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Donations pouring in for fire victims

A few blocks from where the Oak Knoll fire destroyed 11 houses a week ago today, the city will hold a party to raise money for the victims.

Local nonprofits already have gathered about $20,000 in cash donations for the fire victims, along with thousands of dollars' worth of gift certificates and household items, organizers said Monday.

"It's very impressive, the way the community rallies around folks," said Richard Randleman, the city's Community Emergency Response Team program coordinator. "I think everyone realizes, with the environment we live in, it could have easily been one of us. So I think everyone has empathy for those folks."

The Aug. 24 wildfire ripped through 11 houses in a matter of minutes, leaving residents homeless and with few belongings.

The benefit party will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 8 at the city-owned Oak Knoll Golf Course, 3070 Highway 66.

The variety show event will feature local Elvis and Sinatra impersonator Clint Ingbretson, a raffle, silent auction, appetizers and desserts. Suggested donation is $20 per person or $30 per couple and no advance tickets are available. Golfers can play nine holes from noon to dark for $8, and beer and wine will be available for purchase.

All of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the fire victims. Donations, handled by the nonprofit Firehouse 5 Foundation, are tax-deductible.

The nonprofit's phone lines have been flooded with calls from people wanting to make donations, said Kaelynn McEvoy, Firehouse 5's secretary and interim vice president.

"The phone has been ringing off the hook," she said. "We're getting calls from Portland, Southern California, Idaho and Washington."

Donations of clothing and household goods are being handled by the Ashland Goodwill, 639 Tolman Creek Road. For more information, call 541-482-1363.

On Monday, Ashland resident Sharon Spalding dropped off armfuls of clothes she gathered for the fire victims.

During last September's Siskiyou fire, which charred 190 acres south of Ashland and burned one home, Spalding was forced to evacuate her home on Apple Way. Last week's fire was a grim reminder of the wildfire dangers Ashland residents face, she said.

"It could have been my home that burned," she said. "I know how it feels to evacuate."

Fire victims are being given $100 vouchers to purchase clothing from Goodwill, said Zack Jensrud, a donation attendant.

"Some people have already come in and have gotten clothes," he said.

Many businesses have donated gift cards and services to the victims, McEvoy said.

The Yellow Submarine Car Wash, 1134 Court Street in Medford, will donate $1 from each car wash from Friday through Monday to the Firehouse 5 Foundation's Ashland fund. Car washes cost between $7 and $12.

The Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross also has received several thousand dollars in donations, said administrative assistant Coleen Shaver.

"A lot of the people say, 'I have been in a fire myself and I want to help someone else,'" she said. "It's paying it forward."

Volunteer caseworkers are distributing the funds raised, based on need and household size, Shaver said.

The victims who have received assistance have been thankful, she said.

"People are just so grateful," she said. "I have not heard anybody call into the office that has said, 'Why can't I get more.' They're just so grateful for what they're being given."

The Firehouse 5 Foundation is still seeking contact information for all of the victims, McEvoy said. Victims can contact Randleman at 541-552-2226.

People can drop off cash donations at Ashland Fire Station No. 1, 455 Siskiyou Blvd., between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. People also can donate by calling the Southern Oregon Red Cross at 541-779-3773 or by visiting any US Bank branch, which has an Ashland Fire Victim Fund.

For more information on how to donate, see the city's web page, www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=13348.

For more information on the benefit, call the Ashland Parks and Recreation office at 541-488-5340.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.