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“Firewise” Spreads After Oak Knoll Fire

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ASHLAND, Ore. — On August 24th 2010, a fire devastated the Oak Knoll neighborhood, and in the end eleven homes were lost. In the time since, homes have been rebuilt and the community is now more prepared.

What began as a grass fire on one side of I-5 near exit 14 in Ashland turned into a devastating fire that swept through a neighborhood. Fire officials remember the moment they realized the severity of the fire.

“Headed up Oak Knoll Drive to find there were already a couple of houses burning,” said Ashland Fire Division Chief Chris Chambers.

Eleven homes and six vehicles were destroyed by the time the Oak Knoll Fire was under control. Four years later, things are different.

“We have moved a long way in getting houses prepared and our community prepared for wildfires each summer,” said Chambers.

The first firewise community in Ashland was established in the neighborhood right next door.

“I’m sure the fire brought to everyone’s attention the potential that heavy foliage has to create fire in the houses. It made us all aware of it,” said Home Owner’s Association president John Cowles.

Cowles said each resident of the 107 unit neighborhood has worked as a team to become and stay firewise. Tees were cut down, low lying brush cleared out and the volunteer efforts of the community will continue.

“We will continue as a homeowners association to reduce or eliminate areas of fire hazard,” said Cowles.

Cowles knows fire can happen anywhere and urges other communities to be proactive and become firewise.

“Each individual homeowner should recognize that the area adjacent to their property should have the foliage reduced so the fire hazard doesn’t come right up to your door. You’ve just got to do it,” said Cowles.

Ashland fire officials said, without question, the Oak Knoll Fire led to more firewise communities and residents being more prepared as a whole.