A podcast by Michelle Coradetti and Alan Harper
I am Michelle Corradetti recent past president of the Rotary Club of Medford, Oregon. And I’m Alan Harper. A past president of the Rotary Club of Ashland, Oregon. This podcast series will be discussing a day that many will never forget during their lifetimes. It is the day, the Almeda fire raged through the Rogue Valley and how it affected Rotarian’s and how rotary responded.
Situated between The Siskiyou and Cascade mountain, ranges lies, Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley. You may know of us because of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival located in Ashland, and we are also home to Harry and David. And at one time, we were known as the pear capital of the world. Something amazing that is going on right now, though, is, we are producing award-winning wines.
September 8 2020 was a challenging time for Southern Oregon like every place else we were in the middle of a pandemic. Schools had been shut down for a long time. And September 8 was the Tuesday after Labor Day. The first day of school for many of the school districts in southern Oregon, but it was also the end of a long drought season. And a day with record, winds whipping down the Valley from south to north.
The Almeda fire destroyed, thousands of homes and businesses. In the Rogue Valley, specifically, in the small towns of Phoenix and Talent Oregon. And Chris Chambers was on the front lines of that. He is a past president of the Ashland Lithia Springs Rotary Club and is the forest division chief for the Ashland fire and rescue.
Chris had a unique perspective on the start of September 8th, given his profession.
“Going into September 8th it wasn’t a mystery that it could be a really bad day. The kind of weather conditions that happened on September 8 have only happened one other time that I can remember. I filled my car with gas in the morning for work. I put on all my firefighting gear, which I don’t ever go to work dressed like that. But I just knew that could be the day, and I just started driving around looking for anything that could start a fire. If I could possibly stop one person from doing something, even if it was accidental a knowingly or unknowingly start a fire, I thought, you know, it’s worth the time today. I’ve got other things, but are not as important as this.
Joan Williams is a Rotarian with the Rotary Club of Ashland her home in Talent, Oregon sits between Highway 99 and Bear Creek. What would later be the path of the Almeda fire. There’s no way at the Start of September 8, that she would know that her entire Community would be nearly destroid.