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FEMA estimates 600 houses burned in Almeda fire

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates 600 houses were burned by the Almeda fire that started in Ashland and tore through Talent and Phoenix this week.

FEMA issued the estimate Wednesday night in an announcement that it has authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the fire, which began Tuesday morning.

FEMA Region 10 Administrator Mike O’Hare approved the state of Oregon’s request for a federal fire management assistance grant Wednesday afternoon after determining the fire threatened to cause enough destruction to constitute a major disaster.

The fire burned about 3,000 acres, FEMA estimated.

An additional 35,000 homes are threatened in and around the communities of Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford, FEMA determined.

Fire agencies remain active in the area, and the public is being urged to stay away from burned areas of Talent and Phoenix.

FEMA also authorized grant funding to help cover firefighting costs for the South Obenchain fire, which has burned about 20,500 acres in northern Jackson County.

FEMA said Thursday that nine structures have burned and 1,291 households are threatened in and around Eagle Point, White City, Butte Falls, Shady Cove and rural parts of northern Jackson County.

Oregon has had 11 wildfires this season qualify for the firefighting cost assistance grants, FEMA said Thursday.

Eligible firefighting expenses that can be covered include costs for field camps, equipment use, repair and replacement, mobilization and demobilization activities, tools, materials and supplies.

Record-breaking heat in September combined with a rare wind event created the perfect storm for fast-moving fires in Southern Oregon and elsewhere in the state.

Before the catastrophic weather, aggressive initial attack efforts by Southern Oregon firefighters had kept major wildfires at bay this summer.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

FEMA estimates 600 homes were burned in the Almeda fire that tore through Ashland, Talent and Phoenix. Jamie Lusch/Mail Tribune