Siskiyou fire was human-caused

At least one person is responsible for starting the Siskiyou fire, investigators said Thursday, declining to comment on whether they believe the ignition was deliberate.

Oregon Department of Forestry officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, and may decide to press charges against the person or people responsible to try to recover the $1 million cost of fighting the fire, spokesman Brian Ballou said.

"It's all up to the investigators and when they feel that they are ready to release the cause, and it's all tied to whether they're going to pursue some cost recovery," he said. "Some of these cases get tied up for years."

The September blaze erupted near the end of fire season, charring 190 acres in the hills south of Ashland and threatening dozens of homes. A vacant home was lost in the fire.

Investigators believe the fire was human-caused, but won't say whether they think it constitutes arson, which is deliberately and maliciously starting a fire, Ballou said.

"I haven't heard one way or the other," he said. "They don't release details abut the cause because it would compromise their case."

It's probable the fire was the result of negligence, not arson, because arson is rare in Southern Oregon and because officials have not asked the community to help apprehend a suspect, Ballou said.

"It's entirely likely it was accidental or it was negligence of some sort," he said. "That's much more common."

The state requires investigators to try to recover the costs of fires if they were started as a result of willfulness, negligence or maliciousness, Ballou said.

So far, the ODF chief investigator in Salem has not filed charges against anyone responsible for the blaze, Ballou said.

Officials are hesitant to release information about the cause of the fire, because, in the event charges are filed, defense attorneys could claim that the case "was already presented in the papers rather than in court," Ballou said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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