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Rogue Valley events commemorate 2nd anniversary of the Almeda Fire

Hundreds of residences and businesses in Phoenix and Talent, Oregon were burned or destroyed in the 2020 Almeda Fire.
Erik Neumann
Hundreds of residences and businesses in Phoenix and Talent, Oregon were burned or destroyed in the 2020 Almeda Fire.

Sept. 8th marks the second anniversary of the Almeda Fire, which devastated communities in the Rogue Valley.

The impacts of the 2020 Almeda Fire still echo through the small towns of Phoenix and Talent, OR, when 2,300 homes were destroyed in a wind-driven wildfire.

Caryn Wheeler-Clay with the Jackson County Community Long-Term Recovery Group says her team couldn’t stop talking about an early morning thunder and lightning storm on Wednesday, during the driest part of the summer.

"My response was that I sat up straight and screamed 'No!'" she says. "Emotions for all of us are very heightened right now."

To help community members come together, share stories and connect with resources, a series of free community-building events are planned in the Rogue Valley over the next couple of weekends.

Wheeler-Clay says with two years of a pandemic, community members haven't had a chance to celebrate the anniversary since the fire.

“This is the first time in this entire recovery that we’ve been able to convene the community back together," she says. "It’s about connection, it’s about the opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.”

Over the next two weekends, organizations including Unete Center for Farm Worker Advocacy, El Tapatio, Rogue Action Center and Rogue Climate, the Firebrand Resiliency Collective and the City of Phoenix will host local events, starting on Thursday with a reflection space hosted by the 1st Phoenix Presbyterian Church.

Wheeler-Clay says these events are intended to create space for community members to reflect on the fires, access long-term recovery resources and take part in fun activities for kids and families.

She says as of June, over 350 households were still getting recovery help through her organization.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.