PHOENIX, Ore.- Jackson County’s Almeda Fire clean up effort moved into the next and final phase last Saturday. While plenty of work remains, crews say the full recovery from the devastating fire is closer than ever.
“This is a great day for me personally and a great day for our community,” said John Vial, the Director of Jackson County’s Emergency Operations Center. For people in the Rogue Valley, the devastation of the Almeda Fire has been difficult to escape, even 4 months later.
“For several months we’ve had to drive through and look at this. And it’s a reminder of what happened. Getting this cleaned up is a major step in getting past that,” explained Vial. He says Phase Two of clean up started in Bear Lake Estates started Saturday.
The Phoenix mobile home park was chosen in order to get the quickest start on cleaning up and healing.
“It’s very compact, facilities close together, and the contractor could get the max amount of work done in the shortest amount of time,” Vial said.
Bear Lake is one of three sites that are being prioritized in the Phase Two clean up. Mountain View Estates and North Ridge Terrace are also part of that first tier.
“When we get about three quarters done with this one we will start moving into the next one. The idea is that we are always kind of hopscotching,” said Jerry Marmon, one of the southern Oregon Operation Chiefs for the state’s contractors.
The first step is to find and remove metal so it can be recycled and then clean up the ash and debris. After that the concrete foundations are removed and recycled and soil samples are taken to ensure the property is safe to return to.
The Tier One sites are being prioritized because their layouts make it easy to work in, but the county is also looking for sites that have the potential to re-house people.
“We might be able to clean up a mobile home park and we might be able to bring FEMA trailers in there, so that is an option that is on the table and is always on the forefront,” John Vial said. He says that if they shift site priority because of that, they will work with the state, who will direct the contractors.
Jerry Marmon says he estimates the entire Phase Two will take about 12 to 18 months but stresses it is hard to be exact since they are so early in the process.