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Fire report at Ashland hotel brings big response

A full force of fire trucks rushed to Ashland Springs Hotel at 7:38 p.m. Thursday when smoke was reported around elevators on upper floors. However, firefighters found no blaze, leaving Battalion Chief Chris Chambers speculating it was an odor generated by something such as a failed motor on the elevator.

All staff and guests were evacuated and traffic was blocked off on Main Street from Pioneer to Second Streets for more than an hour while firefighters searched the roof and seventh through ninth floors of the 118-foot-tall building, finding nothing, said Chambers.

“We’re still investigating. Everyone is back in the hotel,” said Chambers at 8:15. The elevators remained shut down because the smell seemed to start there, he said. “But there’s no fire. If there was, it was very transient in nature. We found no scorching.”

The department brought seven vehicles with lights flashing and hoses rolled out, because the hotel, the tallest building in town, is considered a “target hazard,” meaning there’s a lot of people and a lot of traffic, with potential for “a very complex issue,” said Chambers.

Hotel general manager Don Enway and staff knocked on every door or called every one of the 85 rooms, making sure everyone was out of the historic structure, which was the tallest building between San Francisco and Portland when it opened in 1925.

Chambers noted that this was one of those times when the department could need and use a ladder truck that could reach up four or five stories, making the situation safer for firefighters and people in the building.

“We called Medford for their ladder truck, but they said it was unavailable,” he said. The Ashland department has been trying to get one for years — and it was even on the ballot, unsuccessfully, some years ago. It’s a $1 million dollar investment but could be leased or bought used for much less, Chambers added. 

A witness counted seven fire-fighting vehicles on Main Street in front of the Ashland Springs Hotel. [Photo by John Darling]
Firefighters and bystanders in front of the Ashland Springs Hotel on Thursday evening. [Photo by John Darling]