Fire crews say weed abatement stems grass fire

An Ashland grass fire that grew to about an acre before it was extinguished could have caused much more damage if not for the trimmed grasses and weeds that slowed its spread, fire officials said.

"We've had some fires in the same area over the last four or five years," said Margueritte Hickman, Ashland Fire & Rescue fire division chief. "We've seen some that had pretty erratic behavior because the grasses weren't cut."

The fire was reported at 8:03 p.m. Monday in a field between Russell Drive and the railroad tracks. A light southern wind was helping to push the blaze through the low-cut grass. Four engines responded from Ashland Fire and Jackson County Fire District No. 5, bringing nearly a dozen firefighters to fight the blaze. Crews laid down fire lines and stopped the spread in about 15 minutes.

The fire's cause remains under investigation. Past fires in the area have been started by mowing equipment, children playing with matches and other human causes.

Hickman said structures stood no less than 500 feet away from the flames. The grasses, cut by property owner Union Pacific Railroad, stopped the blaze's potential advance to the buildings.

"I think this is a great example of what weed abatement can do when you're trying to work on fire protection for your property," Hickman said. "That same principle is going to work anywhere in our county."

The 2010 Oak Knoll fire in Ashland that consumed 11 homes spread from an out-of-control grass fire in tall weeds, Hickman said. That experience, coupled with frequent education campaigns from Rogue Valley fire departments, is helping convince residents of the importance of creating defensive space around structures, she said.

"The fire department's been working on weed abatement for four or five years now," Hickman said. "We've really worked on presenting a consistent and firm message to people. I think it's working to change people's behavior."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at

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