Crews look for source of Ashland fire

Fire District 5 Firefighter Clayton Mattson sprays water on a pickup truck which burned in the Ashland Fire Monday. Jim CravenJim Craven

ASHLAND — Fire crews Tuesday combed a large swath of charred ground on the south end of Ashland, searching for hot spots that could spark another blaze.

The Siskiyou fire, which broke out mid-morning Monday, destroyed a vacant home and consumed 145 acres of grass, shrubs and trees Monday. It had been largely contained Tuesday and crews had begun the process of mopping up, Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman Brian Ballou said.

The top end of the fire area had not been lined as of late Tuesday, but there were no major hot spots visible anywhere.

"It is hard, mundane work at this point," Ballou said. "But it's important we keep an eye on the area because we don't want a repeat performance."

Firefighters hiked across the smoky expanse for most of the day, hosing down stumps and felled trees that contained heat, Ballou said.

"We are making a lot of progress up there," Ballou said. "We should be fully mopped up by Thursday."

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Ballou said.

"We are hoping to figure out something soon," he said. "Sometimes these investigations can take time."

The fire destroyed three outbuildings and one house set back 100 yards east of the intersection of Tolman Creek Road and Morninglight Drive. Ballou said the owner was not living at the home at the time of the fire.

The fire sent a thick plume above Ashland just after 10 a.m. Monday. Smoke, ash and other fire debris reached the downtown area shortly after.

As the fire spread through the foothills south of Siskiyou Boulevard, emergency officials called for the evacuation of residents of Upper Tolman Creek Road and its side streets, including Timberlake Drive and Greenmeadows Way.

The blaze was spread by stiff winds throughout the day. It caused Salem to take notice, as Gov. Ted Kulongoski granted a Conflagration Act order at which released state resources to assist on the fire. The order was later expanded to include a fire that broke out Monday afternoon in the east Medford hills and eventually grew to more than 600 acres.

"It has been a hectic couple of days for us, that's for sure," Ballou said. "We want the temperatures to drop soon, because these dry, windy conditions are good for fires."

In all, 500 homes, businesses and other structures were threatened by the two blazes, Ballou said. More than 475 firefighters have been assigned to battle the fires. The cost of suppressing the fires has reached approximately $820,000, he said.

Some of that cost will be covered by Federal Emergency Management Agency funds that were granted Tuesday.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.


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