one Oregon wildfire wreaking havoc across the state as possible arson. The arson probe opened up after investigators discovered human remains.
The wildfire that started in Ashland destroyed more than 3,000 acres of land in addition to 600 homes. After locating two bodies, the situation is now an “active criminal investigation,” Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler tells Medford Mail Tribune.
The fire spread “at an extreme rate” after igniting on Tuesday. At this time, law enforcement continues to learn more about what led to the wildfire. “We are still in the early stages,” Sickler said. “Nothing’s been ruled out.”
Ashland police chief Tighe O’Meara tells Reuters that the evidence found at the wildfire, dubbed the Almeda fire, raises serious questions.
“We have good reason to believe that there was a human element to it,” he said. “We’re going to pursue it as a criminal investigation until we have reason to believe that it was otherwise.”
Authorities Shoot Down Rumors About the Origins of the Oregon Wildfire
While authorities did not reveal information on the bodies found, they did shoot down the online rumors alleging a connection between the fires and militants leaving Portland under siege.
“One thing I can say is that the rumor it was set by Antifa is 100% false information,” O’Meara told The Oregonian. “We have some leads, and none of it points in that direction.”
The arson probe comes on the heels of officials revealing concerns that two of the largest blazes in Oregon – called the Beachie Creek and Riverside fires – may combine into one massive wildfire. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown spoke out about the devastation in the state during a recent press conference.
“We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across our state,” Brown said, New York Post reports. Furthermore, Brown explained that the wildfires forced more than 10% of the state’s population to evacuate.
As of Thursday, the death toll rose to at least 23.
[H/T New York Post]