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Evacuations on Ashland Plaza follow 3-alarm fire

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Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Firefighters respond Wednesday to a structure fire in downtown Ashland at the Plaza.
Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune A cat is given oxygen after it was rescued from a fire in downtown Ashland.
Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Firefighters battle a fire Wednesday on the Ashland Plaza.
Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Firefighters move a hose during a three-alarm fire on the Ashland Plaza.
Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Damage was contained to one building in a fire on the Ashland Plaza Wednesday.
Damage contained to one building, cause still under investigation

One pet was injured, but damage was expected to be limited to one historic building following a three-alarm fire that drew firefighters from four agencies to one of downtown Ashland’s most populated areas.

The Ashland Plaza was cordoned off and traffic headed downtown was detoured Wednesday afternoon during the response to a fire reported at 1:41 p.m. as smoke coming from the walls of 27 N. Main St., according to Ashland Fire & Rescue Division Chief Chris Chambers.

Dispatchers told the caller to evacuate the building, according to Chambers. The building was fully evacuated by 1:44 p.m., and the first firefighters were on scene at 1:46 p.m.

Firefighters quickly escalated the call to a second alarm and then a third alarm to draw extra resources while they worked to track down the fire.

No people were injured, but one cat was injured in an apartment above the building, which houses businesses on the first floor that include Little Tokyo Japanese Restaurant and Mountain Provisions.

Chambers did not have details at the scene for how the cat was faring after the fire, but indicated the animal survived. ‘

“Hopefully the cat will get better,” he said.

At least eight to 10 people in apartments and offices on the second floor were evacuated, plus businesses on the first floor in the Plaza. Chambers said crews worked to contain the fire to the one building to minimize impacts to businesses in neighboring buildings directly connected to each other.

Chambers said no damage was spotted on lower levels of the building, leaving firefighters to believe the fire attacked “the top level of the building,” and then spread “into the ceiling and through the roof.”

The fire was knocked down within an hour, and with the help from Medford’s ladder truck, crews ventilated the roof.

The cause is under investigation. As of Wednesday afternoon, crews were waiting for smoke to clear to determine where the most damage had occurred.

The smoke triggered an alarm system, according to Chambers, but it’s unclear whether any fire sprinklers were present or went off.

According to National Register of Historic Places records, the building involved is the historic Ashland Improvement Company Building. The Classic Revival Architecture structure was built in 1904.

At least 11 engines from Ashland Fire & Rescue, Medford Fire Department and Jackson County Fire Districts No. 3 and 5 were spotted at the Plaza and along North Main Street, which Chambers described as assisting with both the firefight at the Plaza, and as backup to help Ashland firefighter-paramedics with other calls for service.

At the scene of the fire, Ashland Mayor Julie Akins marveled at the swift, coordinated response from firefighters across the Rogue Valley, saying “everybody’s here.”

“I was deeply concerned about our Plaza,” Akins said. “This is our front porch.”

She expressed gratitude that the response was so swift, especially because winds started to pick up after the fire was knocked down.

“No one in the Rogue Valley needs another hit,” Akins said.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.