A Fire Update

Just a general update on things for friends and family. My neighborhood and family are safe. Ashland, where the Almeda fire began, is safe. The wind has abated but red flag alerts remain.

Gas stations and stores are busy with exhausted, worried out of towners. The Almeda fire started as a grass fire by a BMX park in Ashland but then spread west and north. The initiating source remains under investigation. Pushed by 40MPH plus gusts, the burned through Talent, then lit up and destroyed Phoenix. South Medford was next. The last word that we had, last night, was that the fire was contained. We’re looking for better info.

Meanwhile, spot fires had been going on, threatening other areas of Medford, Central Point, and Eagle Point, to our north and west. Those seem to have been extinguished. Interstate 5 is open in both directions.

Note: a rumor is going around in certain political circles that Black Lives Matter went along Interstate 5 starting fires. They offer no evidence. Police are working to dispel the stories circulating on social media. To me, these rumors increase the evidence of who this people are; at a time when everyone needs help and should come together, they use lies to plant seeds of distrust. There’s the wildfire that needs to be put out.

We’re under a request to limit water due to the water used to fight fires. We remain at Level 1, ready to go. There are other fires burning in Jackson County. Temperatures have dropped today. Locally, we’re expecting highs in the mid-eighties. But the temperatures will then return to the nineties and perhaps over one hundred. While the immediate worst threat has subsided, staying alert and ready is required.

Our air is smoky. I jump to the conclusion that it’s probably from smoldering areas of our fires. The smoke might be from California to the south, or other fires in Oregon up north.

I’m relieved that we survived here, but the losses suffered by others can’t be overstated. The impact on Talent and Phoenix, our neighboring towns, is like what happened to Paradise, California, and we all remember that. Buildings, homes, and possessions are gone. Our resources through government and charity are stretched. Assessments are still being conducted, and the fire monitored for hotspots. Only when the authorities are assured everything is out will the people be allowed to return to their places, make private assessments, and begin rebuilding.

Shocking Day

The consequences of the Almeda Fire (yeah, not ‘Alameda’), as it’s been declared, are rippling out. It’s named after the little street where the grass fire was first reported. The air is surprisingly clear, declared green by AQI, with a rating of 46, but a smoky odor teases you like a strong memory.

My little town, Ashland, Oregon, was where it started. We suffered some losses of homes. The area to the northwest suffered much more.

A trailer park is gone. Fast food restaurants and homes are gone. A winery.

Continuing into Talent…much of the northern side burned. The Camelot Theater is gone.

On into Phoenix…

Most news services are declaring that the small town of Phoenix, population of forty-five hundred, is gone. The primary road into town is blocked off, so confirmation is yet to come, but Youtube videos taken during the night attest that Phoenix suffered. Information is spotty, as the news services cope with elections, COVID-19, wildfires across the western US, and the snow in Colorado. We’re hampered locally as reporters had to evacuate their homes and the fire burned through a cable affecting at least one service provider. Some early reports said it was a local ISP called jeffnet, but others say it was Spectrum. Maybe it was both.

Those who bundle everything — television, phone, Internet — to one provider suddenly found they weren’t receiving the local emergency alerts, a new consideration offered for you the next time that you’re debating you options.

The fire continued into south Medford, about fifteen miles up the Interstate. That section of city was evacuated, along with the

Damage reports continue seeping in. So many fires are burning that the area lacks the resources to combat them. While towns and cities this part of Jackson County are fighting this fire, a larger fire is consuming another part of the county to our northeast. The county to the west is battling its own blazes, as are towns further north in Oregon. Little help is available.

The wind has abated. This is good news. Cooler temperatures are prevailing, the low nineties, but it’s going to increase again tomorrow and continue to get hotter the rest of the week.

A Noble Coffee House

I’ve been coming to Noble’s for a few weeks at this point. It’s a damn fine place. Larger community tables have outlets nearby, what we regulars (yeah, I’m a regular now) call a power table. Besides those tables are many tables that seat two to four. Conversation pits with sofas, easy chairs, and rockers offer comfortable options for chatting with friends.

Located among a few other businesses on the bottom of Fourth Street where it meets A Street at the bottom of the hill, still downtown but away from the Plaza, Noble’s is larger than other Ashland coffee shops, with space for fifty to sixty without too much problem (and there are days when it’s been packed). Large windows along one wall deliver delightful natural light but well-placed and assorted light fixtures (no fluorescent, thanks) help minimize shadows. And, for those who wish, several outside tables (on the sidewalk) give more seating and visiting options.

Coffee is very good to excellent. They offer two fresh options every day. My preference is a dark blend called Daydream. It’s all those thing you hear about in coffee commercials, like smooth, robust, and flavorful. I might have had an orgasm the first time I drank some.

Not surprising. Nobles uses fair-trade, organic coffee. The owner/operators go on buying and picking trips a few times per year. See that glass door in the corner? If you look in it, which they encourage, you’ll see their coffee roaster. Yes, it’s all roasted and ground on site.

Besides appealing, fresh coffee, tasty pastries like scones, muffins, and croissants (savory (like ham and cheese) or sweet (like chocolate)) will satisfy your peckishness. I’ve had the gluten-free pumpkin scone (baked in the kitchen in the back) three times (for quality purposes, of course), and tried the blueberry gf muffin twice. Now I need to talk myself out of buying one (or something else) every time I come. They’re addictive, I’m telling you. You’ve been warned.

Friendly baristas serve it up, the final touch on a proper coffee place. Come along. It’s a good place to meet with friends, take an energy break, study, read, or write a book.

 

The Smoke

It’s a new habit. Reaching the corner where my street meets Siskiyou, I look left.

Although there’s a soft, steady down slope, it’s a straight shot into downtown Ashland. I know that two miles away is the Ashland Springs Hotel’s yellow building. I can’t see it today. I can see the first traffic light, at Walker. That’s just under a mile away. With today’s smoke, the prevailing visibility is about a mile away, as it has been for the last three days.

Fires ring our valley, sending smoke into it. Most of the fires started on July 15 when lightning strikes lit the dry brush and trees.

Although it’s the third year that I’ve been forced to do this, I’m not used to wearing a mask to walk around. We used to do it in the military as part of our war games, during simulated attacks. They were never fun. Neither is this.

Thoughts about the fire’s causes are inevitable, as are hopes and worries for the other people driven from their homes by the fires, and fears for the animals, and concern for the land. Thoughts about the firefighters out there fighting the fires on our behalf arise, along with thoughts of thanks.

Containment is the word of the month, followed closely by conflagration. When will the fires be contained? The closest, the Hendrix Fire, isn’t that large, just one thousand plus acres. Nine miles away, it’s thirty percent contained, but it’s not the fire delivering most of this smoke. That’s an accumulation from all the fires to the north and west.

What’s striking is how the smoke changes Ashland’s character. Outdoor events are canceled, curtailed, or moved indoor, if possible. There are fewer hikers and walkers, because part of the Pacific Coast Trail is also closed. Cyclists, usually so common, are rarely seen. With the diminished visibility, we can’t see the mountains. Ashland could be a plain town, or one on the seashore.

You’d never know it, with this smoke.

 

Be Careful Out There

If you like to walk, as I do, around your town, be careful. 

Caution and awareness are seared in my head. A friend in another town was walking his dog one morning several years ago. A vehicle killed him and his dog. The driver was never identified.

People get distracted, even drivers. Some don’t like stopping for people in crosswalks. I know it, because they’ve told me. They don’t care about the law, safety, or anything else. Some are too busy with other things. I’ve seen people eating as they drive, talking on their phones, or putting on make-up. Some looked at me as they passed and gave me a nod or a wave. So they see me, but kept going.

Crossing in front of the Jackson County Library in Ashland where Main Street becomes Siskiyou Avenue is the most hazardous in my experience. There’s a traffic light – the final one downtown as you’re going south – about fifty feet in front of it. Leaving downtown frees drivers from the multiple crosswalks, traffic lights, and twenty miles-per-hour speed limit. Now freed, they gun their engines and race up into the twenty-five MPH zone. They don’t to stop again, not when they’ve already had to stop so many times, especially for someone crossing the street in a crosswalk. Better to just miss the person and keep going, right?

Yes, it happens. It’s not fiction or exaggeration.

Perhaps the most disturbing incident this week was the Ashland Police Department‘s car that didn’t stop for me. It was about one in the afternoon. Traffic was light, and it was a beautiful summer day. I was in the southern crosswalk, crossing Main Street at First street. An APD vehicle was approaching. The blue and white SUV was several car lengths away from the northern crosswalk in the center of three lanes. He didn’t stop; he didn’t look my way. I could clearly see him, a white guy with a goatee, with a heavy, burly build, and a receding hairline and sunglasses – but he couldn’t see me (I guess).

When he didn’t yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk, neither did two other vehicles, both following him, but in two different lanes. Why should they? The APD car didn’t stop, so it must not be the law, or enforced, they probably assumed. Both of the drivers saw me, giving me a look as they passed, with one driver, a young woman in her twenties waving at me.

The APD car didn’t have his emergency lights on. He, and the others, stopped at the traffic light up the street at Second and Main.

So be careful. Lot of people are distracted. It happens. Many just don’t care or don’t want to stop for pedestrians. And many just don’t see you.

Or so they pretend.

Minor Rant #143

We began having Internet connectivity issues in the beginning of May. It was intermittent, and service typically returned in a few minutes.

We were planning a trip, and busy with those details, so I didn’t call it in. On the day before we left, the outage was a few hours in the morning. Logging in at a coffee shop,  I sent my ISP, Ashland Home Net (AHN) an email through their support website. They said someone would get in touch with me.

They didn’t.

Returning after our vacation last week, we found our connectivity worse. Calling in meant waiting by the phone for return calls and staying home so they can come by and check our systems. But, last Friday, I called it in.

Yes, they could see that we were online but our signal was very weak. This would need to be called into the city IT.

The City of Ashland supports several local ISPs. They do so through a community-owned entity called Ashland Fiber Network (AFN). The city’s support helps reduce the cost, right, and provides an alternative to the big commercialized entities that dominate the field, like Charter, Century Link, Comcast (which all might now be the same company). I use Ashland Home Net to buy local and help defray that cost.

Friday our connection went out in the morning and returned in the afternoon,  apparently on its own. I called AHN for an update before they closed for the day. The agent said a ticket had been opened with the city. The city would call us. They would come by.

They didn’t. 

Our connectivity came and went through the evening.

Saturday found another outage that lasted several hours. Support was called. Messages were left. Nothing was heard back.

Sunday…the same.

Monday.

Internet connectivity was good in the morning. I returned from writing and walking at about 2 PM. My wife said the connection had dropped at noon. I called it in. The same agent that I spoke with on Friday told me, yes, a ticket with the city had been opened. The city will be calling me.

The hours passed…

I called them each hour to remind them my net was still down and that I hadn’t heard from the city. We heard back from an Ashland Home Net at 5:40 PM. Yes, a ticket had been opened with the city. Unfortunately, they were closed for the day. Nothing could be done.

Our connection returned at 6:53, and then left a hour hour later.

It came back again at 8:50, but dropped at 10:20, and didn’t come back.

We had a connection the next morning, Tuesday. Since I didn’t hear from Ashland Home Net or the city, I called AHN  to see what was going on. The agent said the city was backed up. They would get hold of me, but it would probably be another twenty-four hours.

“Really?” I said. “It’s already been ninety-six hours.”

“What?”

“We opened the ticket on Friday.”

“Your records show that the ticket was opened on Monday.”

“No.” I had my notes and referred to them.

“Oh, you’re right,” the agent said. “Okay, I’ll call the city now, and I’ll call you back.”

He did. “The city is sending someone out now.”

The city did. I saw their truck out there. I saw their agent. He went to the side of our house. I waited for him to come to the door.

He didn’t.

I waited for the city to call.

They didn’t.

Our connection was up and remained up, and it has since then. We’ve never heard anything back from the city or Ashland Home Net.

I’m going to give them a call when I get home today. I want to know what the problem was, or is, if it still exists, and what’s been done, or will be done about it.

Then I think I’ll check out other ISPs.

Just in case. Because right now, I’m not too damn pleased with Ashland Home Net, Ashland Fiber Network, and the City of Ashland.

Town Charm

Six deer walked along Siskiyou, and then decided to cross the street and go down Sherman by Safeway. They began across and then paused in the middle, as though confirming their direction. All the traffic stopped and waited for them to make up their mind and move on.

“Only in Ashland,” spectators said.

Yes, it’s part of the town’s charm.

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