Ashland P.D. continue to seek public help in Almeda fire investigation after new witness photo

ASHLAND, Ore — Ashland Police Department released a new photo Friday of witnesses in response to its ongoing Almeda Fire investigation.

It says the two people pictured were at the origin of the Almeda Fire – located near the Ashland Wastewater Treatment and the BMX park.

The Department says it wants to speak with the witnesses and are not treating them as suspects.

“The images of the potential witnesses were provided to detectives, that have continued to work on the Almeda Fire since September 8th.” Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said. “The detectives are addressing the information as it becomes available, a lot of this is very slow moving, there’s a lot of technology involved.” 

Michael Bakkela, who is suspected of starting a fire in Phoenix that merged with the Almeda Fire, is still awaiting trial. He pleaded not guilty to more than 30 charges including Arson and Reckless Endangerment.

45-year-old Vance Wing Nguyen is accused of lighting his car on fire near Emigrant Lake, minutes after the Almeda Fire was reported.

Nguyen is currently awaiting results of a psychiatric report and will be due back in court later this month.

O’Meara told NBC5 that certain details about the investigation is unable to be released to the public. However, he says constant input from the community is critical in determining the cause of the fire.

A fire he labels, along with Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler, as the biggest criminal investigation in Jackson County history.

“Somebody out there knows something, please share it,” O’Meara said. “This is one of the most devastating things that has happened to this area. People literally lost their lives, thousands of people were displaced, 2,900 structures burned down, so if you know something, please let us know.” 

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