Phoenix family grieves the loss 55-year-old Donald Schmidt in Almeda Drive Fire

So far, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed at least three people have died in the Almeda Drive Fire that surged through the cities of Ashland, Talent, and Phoenix on September 8, 2020.

Posted: Sep 16, 2020 11:48 PM
Updated: Apr 27, 2021 11:50 AM

PHOENIX, Ore. -- So far, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed at least three people have died in the Almeda Drive Fire that surged through the cities of Ashland, Talent, and Phoenix on September 8, 2020.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has yet to confirm the names of those people with NewsWatch 12.

Now, one family is telling NewsWatch 12 that 55-year-old Donald Schmidt is one of those who passed away during the fire.

“Great man. Full of laughter, lots of humor,” said Schmidt’s step-son Zachary Bulebar. “He treated my mom really well. He was just an all-around, great guy."

Schmidt’s sister told NewsWatch 12 that she was notified by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office that he has passed away. She told us that her brother, who served in the U.S. Army, was the "loud one on the block." She said that he had plenty of humor to go around.

Schmidt lived at the Bear Lake Estates in Phoenix. Bulebar says he called his mother to ask her if she knew a fire was on the way.

"No alert,” said Bulebar. “Nothing on her phone that she got an alert that there was a fire approaching the park. Everybody at the park seemed totally fine at the time right before the fire got to the park."

He says the lack of notifications from any Emergency Alert System led to his parents not knowing how serious the fire was.


RELATED: Jackson County plans to 'debrief' on emergency alerts after Almeda Fire, but not right away


"I don't think both of them realized how serious the fire was,” said Bulebar. "He told my mother to 'Go ahead and grab the animals and go and I will stay here and protect the house if the fire does come to the park.'"

So, Bulebar’s mother left Bear Lake Estates without Schmidt. Bulebar said that they attempted call Schmidt not too long after but the phone went straight to voicemail.

With questions circulating among the public about why no alert system was activated, those questions are also coming from Schmidt’s family.

"I would like to know why that alert system did not activate and send an alert message to everybody that said 'Hey, there is a fire and it is close to the park and it is time to evacuate.'"

Despite the lack of notifications, Bulebar says that he is grateful for the work first responders did in our local area.

“I definitely want to thank the police officers,” said Bulebar. “I thank the firefighters and the first responders for all of the great work they did. I mean, they are having to respond to something that has never happened before."

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