Third, final victim who died in Oregon's 2020 Almeda Fire was a man from Yreka
One of the victims of the southern Oregon Almeda Fire, whose identity remained a mystery for more than a year has been identified as a man who was originally from Yreka.
Derrick Glenn Mills' body was found about a mile from the fire's origin, according to a statement released late Wednesday afternoon by the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. Mills was 55.
The Almeda Fire broke out late morning on Sept. 8, 2020 in north Ashland. Driven by strong winds from the south, the fire spread 13 miles to the north in a matter of hours, ravaging neighborhoods in Ashland, Talent and Phoenix.
Jackson sheriff's officials said Mills was reported missing in March of 2021. Late last month, an extended family member provided a DNA sample that ultimately identified him as the remaining Almeda Fire victim. Three people, including Mills, died in the fire, which destroyed more than 2,600 homes.
The sheriff's department said Mills had been a Jackson County resident since at least 2002. He was born and grew up in Yreka.
On the day of the Almeda Fire, Mills' remains were found at the 8.9-mile marker of the Bear Creek Greenway between Ashland and Talent, the sheriff's office said.
An autopsy on Sept. 9 of 2020 confirmed Mills perished in the fire, the JCSO said. His cause of death was determined to be thermal injuries and inhalation. There are no indications of suspicious circumstances surrounding his death, the sheriff's department said.
The release said the Jackson County Sheriff's Office medical examiner detectives worked alongside the Ashland Police Department to identify the remains. They eventually tracked down and ruled out more than 20 missing person leads during their investigation.
In June of this year, Mills was determined to be a possible match for the unidentified fire victim, but authorities were unable to obtain a DNA standard from the relative, the JCSO said.
Mills' extended family out of Kansas contacted the sheriff's office after seeing a news story about the unidentified fire victim, the sheriff's department said. They were able to provide the DNA sample that helped solve the case.
The release said the Oregon State Police Medical Examiner Division obtained positive scientific identification while working with the DNA technology company, Parabon Nanolabs to process potential DNA matches and create a victim composite.
The investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing, the sheriff's office said.
Bill Choy covers sports and general news for the Siskiyou Daily News/Mount Shasta Herald/USA Today Network. Follow him on Twitter at@SDNBillChoy. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism by subscribing today.