Ashland evacuation plans in works

MEDFORD, Ore. – The city of Ashland is developing a new evacuation plan, in case of a disaster.

Ashland officials are weighing out different strategies and specific roles for different departments, to ensure safe and fast evacuations.

The 2020 Almeda fire is still burned into the memory of some.

The city of Ashland remembers all too well the threat of the fire.

Kelly Burns is the Ashland Emergency Manager, he gathered different city department heads earlier this week to come up with ways to improve their response.

Kelly Burns said, “I think about worst case and in that case, all your firefighters, all your police officers, they’re in the fight. And so, who’s left trying to help people get out of the city? We saw it in the Almeda [fire]. Roads got blocked up and there was no one to help.”

Burns tells us a big aspect of the plans, is to determine who is doing what between firefighters, police, public works and other departments.

Ashland police chief, Tighe O’Meara was at the meeting where they discussed these different roles.

O’Meara said, “we’re going to be responsible for telling people to evacuate, for notifying people of the evacuation and we’re also going to be responsible with assistance with partnered departments and agencies and maintaining traffic control.

A study done by the city estimated that it takes four hours for Ashland to evacuate under good circumstances.

One thing they want to improve on, is a fast evacuation when a disaster arrives.

Burns said, “Ashland only has a couple ways in, and a couple ways out. Those are going to be bottlenecks how do we open up the roads wide enough to get people out?”

They tell us Public Works flaggers can be utilized to get people to where they need to go.

O’Meara also says that evacuation zones across the city can help lead people.

He said, “there are evacuation zones, to my knowledge, all across Jackson County, not just in the city of Ashland. People should know what their routes are.”

They are working on potential plans to have signs that indicate what zone you’re in and even additional exit ramps.

It is also emphasized that people need to have their evacuation plans ready.

Kelly Burns said, “I’m always going to tell people [to] get your go-kits ready, get medications ready, get your pets ready, practice your route getting out. Because in the event, it will be scary [but] if you’ve trained on something and it is scary, you fall back on your training and you’re more able to handle the situation that’s coming.”

The meetings will continue with various city departments, as well as ODOT to try and achieve more efficient evacuations.

They recommend that you stay prepared and sign up for local alerts.

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Maximus Osburn is a reporter for NBC5 News. He studied at California State University-Northridge, graduating with a degree in Broadcasting. Maximus is an avid martial arts enthusiast and combat sports fan. He even traveled to Thailand to train with martial arts experts. Maximus loves movies, nature, and doing things outside his comfort zone, like swimming in sub-freezing lakes in the winter.
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