Longtime Jackson County resident identified as final Almeda fire victim
The final unidentified victim of the Sept. 8, 2020 Almeda fire has been positively identified as Derrick Glenn Mills, 55, originally from Yreka, California, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
Mills was found deceased approximately one mile from the fire’s origin. He was reported missing in March of 2021.
An extended family member provided a DNA sample in late October and it allowed authorities to identify the person’s remains as that of the last Almeda fire victim.
Mills has been a Jackson County community member since at least 2002, after being born and raised in nearby 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.
An autopsy conducted Sept. 9 confirmed that Mills perished in the fire. His cause of death was determined to be thermal injuries and inhalation.
There are no indications of suspicious circumstances surrounding Mills’ death, the sheriff’s office also stated.
How authorities identified Mills
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Medical Examiner detectives worked alongside Ashland Police Department to identify Mills’ remains.
These detectives “worked diligently to identify this remaining fire victim, eventually tracking down and ruling out more than 20 missing person leads during their investigation,” the sheriff’s office said.
In June, Mills was determined to be a possible match for the unidentified fire victim, but authorities were unable to obtain a DNA standard from the close identified relative. Mills’ extended family in Kansas contacted the sheriff’s office after seeing a news story about the unidentified-person case.
That DNA sample that ended up identifying their missing family member.
The Oregon State Police Medical Examiner Division obtained the 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 continues. Ashland Police is leading the criminal homicide investigation.