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Ashland could have borne brunt of Almeda fire

Ashland avoided catastrophe Sept. 8 because the wind blew north instead of west.

The Almeda Drive fire, which started in the Quiet Village neighborhood, could have been the firestorm Ashland has feared since the town of Paradise, California, was destroyed two years ago. If the strong winds that day had blown east and south, the entire city would have been in the fire’s path. As it happened, the fire tore through Talent and Phoenix, leveling entire subdivisions before firefighters managed to stop the advancing flames just south of Medford.

Ashland officials should take advantage of the reprieve to jump-start efforts to complete an evacuation plan for the city and to review the city’s use of the opt-in Nixle notification system. The good news was that the number of subscribers to the system nearly doubled during the first day of the fire, to 14,982. That number should be even larger, and officials should increase efforts to encourage everyone to sign up for the service.

Other discussions that need to take place involve when to shut down Interstate 5, which happened on the fly during the fire, and how best to notify residents about evacuations should that become necessary.

It’s important to note that Ashland’s first responders performed exceptionally well, with all but two firefighters responding, including those off duty and administrative staff. Two firefighters evacuated with their families. Ashland police assisted with patrols in the burned areas to the north, and are being assigned to escort residents to where their homes once stood.

Our thanks to those who worked tirelessly against the fire and are helping in its aftermath. It could have been much worse for Ashland than it was, and city leaders must redouble efforts to prepare for the next fire, because there is sure to be a next one, sooner or later.