Narrow streets could see parking restrictions to aid fire engines

The Transportation Commission will consider whether to reduce parking on more than two dozen city streets early next year, after Ashland Fire Chief John Karns reported that fire engines might be unable to reach houses on the narrow streets.

An Ashland Fire & Rescue survey found that 26 streets are too narrow to accommodate fire engines when cars are parked on both sides.

"There were a number of streets in Ashland that, depending on how the parking was occurring, we would have trouble getting in there," Karns said Friday. "If we're responding to an emergency medical or fire call, we certainly need to get in close proximity to the structure, particularly with fire calls."

The Transportation Commission will discuss putting no-parking signs on one side of the narrow streets at its February meeting, said Jim Olson, the city's engineering services manager.

The commission voted unanimously in November to pursue possibly putting up no-parking signs and it is expected to address a few of the streets at each of its meetings over the coming months, he said. The city will invite people who live in the affected areas to the meetings.

"We'd like to get feedback about what side neighbors would prefer," Olson said.

City officials are also analyzing the streets more thoroughly to see whether parking restrictions should be required for all of them, Karns said.

Most of the narrow streets on the list are in residential neighborhoods, with several located off Fordyce Street, Tolman Creek Road and North Mountain Avenue.

Most of the streets listed are between 22 and 25 feet wide, Olson said. The city prohibits parking on both sides of streets that are 22 feet wide or narrower, and allows parking on both sides of streets that are 25 feet or wider.

"There's a little gray area between 22 and 25 feet," Olson said.

The city's fire engines are 10 feet wide and 16 feet wide with the doors open, Karns said.

Fire engines sometimes need to be positioned directly in front of a home during an emergency, he said.

"We might have to be right in front of the structure, or just short of it, if we're trying to protect exposures, which means the buildings on either side," he said.

August's Oak Knoll fire, which burned 11 homes, caused Karns to reassess fire safety in all Ashland neighborhoods, he said.

"We didn't have any problems at Oak Knoll in terms of access, because the streets are fairly wide there, but the fire provided an opportunity to look at all of our concerns," he said.

Ambulances, while slightly smaller than fire engines, also could have trouble accessing some of the narrow streets, Karns said. Ambulances are 9 feet wide and 13 feet wide with the doors open.

City planners will work with the Transportation Commission to clarify the city's code about parking on streets that are between 22 and 25 feet wide, Olson said.

Among the streets fire officials believe may be too narrow are Evergreen Lane, Evan Lane, Seena Lane, Old Willow Lane, River Rock Road, Meadow Lark Way, Stoney Point, Camelot Drive, Patton Lane, Overlook Drive, Stone Ridge Avenue, Quinn Lane, Monte Vista Drive, Hitt Road, Strawberry Lane, Westwood Street, Spring Hill Drive, Drew Lane and Creek Drive.

"They are narrow streets, but they do meet city standards," Olson said. "It's just that the parking does cause a problem sometimes if it becomes too saturated."

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or

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