Ashland City to make changes to emergency evacuation plan

 ASHLAND, Ore.– Ashland’s fire and police chief agree, “The plan that we’ve had in place for a long time worked.”

However, they acknowledge evacuations at the start of the Almeda Fire on the north side of town, went far from perfect.

Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said, “There were some unforeseen things we had to navigate through like the shutdown of I-5, it just means we have to be more deliberate and clever when it comes to evacuation planning.”

Residents have expressed concerns, and have shared video with us of hundreds of cars stuck in traffic.

Though they declined to speak on camera, they called the situation frightening.

O’Meara said the city is aware of the problems it faces.

“We have to be that much more creative and diligent about how we come up with evacuation plans.”

O’Meara said the city was already planning on paying a third party consultant to do a study of the city. KLD Engineering, a New York based firm, will conduct it.

“The number one advantage is having knowledge. A lot of cities identify that we have a lot of fuel… We have wildfire risks… But we have no idea how long it would take to evacuate our city,” says Kevin Weinisch of KLD.

As far as correcting bottlenecks in traffic flow, he said using both sides of roads could make a huge difference. Ashland didn’t do that on September 8th.

KLD said that’s just one thing it will recommended, as it’s just beginning to work with the city.

“Evacuation planning is a very specific specialty… And we’ve been doing it for the past 40 years,” said Weinisch.

Despite this new study to improve traffic in evacuations, police say the best way to stay up to date with emergencies is by subscribing to the city of Ashland’s Nixle alert system.

If you live in Ashland you can text 97520 to 888777 to subscribe to these alerts.

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