A rural mail carrier on the Greensprings route is being honored for stopping a potentially major wildfire near Pinehurst School.
Ashland retiree Phil Patterson, a contract worker for the Postal Service, at about 1 p.m. Monday, May 14, spotted a thick column of smoke coming out of the forest, rushed to Greensprings Inn and phoned the blaze in to Gene Davies, Fire Chief of Greensprings Rural Fire District.
“I was finished with the mail and was on my way back,” says Patterson. “I noticed the smoke and kept driving west till I zeroed in on it, a few miles north of the school.”
The fire started when an area resident was doing “fuel reduction and cleanup,” but it got out of hand, says Davies. He alerted area crews and Oregon Department of Forestry. Seven fire engines sped to the fire and put it out with water and ground crews.
“We’re absolutely very fortunate Phil was attentive and realized it wasn’t something that could be ignored,” says Davies. “I’m afraid this is the start, as we seem on track for a very dry year.”
Davies sent a letter of gratitude to the Ashland Postmaster, noting, “Yesterday our Fire Department was alerted to a significant wildland fire near 15000 Highway 66. Thanks to the action of your employee, fire crews from three agencies were able to contain the fire at just under 2 acres. No structures were involved. The outcome would have been much worst without that call from your carrier!!! Thank you.”
Patterson notes that his grandfather was fire chief of a rural fire district in Illinois, and he grew up hanging around the men, tools and tactics, so “I’ve got it in my blood. When I saw the smoke, it was a no-brainer.”
Josh Mitchell, supervisor of the Ashland Post Office, said he didn’t know about the incident till he got the letter from Davies. “Phil is a pretty quiet guy,” Mitchell said. “He pays attention to thing around him.”
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.