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Wildfire

More Areas Of Talent And Phoenix Reopen After The Almeda Fire

More evacuation levels lowered in Talent and Phoenix; I-5 Exits 21 and 24 have reopened.

UPDATE: Friday, Sept. 18, 11:00 a.m. ...

The following areas are downgraded by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department from Level 3 “Go” to Level 2 “Be Set”.

This allows residents to return to their homes in the following areas.

· In Talent, the Talent Truck Stop area and the Talent/Ashland RV Park just off Exit 21.

· In Phoenix, the west side of I-5 including the Holiday RV Park and adjacent shopping center

· Phoenix along Oregon 99 south of Cheryl Lane near Ray’s Market south to Oak Street at the end the Main Street couplet.

Interstate Exits and portions of Oregon 99 reopening

The following state highways are open to traffic:

· Talent Exit 21 is open westbound on Valley View Road. At the Oregon 99 intersection traffic may continue west into Talent. Oregon 99 at the Valley View Road intersection is closed to all southbound traffic.

· Oregon 99 north of the Valley View Rd. intersection is open to Colver Road.

· Phoenix Exit 24 is open west into Phoenix but closed at Oregon 99 for all northbound traffic. Southbound is open through downtown to the end of the two-way section of Main Street at Oak Street.

Alameda202009181000.png
The latest re-openings and downgraded evacuation orders in Talent and Phoenix.

Information Websites:

Jackson County Emergency Management -

https://www.facebook.com/jacksoncountyoregonem/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlmedaFire/

Inciweb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7185Air Quality: oregonsmoke.blogspot.com

Latest evacuation maps:jacksoncounty.or/evacuation

UPDATE: Thursday, Sept. 17, 5:00 p.m. ...

The following areas are downgraded by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department from Level 3 “Go” to Level 2 “Be Set”. This allows residents to return to their homes in the following areas.

AlamedaFire202009171300_Inset.jpg
Jackson County
An area just reopened to residents in Talent after the Almeda Fire.

· Properties on Poppy Way, Clearview and Winter Sage

· The Anjou Club apartments and those townhouses just to the north of the Anjou apartments.

Access into these areas will be limited only from the west to the following streets:

· Colver Road to Suncrest Road

· Talent Ave. to West Main to West Valley View Road.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Sept. 16, 1:30 p.m. ...

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department has downgraded much of west Phoenix from Level 3 (“GO!”) to Level 2 ("Get Set”), which allows residents to return to their homes (see attached map).

However, these homes must be accessed by First and Fourth Streets to the west. They cannot be accessed from Oregon 99.

The following areas are being opened:

• The area between Oregon 99 and the railroad tracks.

• Areas on the north bordered by Bolz Road, Cheryl Lane, Dano Way and portions of
North Rose Street.

• Areas on the west side bordering the railroad tracks and Colver Road

• The south end is bordered by the Phoenix City Limits

AlamedaFire202009161100.png
New downgraded evacuation levels on the Almeda Fire will allow some residents of Phoenix to return to their homes in unburned parts of town.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Sept. 15, 5:45 p.m. ...

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office released the findings so far from an Urban Search and Rescue Team that is evaluating the damage in Ashland, Talent and Phoenix.

The team reports it began yesterday by searching the Phoenix neighborhood west of Hwy 99 and the Talent neighborhood west of Hwy 99.

Currently, USAR is searching north Ashland area including Butler Creek and Eagle Mill Rd. areas and should have this done by the end of the day, Tuesday.

So far, 2797 structures have been evaluated. Of those, 2357 residential structures were destroyed with 57 residential structures were damaged. The team made about 1,300 searches with trained dogs.

The team is about 50 percent completed with its search operations on the Almeda Fire.

It's not clear what the team considers a "residential structure." For instance, if a 10-unit apartment was destroyed, does that count as 10 residential units, or one? JPR News hopes to get clarification on that point soon.

Meanwhile ...

Evacuation levels have been reduced to a Level 2 ("Get Set") in these areas:
* Ashland and North Phoenix.
* Areas south of South Valley View Road in Ashland .
* Areas to the Northeast of Interstate 5 are a Level 2.
* In Phoenix, areas north of 3340 South Pacific Hwy/OR 99 including Glenwood Mobile Estates and Town and County estates.

AlamedaFire_Sept11_2020.jpg
Jackson County
Evacuations in the Almeda Fire as of Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The Almeda Drive Fire has transitioned to a stabilized phase of the incident. An Urban Search and Rescue Team, Utah Taskforce 1, with members from Utah and Nevada are conducting assessments, hazard mitigation as well as detailed searches.

Fire and utility crews continue to focus their efforts inside the fire line to mitigate current hazardous conditions which include fire debris, unstable structures, downed utility lines, as well as venting natural gas lines.

Officials continue to urge all citizens to stay away from evacuation zones as crews actively work to address hazardous conditions.

People with respiratory illnesses should remain indoors to avoid inhaling smoke. If driving, slow down, use your headlights, and leave plenty of distance ahead of you. Info: https://bit.ly/33CsXsS

Information on shelter for homeowners affected by the fire is available at the Jackson County Expo at 541-774-8270.

UPDATE: Monday, Sept. 14, 11:30 a.m. ...

Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler announced this afternoon that the number of people so far believed to have died in the Almeda fire is three, not the four he reported Saturday evening. Evidence found at a burn site, upon examination by a forensic anthropologist, turned out to be animal bones. Sickler said officials have death certificates signed for two people and are waiting for identification of the third body.

Sickler also said there is nobody who lived in the fire zone who is still considered missing.

As of this morning, the Almeda Drive Fire has remained inside the fire perimeter of approximately 3,200 acres and is currently 70 percent contained.

Fire crews continue to focus their efforts inside the fire line to mitigate hazardous
conditions which include fire debris, unstable structures, downed utility lines, as
well as venting natural gas lines.

The Almeda Fire is transitioning to a more stabilized phase of the incident. An Urban
Search and Rescue Team, Utah Taskforce 1, with members from Utah and Nevada
has begun damage assessment, hazard mitigation as well as detailed searches.

We continue to urge all citizens to stay away from evacuation zones as crews
actively work to address hazardous conditions.

Temperatures are expected to reach the mid 70s today and remain for the next
several days. It will be partly cloudy with overcast smoke and haze. Air quality
conditions remain hazardous due to high levels of smoke.

UPDATE: Sunday, Sept. 13, 10:00 a.m. ...

Forensic experts working with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office now say that four people so far are believed to have died in the Almeda Fire.

Sheriff Nate Sickler reported at a briefing Saturday evening that five sets of human remains had been found, including those found near the origin of the fire in Ashland. But after further examination, one set of remains thought to be human was determined not to be.

Nearly all the 50 people who had been unaccounted for in the Almeda Fire have now been found. As of a Saturday afternoon update, detectives with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office believe there is only one person left unaccounted for from the fire. Officials say the number of people unaccounted for can be expected to fluctuate as new reports of missing people come in.

The effort to locate the missing and to search for other victims of the fire is continuing.

As of this morning, the Almeda Fire had minimal growth and is currently 60 percent contained.

Fire crews continue to focus their efforts inside the fire line to mitigate hazardous conditions which include fire debris, unstable structures, downed utility lines, as well as venting natural gas lines.

There is a red flag warning in effect from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. today. During this time, winds will be west to northwest 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph. This could potentially re-ignite remaining hot spots.

As the Almeda Fire transitions to a more stabilized phase of the incident, officials have begun to plan for the recovery phase. A hazardous materials team will be arriving from Coos County as well as an Urban Search and Rescue Team with members from Utah and Nevada. These 2 teams will be assisting with damage assessment, hazard mitigation as well as detailed searches.

Shelter for homeowners affected by the fire can contact the Jackson County Expo
at 541-774-8270.

UPDATE: Saturday, Sept. 2, 11:15 a.m. ...

Fire crews continue to focus their efforts inside the fire line to mitigate
hazardous conditions which include fire debris, unstable structures,
downed utility lines, as well as venting natural gas lines.

Officials continue to urge all citizens to stay away from evacuation zones as
crews work to address hazardous conditions.

Based on the recommendation from Almeda Fire officials, Sheriff Nate Sickler downgraded a portion of the fire zone to a Level 2 ("Get Ready").

“Working cooperatively with fire command, we believe it is safe to let those residents on the outer edge of the fire to return,” said Sickler. “Keep in mind these areas will be compromised as these areas may not have power or water service.”

The areas being opened to residents includes those areas generally west and east of Phoenix and Talent, including those outside the city limits. See map for specific details.

  • On the west side of Phoenix: the Carpenter Hill Road, Dark Hollow Road, Pioneer Road and Coleman Creek Road areas.
  • Portions of Phoenix on the west side of the railroad tracks
  • Areas east of Interstate 5, including Suncrest Road, Payne Road and Fern Valley Road, and East Phoenix.
  • Portions of Talent west of Talent Avenue.
  • San George Estates

Residents living in the immediate burn zone of the communities are still under a Level 3 Evacuation notice and will not be allowed in until it’s safe to return. Access into those areas will still be staffed by law enforcement to keep the area secure.

Officials ask for continued patience as this area is an active crime and fire investigation scene.

Almeda Fire Contact Information:

● Fire Information/photos: almedafire2020@gmail.com

● Media Request Line: 541-236-2382

● General Fire Information: 541-776-7338

● Dedicated Facebook Page: https://bit.ly/32bTxcB

Social Media Pages:

● Jackson County Emergency Management -

https://www.facebook.com/jacksoncountyoregonem/

● Medford Fire - https://www.facebook.com/MedfordFireDepartment/

● City of Medford - https://www.facebook.com/CityofMedford/

● Medford Police - https://www.facebook.com/MedfordPoliceOR/

● Jackson County Sheriff’s Office - https://www.facebook.com/JacksonCountySheriff/

● Fire District 3 - https://www.facebook.com/JCoFD3/

● Ashland Fire & Rescue - https://www.facebook.com/ashlandfirerescue/

● City of Ashland - https://www.facebook.com/CityofAshlandOregon/

Resource Links:

1. Latest evacuation maps: https://bit.ly/32clh0I

2. Enter information on missing family or friends: https://arcg.is/014bzS

3. Link for people who evacuated and report themselves as safe: https://arcg.is/14vDXC

Temperatures are expected to reach low to mid 80s today and remain
throughout the weekend. Current air quality conditions are hazardous.
Winds will be light out of the southeast in the morning and increasing to
10 miles per hour out of the northwest in the afternoon.

People with respiratory illnesses should remain indoors to avoid
inhaling smoke. If driving, slow down, use your headlights, and
leave plenty of distance ahead of you. Visit Oregon Health Authority’sdedicated webpage for health resources related to wildfire smoke.

UPDATE: Friday, Sept. 11, 5:30 p.m. ...

Mandatory evacuations have been scaled back for the Almeda Fire to areas actually burned in the fire. The move comes as the footprint of the fire is no longer expanding.

“I am happy to say that I think the work we’ve done has stopped the forward motion of the fire and now we’re just making sure we can contain it and keep it where it’s at,” said incident commander Scott Magers.

This allows people who are now in the new Level 2 ("Get Set") evacuation area to start returning to their homes. Officials have requested that people continue to stay out of the mandatory evacuation area because of lingering safety issues in the burn zone.

Jackson County Sheriff Nathen Sickler said at an afternoon media briefing that, as of Friday morning, there are about 50 people still unaccounted from the Almeda Fire area.

"Crime analysts from the Medford Police Department are working to narrow down those lists by making phone calls, contacting family members,” he said. “[Fifty is] a lot. But we can’t determine anything from that number other than we can’t contact them right now.”

Sickler said law enforcement started the process of looking for other victims in the burned area on Friday

UPDATE: Friday, Sept. 11, 10:30 a.m. ...

The Oregon State Fire Marshal says, as of this morning, the Almeda Fire had no growth and is considered 20 percent contained. The fire has burned 3574 acres.

Evacuations are still in effect and officials report more than 42,000 people have been affected in some way by the fire. Estimates of structural destruction remain at 600 homes and 100 businesses.

Fire crews are working to make the burn zone safe before allowing residents to return. Debris, unstable structures, downed utility lines and natural gas venting are all creating hazards.

Officials continue to urge all citizens to stay away from evacuation zones as
crews actively work to address hazardous conditions. The area within the
fire line is considered an active investigation.

Oregon 99 remains closed to the public between north Ashland (South
Valley View Drive) and south Medford (South Stage Road) for fire
operations. This includes the cities of Talent and Phoenix. I-5 Talent Exit 21
remains closed. I-5 Phoenix Exit 24 is closed to the west, but open to the
east.

Temperatures are expected to reach mid 80s today and remain
throughout the weekend. Current air quality conditions are hazardous.

Shelter for homeowners affected by the fire can contact the Jackson
County Expo at 541-774-8270.

UPDATE: Thursday, Sept. 10, 6:30 p.m. ...

Officials say the spread of the Almeda Drive Fire slowed as winds dropped in the Rogue Valley Thursday. There are still hot spots, but the break in the weather today helped fire crews make progress on those.

The Northwest Interagency Coordinating Center estimated Thursday that the fire would be contained by Saturday.

Early estimates are that 600 homes and 100 businesses have been burned by the fire. Evacuations are still in effect.

With the high winds of previous days calming down significantly today, Medford Fire Department Chief Eric Thompson said there’s a shift in focus underway.

“We’re going from an active incident into the recovery portion of it.”

Officials stressed though that there are still active hazards associated with the burn zone and weather changes could cause additional challenges.

Although fire expansion halted, the Almeda fire is still considered zero percent contained because of the hazards – like ignited natural gas – that remain.

Emergency managers in Southern Oregon say a second person has been found dead in connection with the Almeda Drive Fire. Investigations into both deaths are underway.

The fire burned parts of Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford, but slowed significantly the early part of Thursday.

Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler say investigators are also looking into how the fire started.

“We are actively investigating both, all causes of the fire. We certainly have a point of origin in Ashland and we’re looking into another point of origin within the Almeda Fire area. And I know the city of Medford has had another fire start. All those are being treated very seriously and being looked at with a criminal investigation.”

Sickler dismissed as rumor only social media posts accusing a variety of different groups of starting the fire.

Stickler also said seven or eight people had been arrested for theft or looting of evacuated or damaged homes.

Click here for an interactive map of fire and evacuation areas in Jackson County.

CORRECTION: A previous headline on this post stated: "The Almeda Drive Fire Is No Longer Spreading." That was an overstatement of what fire officials said at a media briefing on Thursday afternoon. JPR regrets the error.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Sept. 9, 6:00 p.m. ...

The Almeda Drive Fire has resulted in one fatality, Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler confirmed during a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon. The individual died in North Ashland, near the origin of the fire. The cause of death is under criminal investigation.

Officials had few details about the number of structures that have burned or the cause of the fire itself. Fire crews continue to battle the Almeda Drive Fire which remains at approximately 3,000 acres and 0% containment. Emergency managers said they would focus on tallying up the damage after the fire is under control.

“That’s not our priority right now,” says Public Information Officer Rich Tyler. “Life safety is number one, property conservation number two.”

DSC05265.JPG
Ken Silverman
The Camelot Theatre stands among other businesses damaged or destroyed at the corner of Talent Ave. and Valley View Rd. in Talent, Ore., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.

On Tuesday night the incident was transferred to the authority of the Oregon State Fire Marshal. Fire managers are competing for resources from all parts of the state right now, according to Scott Majors with the Office of State Fire Marshal, the incident commander for the Rogue Valley fires. Support crews are currently on their way to the Rogue Valley from Lakeview and Union County, Majors said.

The Rogue Valley was under a red flag warning through 5 p.m. Wednesday and there is a wind advisory.

JPR's Rogue Valley News & Information Service station KSJK/1230AM was destroyed  Tuesday night in the Almeda Drive fire.

KSJK Destroyed.jpg
Darin Ransom
KSJK transmitter building in Jackson County destroyed by the Almeda Drive Fire.

While the tower located just off I-5, Exit 19 remains sound, the equipment building and all the equipment necessary to operate the station are a total loss. According to JPR Director of Engineering, Darin Ransom, the transmitter and equipment were reduced to "a pile of electronic ash."

JPR Executive Director Paul Westhelle says that rebuilding the station will take several months and require exploration of funding sources to purchase a new transmitter and equipment.

JPR's News and Information Service remains available at 102.3 FM in the Ashland/Medford area. It can also be streamed at ijpr.org or accessed via JPR's mobile apps or by using a smart speaker.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2:00 ...

The Almeda Drive Fire has burned about 3,000 acres and is uncontained.

A Type 2 Incident Commend Team from the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office took command of the fire at 7:00 this morning.

While large areas of Talent and Phoenix have been destroyed, Rich Tyler, with the Fire Marshal's Office, says there's no information available at this point about the exact location of the fire or the extent of the damage.

"We're still in the initial attack phase of this fire," he told JPR. "We want to put all available resources toward life safety and saving property."

Tyler notes there are numerous other fires around the state, stretching the available equipment and labor power.

"Right now, the State of Oregon is burning."

Travel is difficult in the Medford/Ashland area. I-5 is open in both directions but the exits to Talent and Phoenix are closed. Highway 99 is closed from Colver Road to North Phoenix Road. Traffic is heavy on both routes. Officials urge residents to stay home unless they need to evacuate in order to minimize traffic congestion.

There's been a reduction in the evacuation levels in an area of Medford, from Level 2 ("Get Set") to Level 1 ("Get ready."). The area is located between the south boundary of Stewart Avenue, Garfield and Barnett Rd. The East boundary is North Phoenix Road and Foothills Road. The north boundary is McAndrews Road. The west boundary begins on Ross Lane at the intersection with McAndrews to West Main then along that street to Oak Grove south to Stewart.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Sept. 9, 7:00 a.m. ... Evacuations in north Medford and Central Point are downgraded.

North Medford Area is now at Level 1 ("Get Ready"). The area includes McAndrews Road to the south; Oregon 99 to the west; Beall Lane to the north; Interstate 5 to the east.

Central Point is now at Level 1 ("Get Ready"). Beall Lane to the south; Freeman Road to the west to Exit 33; and Petro Truck Stop to the East as well as all of east Central Point, Pine Street to Table Rock Road.

The Jackson County Expo Shelter is full, and a new shelter has opened at the Josephine County Fairgrounds at 1451 Fairgrounds Road in Grants Pass.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Sept. 9, 6:30 a.m. ...

The Almeda Drive fire continues to burn this morning. It started in Ashland yesterday morning and was driven to the north by high winds. It burned through Talent and Phoenix, causing many homes and businesses to burn. As of this morning, it had burned 2,500 to 3,000 acres, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Evacuations are still in place for parts of Talent and Phoenix, as well as parts of south Medford and Central Point.

The Oregon Department of Transportation reports both lanes of I-5 have reopened, but Exit 24 in Phoenix and Exit 21 in Talent remain closed. Highway 99 remains closed between South Valley View Road just north of Ashland and Garfield Street in south Medford.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 8:15 p.m. ...

The City of Medford Police and Jackson County Sheriff's office are issuing Level 3 ("Go!") evacuations for the area bounded by N. Phoenix road on the East, Barnett Road, Garfield Road and Stewart Avenue to the North.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 6:50 p.m. ...

Updated/clarified I-5 closures in southern Oregon:

Closed - Interstate 5 Exit 1 northbound near the border to exit 24 Phoenix.

Southbound closure Exit 35 north of Central Point to Exit 14 south Ashland.

Oregon 99 closed between Phoenix and Talent.

Still no estimated time of opening.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 6:25 p.m. ...

From the City of Ashland web page:

Current Status:

• Evacuation advisories have been lifted for the Quiet Village area.

• Various local road closures may remain in place overnight so take caution on returning to your home. For updates on road closures and traffic go to tripcheck.com or call 511.

• Very little active fire remains within the City of Ashland on the fire that began in late morning, but ongoing monitoring and spot fire maintenance will be occurring tonight and into tomorrow.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 5:55 p.m. ...

Jackson County Emergency Management has released an updated evacuation map, with a Level 2 ("Get Set") alert extending into south Medford.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 5:00 p.m. ...

Evacuation Levels are in place for the fire area south of Medford.

LEVEL 3: If you are south of Glenwood Ave. on Hwy 99 and south of Campbell Road in the North Phoenix area you are at Level 3. This area is from Hwy 99 to the area of North Phoenix.

LEVEL 2: All areas south of Barnett Road to Campbell Rd and Glenwood.

LEVEL 1 All of Jackson County is considered at Level 1.

UPDATE Tuesday, Sept. 8, 4:35 p.m. ...

The Oregon Department of Forestry reports the fire, now named the Almeda Drive Fire, is estimated at 1000 acres.

Scanner traffic: "We're actively losing multiple homes in Coleman Creek Estates (a mobile home park in south Medford)."

The Jackson County Sheriff is asking all residents are asked to please stay home unless under an evacuation order. Avoid South County including Ashland, Talent and Phoenix. There are multiple fire operations and many first responder vehicles. Public traffic is creating dangerous impacts. Please stay home and avoid all active fire scenes.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 3:35 p.m. ... Emergency scanner traffic reports structures on fire in Talent.

Evacuations are being ordered in Phoenix, as the fire progresses north.

Traffic jams on Highway 99 are causing problems for emergency responders.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 3:10 p.m. ... The fire is moving north along the edge of the Bear Creek Greenway, toward Talent.

Several areas in the Talent area are being evacuated. This includes Talent Avenue, Mountain View Estates and Suncrest Road Areas. For information regarding the fire in North Ashland and Talent, you may call 541-776-7338.

Jackson County Emergency Management has released this map of the evacuation area.

ORIGINAL POST: The fire is being referred to on social media as the “Glendower Fire. It started Tuesday morning as a grass fire near Almeda Dr. in Quiet Village in Ashland. At 1:30 p.m. the fire was progressing from north Ashland northwest towards the City of Talent.

As of 1:30 p.m. authorities closed I-5 between Exits 14 in South Ashland and Exit 35 in Central Point. Southbound lanes of Highway 99 are also closed due to the wildfire two miles south of Talent.

JPR reporter April Ehrlich took this video as she was evacuating from her home in Talent as the fire moved in her direction

As of 12:45 p.m. the City of Ashland was not recommending any further evacuations within city limits. Initial evacuations took place for residents west of Michelle Ave. and lower Cambridge Street.

The National Weather Service expects "extremely critical fire weather conditions (to) continue through this evening for all areas and through tomorrow for areas from the Cascades westward."

A strong wind event in the last 24-hours helped fuel growing wildfires throughout the Pacific Northwest and California.

This story is developing and will be updated.