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Talent apartment managers lauded as heroes

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While businesses burned madly on three sides, Ross Munro, assistant manager of Talent’s 181-unit Anjou Apartment Club, and his wife, Lisa Joss, fought encroaching flames through the night, fetching water from the swimming pool in five-gallon containers and driving them to hot spots around the perimeter, putting them out by hand.

“Afraid? No, I wasn’t afraid. I had way too much adrenaline pumping through me,” said Munro, an Ashland resident whose daughter and granddaughter live at Anjou. “I’m just glad it’s still standing.”

Munro described the night as an epic struggle against extreme heat that was setting fire to shrubs and trees along Valley View Road and later along the northwest corner of Anjou, overlooking the giant Oak Valley conflagration. That blaze crept up an embankment and singed a half-dozen Anjou units, which were put out by firefighters who soon left to handle gigantic flames on Talent Avenue.

Especially upsetting, he said, were explosions of propane tanks and bullets across the street. He even found a bullet shell on Anjou grounds.

To residents commenting in a Facebook thread, Munro was recognized as a hero. Leah Cates, who took the couple to lunch to thank them, said, “He saved a lot of homes. They deserve hero medals. I am absolutely blown away by the heroes in our community.”

Shanti McGinley said the couple should get gift certificates for dinner, spa day and flowers, adding, “This warms my heart immeasurably.”

“He put a pump in the pool and they carried buckets by hand,” Cates added. “They stomped out live embers that had caught fire around the complex. They kept an eye on things for nine days until the evacuation was lifted. Our car that was left behind was fine, my bike was still sitting on the back porch.”

By dawn Sept. 9, the couple were exhausted and hungry, but the flames were out and, with help, they would battle smoldering embers for days. Looking around the intersection of Highway 99 and Valley View Road, they saw Suntym Pools, Julek’s Polish Kitchen and Oak Valley 55+ Planned Community reduced to ashes.

Cates noted that the Anjou apartment manager “emailed us all daily about updates and what was going on. She sent us pictures of our apartments standing. She evacuated the whole complex an hour before the sheriff got to us.”

Lessons have been learned from the fire, said Munro, starting with keeping a defensive barrier around the complex. That means cutting tree branches up a dozen feet and using gravel in flower beds instead of bark dust.

“It was quite an adventure,” Munro said. “A lot of people are suffering. It’s so sad. But we definitely dodged a bullet. All the tenants have been very thankful and appreciative.”

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Ross Munro, maintenance manager for the Anjou Club Apartments, talks about the efforts he made to save the Talent property during the Almeda fire.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune The Anjou Club Apartments was nearly taken down by the Almeda fire in Talent.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Ross Munro, maintenance manager for the Anjou Club Apartments, talks about the efforts he made with pool water to save the Talent property during the Almeda fire.