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Sheriff's office reduces Almeda fire death toll to 3

The number of people who have died in the Almeda fire has been reduced from four to three, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.

Bone fragments located at a burned site where a person was reported missing were originally thought to be human, but forensic anthropologists have since determined they belonged to an animal, according to Sheriff Nathan Sickler. The person originally thought to have died has been located.

This isn’t the first time the number has been reduced. Late last week, the sheriff’s department originally thought it had five dead but later determined some recovered remains were not human.

“We are happy that number is going down right now,” Sickler said.

As of Monday, the agency reported no people are considered “critical missing,” or people reported missing who resided in the fire zone.

Ten people are referred to as “unconfirmed missing” or those reported missing who aren’t necessarily believed to have been in the fire zone when the fire broke out, Sickler said.

“We have analysts and federal partners working to locate people who were displaced from their homes, but we don’t necessarily know where they’re at,” Sickler said at a Monday press conference. “This is a huge operation on the police side.”

In the initial days of the fire, the agency received nearly 250 missing person reports and has continued to whittle it down.

Search teams continue to work in the fire area. Crews include a Federal Emergency Management Agency urban search-and-rescue team that boasts more than 100 members, Sickler said. The team continues to look for potential victims and document hazards, along with numerous officers and detectives from local police departments. Jackson County Search & Rescue continues similar work along the Bear Creek Greenway.

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com.

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