The Almeda Fire: Rogue Valley, Oregon

Octavio Solis

On September 8, 2020, at roughly 11 a.m., first responders received a call reporting a half-acre grass fire near Almeda Drive in northern Ashland, Oregon. Fierce winds drove the fire north through the towns of Talent, Phoenix, and the southern outskirts of Medford, burning 3,200 acres, destroying nearly 2,800 structures (most of them homes), displacing more than 3,000 residents, and taking three lives. In the months after the Almeda Fire, the residents most affected—many of them low-income Latino families—remained in dire need of relief.

The following dispatch was written in late November. —May 29, 2021

Driving down Pioneer Road to Colver Road in Phoenix, Oregon (12/18/20). Credit: Otavio Solis As the weather report had promised, the morning was clear and blustery, the aspens outside clicking their leaves like maracas. I slurped the dregs of milk from my bowl of cereal, stepped outside to head to my studio, winked into the brightness and saw the plume. An immense bulbous cloud of pearly grey smoke billowing high into the blue. It loomed so large that for an instant a jab of panic seized my chest. Fire. Just as we had feared. All the day and night before,
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