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Life since the fires, in quotes

"Stay united. Help each other out. Don't give up."

Jonatan Reyes, a 16-year-old Phoenix High School student whose home was destroyed in the Almeda fire, offered those words of hope this past week in the midst of tragedy felt across the Rogue Valley.

Here, in quotes taken from the pages of the Mail Tribune and Ashland Tidings, are other voices telling the story of the fires, the response, and the need to work together as we rebuild damaged homes and damaged hearts.

Wednesday, September 9

“With conditions being what they are, the low humidity and excessive heat leading up to this event, we definitely have our work cut out for us.”

Kyle Novy-Riley, Public affairs officer, Oregon Department of Forestry SW District

“I just said, ‘OK, I’ve got to get off the air and go rescue my family.’”

— Jason Houk, reporting on the fire for KSKQ radio

“The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is issuing an immediate evacuation notice for all businesses and residents in the Phoenix area due to the wildfire.”

— Jackson County Sheriff's Office bulletin

“Fire scares me.”

— Dottie Yockey of Ashland, after being evacuated

Thursday, September 10

“I talked to a lot of people and they said ‘Be prepared,’ because you’re not going to believe what it looks like.”

— Sandy Spellacy, Talent city manager

“We had people refuse to leave their homes. We don’t know what their status is, because we had to move on.”

— Nathan Sickler, Jackson County Sheriff

“I could see ashes fall from the sky. My neighbor came over and said, ‘Your patio is on fire.’”

— Jairo Gomez, Phoenix resident

Friday, September 11

“These kids have nothing now, a lot of them. I feel like a lot of what school’s going to be now is a support system helping them through.”

— Carolena Campbell, teacher, Phoenix High School

“How do I help?”

— Several bike riders, coming upon an Ashland staging area for cyclists taking supplies to fire victims

Saturday, September 12

“I saw a lot of extremely tired and exhausted people there, but none of them wanted to go home — none of them want to go anywhere until this job is done.”

— Rick Dyer, Jackson County commissioner, on first-responders

Sunday, September 13

“As fast as we were loading up the trucks, things were coming in. We live in such a generous community.”

— Dave Robison, Southern Oregon Goodwill

“Needs change day to day and hour to hour.”

— Dave Dotterer, Rogue Valley Community Organizations Active in Disaster

“Businesses are making their parking lots available for people to park their rigs. People are coming together to move livestock out of harm’s way. And the firefighters fight on.”

— Peggy Dover, “Southern Oregon Journal”

Monday, September 14

“People were amazed he would let them take his bikes. They tried to offer money, but he wouldn’t take it.Some said they would pray for him; that’s all they had to offer.”

— Amanda Villa about her father, Mike Diaz, who lent bicycles to evacuees wanting to check on homes

“Ultimately, the big thing is managing pain, keeping these guys hydrated and clear of secondary infections in all the wounds that are created by the heat.”

— Dr. Adam Reiss, Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialty Center, on treating pets

Tuesday, September 15

“The best wording in the near term is ‘super gradual’.”

— Shad Keene, National Weather Service meteorologist, on how smoke in the valley would dissipate

“They irritate any part of the body they come in contact with.”

— Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County medical director, on particles in wildfire smoke

Wednesday, September 16

“It’s not what happens to us that defines our community as much as how we deal with adversity where our character shines.”

— Terry Baker, Phoenix, in a Letter to the Editor

“We definitely got our tail feathers singed. We have been trying to keep our 250 miles of canals and ladders running while operating withcellphones and hand-held radios.”

— Jim Pendleton, manager, Talent Irrigation District

Thursday, September 17

“It’s tough to communicate when you don’t have any electricity at your house.”

— Mayor Chris Luz of Phoenix, in response to a resident saying officials were “behind the ball” on information

“It was one of those things, on a hope and a prayer, the .00001% chance that it would survive. But we basically knew that night that our house was not going to be there in the morning.”

— Kate Florez of Phoenix, on the home she and her husband owned for only a few hours before it burned to the ground

Friday, September 18

“Oh man the sky’s back.”

— Ryan Pfeil, Mail Tribune web editor, on Twitter (@ryanpfeil)

“It’s so wonderful to see the response from the community. It’s not just one day. It’s every single day — pandemic or no pandemic, fire or no fire. It’s been outstanding.”

— Mark Peterson, chairman, Rogue Valley Community Organizations Active in Disaster

Saturday, September 19

“We know that we are going to see more things like this, even though we’re talking about it as a once in a generation event.”

— Tonya Graham, Ashland City Council

“Sometimes it’s like a game of chess ... and mother nature usually wins.”

— Bart Vawdrey, deputy fire chief in Draper, Utah, on fighting the South Obenchain fire near Butte Falls

Sunday, September 20

“This was not in the athletic director’s playbook that I looked up. ... We’ve got so many people in need, it’s just so sad.”

— Dave Ehrhardt, athletic director, Phoenix High School

“Let’s take care of each other and love each other; let’s focus on the gospel of Jesus, who urged us over and over to love each other, feed each other, heal each other. Let’s be our best selves.”

— Virginia Rea, who lost her home in the Almeda fire

Quotes used came from stories by reporters Vickie Aldous, Tony Boom, Allyana Darrow, John Darling, Kris Henry, Nick Morgan, Ryan Pfeil, Buffy Pollock and Joe Zavala, as well as The Associated Press.

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