Fire spreading in east Medford foothills

Update (5:50 p.m.): A fire on Roxy Ann Peak on the east side of Medford has consumed 250 to 300 acres of brush as it has raced along the edges of hundreds of homes this afternoon.

Fire officials said the fire was spreading north on both the west and east flanks of Roxy Ann, forcing the evacuation of homes on streets along the ridges. Fire officials said they didn’t know of structures damaged in the fire, although flames came close to a number of homes.

The cause of the fire remained unclear this afternoon, officials said.

Near where the fire started on the south flank of Roxy Ann, residents along Devonshire Place were asked to evacuate at 5:15 p.m.

“We haven’t directly seen the flames, but we could sense it was getting closer,” said Leanne Wood, just before the command to evacuate came. “As long as the flag in the backyard is moving north we’re OK. It’s been kind of an unnerving day, everybody was on their roofs watching and keeping an eye on things.”

She said emergency service personnel told residents to be ready
to go about 4 p.m. “We all have our cars loaded up and ready to go,” Wood said.

University of Oregon student Julianne Stevens was at her boyfriend’s home on Manzanita Heights Drive in Roxy Ann Heights as smoke first started appearing from the south.

“At first everything was fine, we were primarily seeing white smoke,” Stevens said. “Then about the smoke started getting dark. Nobody panicked, we just started spraying things down. Then within the last hour (about 3:45) it started getting really dark and hot. We started spraying down the roof with hoses and put the four dogs inside; the smoke was getting really thick.”

Stevens said there were about 11 people present when Dewey Wilson, the homeowner, decided it was time to gather up family pictures. “We’ve experienced lightning storms and all these different kinds of experiences up here, but this is so different,” she said.

Stevens said flames were within 150 yards and closing in on neighbor Robert Jensen’s house about 100 yards downhill.

“When the wind came up it was height of panic and scary and blowing right at us,” Stevens said. “When Mr. Wilson said ‘Grab the family photos,’ I knew this is real. Everyone pulled together, it’s nice to see everyone pulling together for the same cause to save house; we know what it means to those people.”

She said she passed emergency vehicles on the way down the hill, but wasn’t paying much attention to what residents were doing.

“To be honest, we weren’t paying attention,” Stevens said. ”It was the most panicking, adrenaline-pumping situation I’ve ever been in.”

Update (5:15 p.m.): Homes in the east Medford foothills have been evacuated and more evacuation orders are expected as a growing wildfire spreads on the flanks of Roxy Ann.

The fire was reported at 2:27 p.m. near the intersection of Vista Pointe Drive and Deer Ridge Drive in east Medford and spread quickly, driven by winds of 15 to 20 mph.

Manzanita Heights and Pine Top drives have been evacuated, as have North Roxy Drive and Dry Creek Road.

As of 5:10 p.m., Alpine Road, parts of north Foothill Road north of Dry Creek, Satellite Drive and Devonshire Place have been told to evacuate and residents of Cloudcrest Drive and Eagle Trace Drive have been told to prepare to evacuate.

Additional information on evacuations and shelters for both the Medford and Ashland fires is available at 776-7338.

A shelter for large animals has been set up at the Jackson County Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Central Point.

Power was restored to all 25,000 customers who lost electrical service when the fire shut down a major transmission line into the valley.

As the fire raced by the Lone Pine substation, utility crews were able to evaluate the equipment and bring in back online.

Power was rerouted to substations serving Shady Cove and Eagle Point to ensure customers there continued to get electricity even as the flames raced north.

Mike Jantzer, who lives on Panorama Drive east of Foothill Road, said he remembers a fire that threatened his house in the mid-1990s, but it was contained to 2 acres.

“But this is the only time I've seen it like this,” Jantzer said. “It's really going up Little Roxy Ann right now, toward a gated community. Unless the wind shifts, we'll be OK.”

The flames raced to the east of their home in a brush-filled area.

Jantzer and his wife Gayle were given notice of temporary evacuation before there power was knocked out about 4 p.m. Prior to that Gayle Jantzer began collecting a few essential belonging if they had to leave.

“I packed a few things, my camera and my golf clubs,” she said. “We have a fire-proof safe, so our legal papers should be OK.

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