Three-alarm fire damages building on Ashland Plaza

A Medford ladder truck is positioned to allow firefighters access to the roof of a burning building on the Ashland Plaza Wednesday afternoon. Drew Fleming photo for Ashland.news
May 11, 2022

Mezcal restaurant to close temporarily due to destroyed secondary staircase

Update, 2:30 p.m. Friday, May 13: Mezcal restaurant in the building at 23 North Main St. adjacent to the scene of Wednesday’s fire will have to close until required secondary access is restored, according to Ashland Fire & Rescue. The building housing Mezcal did not burn, but a stairway leading to it did go through the burned building.

“Unfortunately,” said Chris Chambers, “with the elevator remaining as the only access to the third floor restaurant, it is unsafe for customers and staff to rely solely on an elevator.” A plan to “secure one of the stairways” is in the works, but “it will require some work to implement,” Chambers said.

The official cause of the fire is listed as “undetermined/accidently.” Wiring in the walls was ruled out by the fire investigator.

By Bert Etling, Ashland.news

A building on Ashland Plaza suffered significant damage Wednesday afternoon from a fire of unknown origin that didn’t cause any human injuries, but destroyed the homes of several residents and claimed the life of one cat while sparing another.

Multiple callers to 911 reported smoke coming from the walls of the building at 27 North Main St., directly across from the information kiosk on Ashland Plaza, at 1:41 p.m. The building, which houses Mountain Provisions and Little Tokyo on the ground floor, is between buildings housing Mezcal Restaurant to the south and the Brickroom to the north.

Ashland Fire & Rescue firefighters were on scene within five minutes, according to Chris Chambers, the department’s wildfire division chief.

“People did a great job of getting their neighbors out,” Chambers said. There were smoke alarms in the structure and they did go off, he said, adding that there were fire sprinklers in part of the building, but not where the fire was as it is an older building and sprinklers were not required.

Firefighters position hose while fighting a fire on Ashland Plaza Wednesday. Drew Fleming photo for Ashland.news

The fire caused “significant damage” to two residences and three offices on the upper floors, he said, while the ground floor shop and restaurant suffered smoke and water damage.

Response to the fire was quickly escalated to a second, and later a third, alarm, drawing responders from as far away as White City. A ladder truck called in from the Medford Fire Department, as Ashland doesn’t have its own, was used by firefighters to get to the roof.

“It took a lot of firefighters,” Chambers said, to put out the blaze. While no exact count was made, it was in the dozens, he said, including personnel from Jackson 

County Fire Districts 3 and 5 and several engines from Medford. Medical personnel from Mercy Flight moved in to cover Ashland while Ashland Fire & Rescue personnel were busy with the fire, and the Ashland Police Department cordoned off the Plaza and re-routed traffic off nearby Main Street to avoid interference with the firefighter’s work.

At one point all buildings on the west side of the Plaza were evacuated while firefighters fought the fire from both the Plaza and Calle Guanajuato sides of the building.

Working time on the fire came to nearly three hours, Chambers said, “pretty long for a fire.”

“It took a long time to get to where the fire was,” he said. “It got into ceilings, multiple ceilings, three layers of ceilings,” in the old, frequently added-onto structure. “It was really difficult to get to the fire. We cut a hole in the roof, and ultimately we did get all of the fire taken care of.”

The cause of the fire was under investigation by the Oregon State Fire Marshal, Chambers said. It was believed to have started in one of the residences.

  • Firefighters battle a blaze on the Ashland Plaza on Wednesday afternoon. Bob Palermini photo/palermini.com

Homes destroyed

The fire destroyed the home and studio of Eric Navickas and Amy Godard Navickas, according to a GoFundMe campaign posted Wednesday evening. Eric, a former Ashland city councilor and environmental activist, and Amy, an artist, “lost everything,” according to the post, which has a goal of $10,000. The married couple was uninsured, and the studio “contained all their tools, machines and hundreds of art prints and items. They were physically unharmed but are left with nothing,” the post says. As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, $2,076 had been donated.

Dylan Reames, sous chef at the adjacent Brickroom restaurant, lost not only his home but also one of his two cats, Robby. Mimi survived. Reames also lost “many pieces of irreplaceable art which he had poured hours of love and passion into creating, along with nearly every belonging in his name,” according to a GoFundMe post. As of Friday afternoon, $2,796 had been pledged toward a goal of $10,000.

Laney D’Aquino, an artist and filmmaker, “lost everything, including irreplaceable art and video,” according to an acquaintance. Her campaign on GoFundMe had raised $1,895 as of Friday afternoon toward a goal of $10,000.

  • Tim McPherson, left, looks on as Kailey Fowlkes holds Mimi the cat while Ashland Fire & Rescue firefighter Nick Peters gives Mimi oxygen. Drew Fleming photo for Ashland.news

Mimi makes it

Kaily Fowlkes, who is studying nursing in the Oregon Health & Science program on the Southern Oregon University campus in Ashland, told Ashland.news she and another student had been on one of the ride-alongs they’ve been doing with Ashland Fire & Rescue when the call came in.

While standing on the Plaza, “staying of the way,” Fowlkes said, she heard a radio call come in about a cat that had been found by a firefighter clearing the building, asking if someone could come take care of it.

“I volunteered,” she said. “I absolutely love cats with all my heart. I went to the back (of the building on the Ashland Creek side). A firefighter handed the cat off to me.”

The cat had “some soot and tarring on its back and a little burn on its left ear,” Fowlkes said. “Other than that, it was just happy to be rescued and, once I held her, was pretty calm. One of the firefighters gave her oxygen, and it relaxed more after that.”

The owner’s number was on the cat’s collar and he was called and reunited with her, Fowlkes said.

County property records show the building as originally constructed in 1885. The current owner of the 9,136-square-foot building on a .12 acre lot with an estimated real market value of $1.1 million is listed as the Wong Family Trust.

Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at betling@ashland.news or call or text him at 541-631-1313.

Update, 11 p.m. May 11: Information added about the Navickas’ residence being destroyed and the GoFundMe campaign.

Update, May 13: Additional information added about two other people whose homes were destroyed.

A firefighter climbs a ladder to the second-floor rear window of a burning building on Ashland Plaza on Wednesday afternoon. Drew Fleming photo for Ashland.news

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.
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