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MailTribune.com
  • Hillside residents sigh relief over fire

    Residents praise firefighters' efforts after near-disaster.
  • Residents praise firefighters' efforts after near-disaster
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  • MEDFORD — Residents in the foothills near Roxy Ann Peak awoke Tuesday to a world transformed by fire.
    Hillsides the color of wheat were now black with ash after a 630-acre fire raged along the western flank of Roxy Ann Monday afternoon, from the Vista Pointe area near McAndrews Road north to Manzanita Heights.
    Residents recalled their horror as they watched the wind-fueled flames grow.
    "I thought sure my house was going to go up in flames," recalled Dr. Mike Korpa, who lives in the Manzanita Heights area. He and his wife, Vicki, had rushed home, grabbed a few valuables and were standing in their driveway when a helicopter flew within shouting distance.
    "We thought the fire was half a mile away," said Vicki Korpa. "But the wind blew it right over the hill (50 yards away). It was so fast. The pilot was right here in front of us yelling 'get out now!' It was pretty scary."
    Firefighters from as far away as Eugene spent Tuesday dousing stubborn hot spots and looking for flare-ups. North Foothill Road was closed to traffic in the morning hours between East McAndrews and Coker Butte roads as crews continued to work on the Deer Ridge fire.
    The cause of that blaze and another, 145-acre fire that sparked off Siskiyou Boulevard in Ashland just hours earlier remained under investigation, but Oregon Department of Forestry officials said both were likely human-caused.
    No homes were burned in the Medford blaze, and no injuries were reported. An unoccupied house at the corner of Tolman Creek Road and Morninglight Drive in Ashland burned.
    A small army of firefighters, helicopters and air tankers were called from the Siskiyou fire to the Medford blaze shortly after it was reported around 2:30 p.m.
    Repeatedly dousing the Deer Ridge fire with buckets of water, helicopters and a crew of 18 firefighters from Happy Camp, Calif., saved the row of homes on Manzanita Heights, said the Korpas.
    "We were nerve-racked, watching it through binoculars from my mother's house below," said Mike Korpa. "We could see them hosing down the fire. They saved the house. The flames were huge."
    As the fire raced toward their home Monday, Laura Jane Littrell, neighbor of the Korpas to the north, was coddling her sick cat on the porch and was puzzled why the cat kept looking up, toward the south.
    "Then I looked up and I thought, oh boy. It was so quick. It got serious fast," said Littrell. "My main concern was the kitties. I stood on the back deck and watched in awe. It turned fast from being a spectator sport to being a survival, get-out situation."
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