Still standing: a report from one of the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest

MiguelATF

Hall of Famer
Location
Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
Real Name
Miguel Tejada-Flores
A few brief words here, both to send my greetings to all - and also to seriously urge anyone who is remotely near any potential wildfire around the world, to take the threat very seriously. I am well and safe - as are my family and close friends. And, by what is truly a random act of kindness from the fates - or the mercy of the universe - my old farmhouse, 118 years old this year, is still standing - and survived unscathed.

I live in Southern Oregon, in the town of Talent, population approx 7,500 - just north of Ashland, a larger city - and south of Phoenix (approximately the same size as Talent) and still further south of the city of Medford, maybe 15 minutes to the north, on the freeway.

On Tuesday, a devastating wildfire broke out on the northern edges of Ashland - and was then fueled by brutally fast winds, of more than 25mph (would that be around 40kph?). The fire raced north and hit Talent, devastating and burning almost half of the city, within hours. Did I mention that, in these times of global warming, we have been having a long an unseasonably hot summer, with tempoeratures hovering near 100 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks on end? Which means, simply, that timber or grasslands or forested areas are horribly, unseasonably dry - and extremely flammable. The winds drove the fire through Talent and then unpredictable gusts made the path of the fire head into the central part of the town, heading towards downtown. My old farmhouse, just on the western outskirts of the town, was spared - but large portions of the downtown area, both residential and commercial, literally burned to the ground within hours. What is left looks horribly like the photos we have all seen, of the aftermath or Hiroshima or Dresden after the bombings. Yes, it's really that bad. We were all forced to evacuate with very very little notice - itself a rather frightening experience. The fire moved quickly north and did even more damage to the neighboring town of Phoenix - later in the evening of the same day, it reached the outskirts of the much larger city of Medford and threatened even more destruction. Firefighters labored heroically but in the evening I believe the winds died down which helped slow what might have otherwise been an even more unthinkable tragedy.

And, no, I took no photographs: I've been tuned in to both survival - and to helping family members and friends who, unfortunately, were not as lucky as I, and lost, literally, all their possessions, within minutes, when their nice apartments and houses burned to the ground. Fortunately there have been almost no fatalities, in itself a miracle.

But currently much of the rest of the Pacific Coast states - both Oregon, and California to the south, and Washington to the north, are threatened with potentially equally devastating wildfires. So the word of serious caution is - if you or anyone you know or care about, is near a potential fire or evacuation zone, it is really a good idea to try to make a realistic escape plan - and also to try to figure out, if you find yourself in the position where, literally, you have only an hour - or possibly only 30 minutes - or less - to try to gather a handful of things that may be important to you - not to mention family members or, as so many have, beloved pets --- it can make an immense (and possibly life-saving) difference .... to try to plan out what you think you might need to take with you... if the unthinkable happens.

I didn't do that. And in the hour we had before we had to flee our house in the heart of an exceedingly dangerous evacuation zone, it was stressful and challenging....to try to figure out what the 'essentials' might be. In my case, it was computers, musical instruments, a handful of books, some clothing, and my passport. But in the ferocious rush I forgot or left behind other things which, in retrospect, I could have survived without - but which, had I had the forethought to think about it beforehand, I would definitely have taken.

In my case, living in a wonderful small Oregon town for decades, neither I nor almost any of my friends or neighbors, every truly imagined or took seriously the notion that our small towns and cities could suddenly be wiped off the map within hours, and even minutes. It truly didn't seem possible. Having survived the experience, I realize it is. And part of me is kicking myself for not whipping out one or more of my cameras to document some of what was going down, literally, around me, as the world seemed to be coming to an end. But I had other things - and people - on my mind.

I'm attaching a photo of my old farmhouse which I took two days after the fire. When I left I was convinced I would never see it again; finding intact was and has been an intense and emotional experience. I still can't go back to it since the town has no electricity and no water and, in fact, is still a 'danger zone', due to multiple downed electric wires, and flaming natural gas jets, inside the areas where houses or buildings once stood, which threaten to either start new fires or, worse, explode and create new apocalypses. So, neither I - nor my surviving friends and neighbors in the small town of Talent, Oregon, are out of the woods yet --- but I am cautiously optimistic.

Here is my home of the last two decades which, honestly, I thought I would never see again.

Still_standing.JPG


And please, please please, for anyone at all close to anything of a similar potentially dangerous nature - take it seriously.
 
Location
Milwaukee, WI USA
Real Name
Luke
Thanks for checking in Miguel,

I've been weeping on and off for last 4 months.....if it's not one thing...it's another. But these wildfires are something else this year. They are ALWAYS bad. But the size and severity of them this year is beyond anything we have seen before....and the realization (for me....or anyone who is paying attention) that it is only going to get worse until we do something about it (which won't happen) just makes me feel hopeless.

I hope for the best for you and everyone affected by the wildfires, but until we all vote for politicians that believe in science and DO SOMETHING about it, I'm afraid we're doomed to repeat our recent past.
 

donlaw

Hall of Famer
Location
Texas
Real Name
Don
Wow Miguel, that is a very moving account.
So glad that both you and that house, which has been around for over a century, escaped.
Although I expect the experience will remain in mind for a long time with so much loss around.
When we evacuated during Hurricane Harvey a few years ago, I did grab my photo equipment, but didn’t take many photos.
We only lost a automobile while many around us lost everything.
When suffering and destruction is all around instinct seems to take over for survival. Not much thought for photography.
Really wish you the best as the community begins to heal.
 
Last edited:
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
A few brief words here, both to send my greetings to all - and also to seriously urge anyone who is remotely near any potential wildfire around the world, to take the threat very seriously. I am well and safe - as are my family and close friends. And, by what is truly a random act of kindness from the fates - or the mercy of the universe - my old farmhouse, 118 years old this year, is still standing - and survived unscathed.

I live in Southern Oregon, in the town of Talent, population approx 7,500 - just north of Ashland, a larger city - and south of Phoenix (approximately the same size as Talent) and still further south of the city of Medford, maybe 15 minutes to the north, on the freeway.

On Tuesday, a devastating wildfire broke out on the northern edges of Ashland - and was then fueled by brutally fast winds, of more than 25mph (would that be around 40kph?). The fire raced north and hit Talent, devastating and burning almost half of the city, within hours. Did I mention that, in these times of global warming, we have been having a long an unseasonably hot summer, with tempoeratures hovering near 100 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks on end? Which means, simply, that timber or grasslands or forested areas are horribly, unseasonably dry - and extremely flammable. The winds drove the fire through Talent and then unpredictable gusts made the path of the fire head into the central part of the town, heading towards downtown. My old farmhouse, just on the western outskirts of the town, was spared - but large portions of the downtown area, both residential and commercial, literally burned to the ground within hours. What is left looks horribly like the photos we have all seen, of the aftermath or Hiroshima or Dresden after the bombings. Yes, it's really that bad. We were all forced to evacuate with very very little notice - itself a rather frightening experience. The fire moved quickly north and did even more damage to the neighboring town of Phoenix - later in the evening of the same day, it reached the outskirts of the much larger city of Medford and threatened even more destruction. Firefighters labored heroically but in the evening I believe the winds died down which helped slow what might have otherwise been an even more unthinkable tragedy.

And, no, I took no photographs: I've been tuned in to both survival - and to helping family members and friends who, unfortunately, were not as lucky as I, and lost, literally, all their possessions, within minutes, when their nice apartments and houses burned to the ground. Fortunately there have been almost no fatalities, in itself a miracle.

But currently much of the rest of the Pacific Coast states - both Oregon, and California to the south, and Washington to the north, are threatened with potentially equally devastating wildfires. So the word of serious caution is - if you or anyone you know or care about, is near a potential fire or evacuation zone, it is really a good idea to try to make a realistic escape plan - and also to try to figure out, if you find yourself in the position where, literally, you have only an hour - or possibly only 30 minutes - or less - to try to gather a handful of things that may be important to you - not to mention family members or, as so many have, beloved pets --- it can make an immense (and possibly life-saving) difference .... to try to plan out what you think you might need to take with you... if the unthinkable happens.

I didn't do that. And in the hour we had before we had to flee our house in the heart of an exceedingly dangerous evacuation zone, it was stressful and challenging....to try to figure out what the 'essentials' might be. In my case, it was computers, musical instruments, a handful of books, some clothing, and my passport. But in the ferocious rush I forgot or left behind other things which, in retrospect, I could have survived without - but which, had I had the forethought to think about it beforehand, I would definitely have taken.

In my case, living in a wonderful small Oregon town for decades, neither I nor almost any of my friends or neighbors, every truly imagined or took seriously the notion that our small towns and cities could suddenly be wiped off the map within hours, and even minutes. It truly didn't seem possible. Having survived the experience, I realize it is. And part of me is kicking myself for not whipping out one or more of my cameras to document some of what was going down, literally, around me, as the world seemed to be coming to an end. But I had other things - and people - on my mind.

I'm attaching a photo of my old farmhouse which I took two days after the fire. When I left I was convinced I would never see it again; finding intact was and has been an intense and emotional experience. I still can't go back to it since the town has no electricity and no water and, in fact, is still a 'danger zone', due to multiple downed electric wires, and flaming natural gas jets, inside the areas where houses or buildings once stood, which threaten to either start new fires or, worse, explode and create new apocalypses. So, neither I - nor my surviving friends and neighbors in the small town of Talent, Oregon, are out of the woods yet --- but I am cautiously optimistic.

Here is my home of the last two decades which, honestly, I thought I would never see again.

View attachment 234994

And please, please please, for anyone at all close to anything of a similar potentially dangerous nature - take it seriously.
Gosh, Miguel, I'm so glad hearing from you; especially since amidst all this horror and devastation, you and apparently most of your loved ones are safe and, as you say, cautiously optimistic to make it through this ordeal ...

Your words carry weight, too - measured, yet intense and with the ring of truth about them. I sincerely think they should be seen and read by a wider public than this board provides, so I hope you give publishing this piece on other platforms a thought.

I wish you and your family and friends all the best. Focus on that for now - but let's also hope many people will set their sights on a future where sanity and reason have a better, more productive place, or, as Luke said, we all, especially our friends in the States, may have to face even worse events in the years to come.

Keep up hope - it's the basis for determination and endurance when hardship hits home ...

M.
 

wee-pics

All-Pro
Location
Germany
Real Name
Walter
I was horrified when I saw the devastations of these fires in the news. Thanks for this very personal and touching report, Miguel.
It's good to hear that you and your family are safe and that your house wasn't affected by the fires.

Many times in the last months I've been grateful for the most unbelievable luck: I've passed seventy years of my life in peace (in contrast to my parents and grand-parents), in prosperity, without political and social upheavals, without natural disasters and (except for a cancer operation with chemotherapy in 2005 - which was an extreme and existential experience) in relatively good health.
Sometimes I really ask myself how on earth I've deserved all this.
 

Richard

All-Pro
Location
Marlow, UK
Glad to hear from you, Miguel. I've been wondering how you and Kyle (@KillRamsey) have been faring through that terrible ordeal.
Those are the two names I've been thinking of every time I've seen news from the Pacific northwest in recent days. I'm very pleased to hear that you are basically OK Miguel, and that your lovely house has been spared.

Has anyone heard from Kyle?

-R
 

KillRamsey

Hall of Famer
Location
Hood River, OR
Real Name
Kyle
We haven’t had much of a direct fire threat, this particular go-round, where I live. There were two smallish fires close to town a month ago, but they were able to knock them down and contain them fairly quickly – this is before the massive fires started south of Mt Hood near Detroit, OR, so I think resources were available then that might not be now. Lucky, there.

We’ve had incredible smoke, though. If you’re unfamiliar with the AQI (Air Quality Index) website, it’s a ranking system the government uses to express particulates suspended in the air. Scale goes from 0 to 1,000, with higher being bad, of course. You can smell smoke in the air, and will probably feel a scratchy throat / headache if you exercise starting around 100. 200 is where you can absolutely see it, looking at things more than a few hundred feet away. 300 is where you’re going to be hunkered down indoors 24/7 unless you really need something outside. Hood River, where I live, was just above 400 for 5 days in a row, today somehow decently better but the website has been down so I don’t have a number, guessing it’s just 200… feels WAY better.

When it was over 400, the tall trees around my house, most of them 100-200 feet away, were about 60% visible. Looking 2000’ away (600 meters) down my street, I could barely make out cars going through the intersection. Looking at the sun directly was very easy – it was a dim peach-colored ball. There are no shadows on the ground or in the house. Everything is yellow.

So we’ve made a lot of food saved as leftovers, the “bug out” box is packed in the back of the old 4runner as always, and we’re watching the conditions constantly. But there are no direct fire threats to us as of now, just the smoke, which depends entirely on the wind direction. We’re 100% fine – I built a new awning outside this weekend on our pergola, with a mask on. As long as I took it slow, I felt fine, but I could feel it in my eyes and throat a little at night. Air purifier in the bedroom helps A TON.
 

KillRamsey

Hall of Famer
Location
Hood River, OR
Real Name
Kyle
And one quick story: Just outside Detroit OR is a wonderful natural hot spring facility that we have visited 3 times since we moved here. It abuts a flowing river, there’s a massive main lodge for dining, there's a hiking path out among the huge old trees, then there is a grid of tiny old 1-room cabins that feel like they’re from the 1950s out in the woods to sleep in. Huge old cedars and ferns, naked hippes, lots of meditation, etc.

The fire came for it. Staff stayed and fought. I have heard that the little cabins all burned, but the main lodge was saved. Pictures I have taken there…

Walking trail.
KBRY2753P.jpg


One of the hot pools.
KBRY2764P.jpg


Inside one of the (now gone) cabins.
KBRY2983.JPG


The lodge they saved.
KBRY3058.JPG
 

serhan

Hall of Famer
Location
NYC
It is good to hear from you. Hopefully fires will be ending soon and missing people will be found. Last night I saw a report of one dog survived the fire under a burned car and who knows all the other people and animals.... My father is a retired forest engineer. He used to go to the fire locations to help to extinguish and one of his colleagues/our neighbor burned while surrounded by a fire...

Also photos of David from Ashland in talkemount with comparison of current and past:
Pic a day....
 

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