Letters to the Editor September 23

Fire crews dodged a bullet for Ashland

Although there appeared to be some disagreement at 5:30 Monday evening as to whether the fire that started around Crowson Road was actually contained, I would like to get in line to offer congratulations to the various agencies involved in the suppression effort. I am a retired CalFire (CDF) firefighter and, given the fire conditions Monday morning, when I saw that plume I knew there was potential for a really big problem. Given the efforts of those fighting that fire, I think we dodged a very large bullet. A big round of attaboys and attagirls for everybody.

Doug MacDonell


Thanks for Tidings' coverage of the fire

Just a note to thank the Tidings for the coverage of your dreadful fire. It is very scary from far away in Berkeley, Calif., too.

We have quite a vested interest in your area, in that our youngest daughter lives in south Ashland, and her three children go to the two schools that were evacuated. I'm just so thankful that we can keep up with your news online.

Our best wishes to the residents of wonderful Ashland. May your firefighters have relatively quick success in putting out the fire.

Bill and Barb Wilkie

Berkeley, Calif.

Lessons we can learn from the recent fires

The recent wildfires provide an important lesson to those concerned about the fire safety of our community. Fire hazard has increased due to human ignitions and invasive grasses much more than any other factors. This has been documented throughout the world in areas with Mediterranean climates like ours.

Annual grasses ignite more easily and spread fire faster than any other vegetation. With increasing human populations and access to wildlands, human-caused fires also increase. Recognizing the primary role these factors play in fire hazard leads to a number of possible management actions. However, these are not part of our current community fire management approaches. The actions currently in vogue promote grass and broom invasions by opening forests and chaparral and disturbing their soils. This can be seen where the forests were opened a few years ago in the lower watershed, and on the dry east slopes of Lithia Park.

Considerable resources are aimed at reducing vegetation density in the hope that this will make vegetation more resilient to fire. Vegetation has been burning in wildfires of widely varying frequency and intensity for about 400 million years. We are the species that is unadapted to tolerating fire. Ultimately, fire safety is within our means when we recognize that we need to adapt to a fire-prone environment and stop assuming it can be made not fire-prone. Our management should focus more on improving our safety and wildlands will likely be more resilient to fire without our added disturbances and invasives.

Dennis Odion


Thanks to 'socialist' fire departments

Along with many in the valley, may I say thanks to the area fire departments for their work Monday, in spite of their being what some people would call "socialist." And thanks to the "socialist" police departments for their help. Coming in from under the orange sun and the smell of smoke, I had a refreshing drink courtesy of our "socialist" water department.

I don't mean to make fun of people who shout "socialist" at anything not run by a for-profit corporation. They are not stupid, just in the grip of an ideology that is, like fundamentalist socialism, only half-right. We've had three decades of defining government as the problem; are we better off than when Ronald Reagan made this claim in his 1980 inaugural speech or when a more recent president of the other party, Bill Clinton, signed a law deregulating the financial industry?

When I got my mail, delivered by the "socialist" postal service, I found a check from Medicare, which has somehow not "got between" me and the doctor of my choice, who spent 45 minutes with me on a recent visit. Elders and members of Congress enjoy federal medical insurance, but it's said to be wrong for everybody else? Who benefits from this claim?

Craig Comstock


No communication breakdown at fire

In Tuesday's Tiding's article titled "Communication breakdown," my 88-year-old mother is quoted as saying at 5 p.m. "It wasn't until a short time ago that I knew anything," and said she didn't receive any information about the fire or evacuations until late in the afternoon. This is quite misleading and has nothing to do with the job performed by CERT. Although the obvious presence of the fire was discussed with my mother earlier in the day, her caregivers did not want to alarm her prematurely and did not tell her of the evacuation until immediately before it occurred.

CERT should be commended for their performance in notifying residents both when the evacuation was a possibility and again when the evacuation was deemed mandatory. Their door-to-door communication allowed my mother's 24-hour caregivers ample time to pack up medicines, walker, wheelchair, clothing and other necessary emergency supplies to keep her safe and comfortable when the evacuation occurred. She was safe and sound at the First Baptist Church by 2:30 p.m., where the CERT team and church members could not have been more kind and helpful.

I would like to thank CERT and all of the emergency personnel who spread the word to keep Ashland residents safe. There are always processes identified in situations like this that can be improved. Constructive input from all involved will provide a learning experience that will help any future similar event run more effectively.

Christine Schumacher


Hero firefighters saved our homes

We residents of Morninglight Drive would like to nominate the firefighters who battled the Siskiyou blaze off Tolman Creek on Sept. 21 for Hero Awards. That Monday morning at 11 a.m. smoke billowed into the blue skies from behind the ridge across from our neighborhood. Within 20 minutes, towers of flame began a persistent crawl toward the ridgeline. In only a few more minutes, fires leaped down the mountainside toward Tolman Creek Road.

The fire marshal ordered an evacuation of homes on Morninglight "within 15 minutes. "We fled with household pets, photo albums and prescription drugs, leaving our homes' safety in the capable hands of brave men and women from more than a dozen fire companies in Oregon. We marveled at how quickly so many fire trucks sped up Tolman Creek Road to stand between our homes and certain loss.

The fire crews fought for control and containment all day. Throughout the night we watched dozens of brush fires in the understory blaze up, only to be tamped down by firefighters working on that precipitous mountain slope all night long. The chain saws buzzed, and a hundred spotlights appeared on the mountainside in the place of flames. More than a dozen firefighting vehicles remained all day Tuesday to monitor the drifts of smoking debris.

We cannot adequately express the gratitude we feel toward all those firefighters whose expertise saved our homes. Thanks to them and to their families for the sacrifices they made to protect us all. Thanks also to the many sheriff's deputies and the Ashland police who supervised the evacuation and kept residents calm and well-informed.

Morninglight Drive residents

Nikki and Glen O'Sullivan

Ron DeLuca

Greg, Noriko and Myke Reeser

Kimberly Young

Kristi and Bill Phillips

Phil and Judie Loveless

Suzanne and Jack Witucki

Gina and Dave Heckley

Martha Howard Bullen and Tom Bergstrom Susan and Paul Moen

Thanks for residents' kindness and patience

Dear Medford and Ashland Residents,

We want to thank you for your hospitality, patience, kindness and acts of charity over the last several days. Since Monday afternoon we have worked within your communities to continue the excellent work that Medford Fire Rescue, Ashland Fire and Rescue, the Oregon Department of Forestry, mutual aid firefighters from Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties, law enforcement officers and public works crews performed in the initial hours of the Deer Ridge and Siskiyou wildland fires. Monday night we were able to provide those initial attack crews with needed rest.

We are structural firefighters from cities and fire districts around Oregon who were sent here under a little-known Oregon law, the State Conflagration Act, which allows the State Fire Marshal to send firefighters from all over the state to help in a fire emergency that has overwhelmed and/or exhausted the local responders. In the case of these fires, teams of firefighters from Benton, Deschutes, Marion, Lane, Linn and Coos counties responded, led by a team of trained fire officers from around the state.

When we arrived Monday we were impressed by what local residents and all of the firefighters accomplished before our arrival. The evidence of local firefighting skills lies in the 300+ homes in Medford and the approximately 250 homes in Jackson County Fire District 5 near Ashland that were protected and remain standing today.

We have enjoyed our "visit" to your community. Please accept our deepest thanks for your kindness, cooperation and patience. The following public agencies responded to this emergency:

Medford Fire Rescue

Ashland Fire

Lane County Fire District 1

Springfield Fire

McKenzie Rural Fire Protection District

Eugene Fire & EMS

Coburg Fire District

Sweet Home Fire

Harrisburg Fire

Illinois Valley Fire

Albany Fire Department

Lebanon Fire Brownsville Fire

Bandon Fire

North Bend Fire

Redmond Fire

Jackson County Fire District 3

Jackson County Fire District 4

Jackson County Fire District 5

Lane Creek Fire District

Rural Metro Fire

Applegate Fire District 9

Oregon Department of Forestry

Sutherlin Fire

Douglas County Fire District 2

Corvallis Fire

Philomath Fire

Alsea Fire

Salem Fire

Turner Fire

Woodburn Fire

Willamette Valley Fire Authority

Stayton Fire

Silverton Fire

Bend Fire

Hillsboro Fire

LaPine Fire

Black Butte Fire

Jefferson County Fire District 1

Rogue River Fire

Jacksonville Fire

Grants Pass Fire Rescue

Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office

Oregon State Fire Marshal's Red Incident Management Team

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