Ashlanders followed the news about the Camp fire in Paradise, California, last year with mounting concern. Could it happen in Southern Oregon?
The short answer is yes. That’s especially true in Ashland, where a city of more than 20,000 sits nestled against a steep forest.
At the front of Ashland officials’ minds is how best to evacuate the town in case of a major fire. Fire Chief Michael D’Orazi and his department have been working with police and Public Works departments to evaluate the city’s evacuation and alert systems.
Signs in hillside neighborhoods direct traffic down to Siskiyou Boulevard, but D’Orazi says that might funnel too many vehicles onto a single escape route, while blocking emergency vehicles from heading uphill if needed to fight the fire.
Officials plan a large-scale evacuation drill in May, probably focused on a part of town that faces particular obstacles. Residents should be prepared to participate actively if asked to do so.
Communities on the coast are familiar with tsunami warnings, and evacuation routes are clearly marked. Something similar should be developed for Ashland.
To put one frequently voiced concern to rest, the much-maligned “road diet” on North Main Street would not be an obstacle. In the case of a large-scale evacuation, the road could become multiple lanes, all leading out of town.
It’s important for residents to familiarize themselves with evacuation routes and to prepare a personal plan, assembling important items, backing up photos and planning to take pets along. Careful preparation will mean a smoother evacuation should that become necessary.