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Ripple Effect: Medford's city-wide evacuation plan

There’s a different feeling going into this year’s fire season and according to Medford’s fire chief, there will also be a lot of changes.

“It’s not just about the fire department being prepared, it’s also how can our residents be prepared,” Chief Eric Thompson says.

He says the department has been on the fast track to getting ready for this year’s fire season and one of the largest things it has been working on is a city-wide evacuation plan. The new city management emergency coordinator has spearheaded the effort and the goal is to have it pushed out to the community by May.

“Every address will be associated with an evacuation zone. Our residents will be able to go in and click on which zone they live in and there’s a detailed map on recommended evacuation zones. 2:21 We can specifically, we can tailor the evacuation zones depending on where the emergency is,” Thompson says.

He says the department is trying to be innovative and think outside the box, being proactive in their planning efforts, “we’ve started those way sooner and we’re thinking on a grander scale. We’re looking at ways we can be more proactive and staging resources.”

Thompson says the dust from the Almeda Fire had barely settled before they were already working on changes for this fire season. An event like Almeda had never happened in the Rogue Valley before and Thompson says he’s taking all of that into consideration.

“We’re looking at, ok, we want to be prepared so if the event happens again, we already have the resources positioned and we have the support for those resources already in place,” Thompson says.

The department also received a grant from the International Association of Fire Chiefs to expand the “Ready, Set, Go” campaign. Known fairly well in rural communities, the campaign helps residents prepare for evacuation.

“It’s going to be city and rural, we’ve designed really nice brochures that explain, what can they really do to help to increase their preparedness level, their awareness, and help prepare their properties, and help create defensible spaces,” Thompson says.

The information will be available on social media, the department’s website, and mailed out to residents. He says while it may seem like small changes, they could add up to make a big difference come fire season.

“Whenever you have a fire that’s in an urban environment, you don’t have the time, you have the population density, you have more buildings, and so everything changes. The more we can be prepared on the front end of things, the better off we’re going to be.”