This is Day 5 after the horrific Almeda fire swept through the communities of Talent and Phoenix. This post summarizes key information I know at this moment.
Fire impact. We know the fires took a devastating toll, but an inventory of loss is yet to come. However, at least a dozen manufactured home and RV parks were destroyed, including more than 1500 homes. Added to that are apartments units and many single family homes. Thousands of individuals and families, all treasured members of our communities, lost their homes.
Initial reports suggest that 80% of families at Phoenix Elementary and 50% at Talent Elementary may have lost their homes.
In addition to the residential loss, businesses up and down Hwy 99 from just north of Valley View in Ashland through Phoenix were victim to the inferno. These are the small businesses at the heart of Talent and Phoenix, owned and managed by our friends and neighbors.
Recovery and assessment of the fire’s impact started this morning. Federal, state and local officials are working together on a recovery plan. Escorts will continue to run people into the area. Please note that this phase will last days and probably weeks.
The fire area in Talent and Phoenix is being constantly evaluated to see what areas can be safely opened. We are expecting additional National Guard troops to arrive tomorrow, and that may allow Sheriff Sickler and team to consider additional, limited openings.
Evacuation. The Jackson County EXPO continues to function as the region’s primary daytime and 24-hour shelter. Efforts are underway to develop a comprehensive social service center on site so that individuals and families can access all needed services at a single location. Services already present include mental health supports, insurance counseling, spiritual support, and donated hygiene supplies/bedding. The Talent-Phoenix School District. is operating an activity center to occupy children while parents seek help and is working onsite to connect families with school services and other assistance.
By Tuesday, more agencies will have services present, including Rogue Community Health, La Clinica, ACCESS, Family Nurturing Center, and others. The EXPO is also working with the DMV to expedite replacement of lost identification.
FEMA. The initial request for emergency declaration that was submitted by the governor and approved by the federal government enables FEMA to fund firefighting support, damage assessment, search and rescue, shelter, and other expenses related to the initial response. Shelter funding may cover both congregate expenses (as at the EXPO) and non-congregate (short term motel vouchers) facilities.
On Tuesday Governor Brown is expected to submit a request for a major disaster declaration. If/when approved by the president, this would open the door to support for individuals and families, possibly including long term rent vouchers and repair and replacement money.
There is much speculation, but no answer, as to when or whether FEMA will bring in trailers to house displaced residents.
Clean up. The best information I have right now is that clean up will be coordinated and managed by an appropriate incident team. Please note that fire debris is highly toxic. Older manufactured homes may exude asbestos and other hazardous materials. As hard as it is to stay away from your home site, please minimize contact with all fire remains.
Stay tuned for more information about clean up.
Post office services.
Phoenix & Talent Mail Pick-up:
Medford Carrier Annex, 173 Ehrman Way, Medford
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11AM – 5PM; Sat,11AM – 2PM
Restoring power. This just in:
Pacific Power restoring more than 3,000 Southern Oregon customers tonight and into Monday
Crews have made tremendous progress in local communities devastated by fires
MEDFORD, Ore. (Sept. 13, 2020) —Pacific Power is making plans to restore more than 3,000 customers in Southern Oregon tonight and into Monday as the state recovers from the historic Labor Day storms.
The first area to be restored will be a section of Talent bounded by Colver Road on the north, Talent Avenue on the west, and east to Yank Gulch and Wagner Creek Roads. Also set to be restored through the evening and into the morning are customers south on Rapp Lane, and southeast to Anderson Creek Road. Residents north of I-5 on Suncrest and Payne Roads and south of Fern Valley Road should also have power back this evening.
Pacific Power is restoring power using a process known as “step restoration,” which gradually turns power on circuit by circuit. While more time consuming, this method offers the safest and most reliable way to restore power in these situations where an entire area has been de-energized for several days.
Pacific Power’s website will provide up-to-date estimates of local restorations times at www.pacificpower.net/outage-updates. This page will be updated as new information becomes available. Additional outage maps are available at: www.pacificpower.net/outages-safety.
Pacific Power customer care agents are available and ready to help customers through this incredibly difficult time. They can be reached 24/7 at 1-888-221-7070.
Noncash Donations. Donations for individuals who have lost their homes are being collected at multiple locations. Clothing has been well supplied and is not currently being accepted. Here are the outstanding needs at each location; please bring only the items requested.
Towels, bedding, tents, sleeping bags, sweats and sweatshirts (especially in large sizes). New is preferred; used items should be in excellent condition.
• El Tapatio, 1633 Hwy 99, Ashland.
Gift cards, especially for Fred Meyer; laundry detergent—pods, baby wipes, luggage, new underwear and socks, Size 3 diapers; cash donations
• Family Nurturing Center, 212 N. Oakdale, Medford
Diapers, baby wipes
• Living Waters Church, 360 E. Jackson Street, Medford.
Accepting household goods (not clothing) in good condition.
Individuals who need goods, hygiene items, clothing or bedding should visit contact these sites.
Cash Donations. If you are able, here are several agencies that will deeply appreciate your contribution and use it to help the most vulnerable in our valley.
• Family Nurturing Center, https://familynurturingcenter.org/covid-19-response-relief…/
• United Way Fire Fund, http://www.unitedwayofjacksoncounty.org/
• Rogue Valley Relief Fund, MRG Foundation, https://www.mrgfoundation.org/rogue-valley-relief-fund1/
• Phoenix-Talent Fire Relief Fund, https://www.phoenix.k12.or.us/
And a giant thank you. It has been a week that none of us expected or ever contemplated. So many of our cherished neighbors and friends have experienced heartbreaking loss. Still, over and over again, those who are able have stepped up with tremendous energy, passion, and intention, already thinking about how we rebuild. I am deeply grateful to be part of such a community.