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Medford under evacuation alerts from fast-moving fire

South, central and north Medford are under evacuation alerts Tuesday night from the fast-moving Almeda fire that started in Ashland in the morning, then swept north through the Rogue Valley.

On Tuesday evening, the Jackson County Emergency Operations Center issued a Level 3 “Go” evacuation alert for southern Medford. The alert goes as far north as Barnett, Garfield and Stewart Roads, then to North Phoenix Road to the east and Columbus and Dark Hollow to the west.

“Everyone within this boundary is now at a Level 3 and should leave immediately by using routes going to the north and east to avoid current fire activity,” the emergency operations center said in a press release issued at 7 p.m. Tuesday. “Current fire acreage is estimated at 1,500 acres and zero percent contained.”

Soon after, the Medford Police Department issued a Level 2 "Be Set" evacuation alert as far north as McAndrews Road in the middle of Medford. The alert stretched to North Phoenix and Foothill Roads to the east and Griffin Creek Road to the west.

By 11 p.m. on Tuesday, conditions had improved in north Medford thanks to firefighters, putting the area at Level 1, or "Be Ready." The area is bordered by Beall Lane to the north, McAndrews Road to the south, Highway 99 to the west and I-5 to the east, according to the Jackson County Emergency Operations Center.

By 11 p.m. Tuesday, the Oregon Department of Forestry estimated the Almeda fire had grown to between 2,500 and 3,000 acres.

Many Jackson County evacuees are going to an emergency shelter at the Jackson County Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point, according to a press release from the Jackson County Emergency Operations Center sent at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"At this time, there is a need for clean blankets and sleeping bags," the press release said.

Donated blankets and sleeping bags can be dropped off with a person staffing Gate 3 at The Expo.

The Expo has 100 cots set up for people who are mainly indigent or senior citizens.

"Everyone else is invited to sleep in their cars or find a spot on the ground," said Emergency Operations Center Manager John Vial. "It's not a five-star hotel, but it's shelter."

Jackson County residents are also evacuating who live near the 8,000-acre South Obenchain fire east of Eagle Point.

The shelter space at The Expo was filled up by 9:40 p.m. Tuesday. People seeking shelter should go to the Josephine County Fairgrounds along Redwood Highway, 1451 Fairgrounds Road, Grants Pass, said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming, who was embedded at the emergency operations center Tuesday night.

At about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night, the Central Point Police Department issued a Level 3 "Go" evacuation alert for part of Central Point.

That alert was later reduced to a Level 1 "Be Ready" alert, Leaming said at 10:30 p.m.

At least two fires in the Central Point area were believed to have been caused by embers spotting from the Almeda fire, he said.

The fast-moving Almeda fire that started in Ashland is threatening Medford. Jamie Lusch/Mail Tribune