City firefighters credit weed abatement for keeping blaze manageable
A grass fire burning just south of Exit 14 was brought under control Monday afternoon by firefighters from Ashland Fire & Rescue and the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), who held the fire to just under one acre.
Crews responded to a 911 call at 4:23 p.m. with ODF arriving quickly from their guard station a few blocks away. At the time the temperature was 103 degrees, according to a Weather Underground station near the fire in the vicinity of Washington Street and East Jefferson Avenue, just west of Interstate 5.
Ashland Fire responded with two brush engines and two structural engines to protect an adjacent business and control the fire. ODF provided two engines and six firefighters and the Ashland Police Department provided traffic control.
The fire started in a vacant lot that was mowed close to the ground in accordance with Ashland’s Weed Abatement Ordinance, according to a city of Ashland news release. The difference between uncut grass up to three feet tall and grass cut to under four inches is significant for firefighters, the release said, allowing them to directly attack a fire safely with flames under 2 feet versus relying on helicopters and indirectly attacking a fire in uncut grass when flames can exceed 8 feet
It was a fire in uncut grass outside the city limits that allowed the Oak Knoll Fire to spread rapidly and jump across Interstate 5, eventually burning 11 homes in 2010. There is no weed abatement regulation outside of Ashland’s boundaries.
“The story seldom gets told about fires like this that end up not making big news, but represent hard work and foresight on the behalf of past leaders who prioritized fire safety ordinances and funding our staff who enforce them,” said Chris Chambers, Wildfire Division Chief, whose division includes weed abatement, which is run by Sydney Jenkins, the department’s Fire & Life Safety Specialist.
The cause of the fire was not immediately determined. Ashland Police are investigating.