On the morning of September 8, a dry brush field north of Ashland, Oregon, caught fire along Almeda Drive. The National Weather Service called for a red-flag wind warning that day, predicting gusts upward of 50 mph, which was bad news for Oregon fire officials. The state was already battling more than 10 other major fire incidents, exhausting state resources. Strong winds from the east pushed the fire north, parallel to Interstate 5, resulting in the complete destruction of the towns of Talent and Phoenix, Oregon.
Before it stopped, the Almeda fire burned more than 3,200 acres, destroyed 3,000 structures, including one of Fire District 5’s three firehouses, and killed 3 people. It stopped south of Medford, a city of 82,000 residents, when the winds eventually shifted. Police said the Almeda fire had two points of origin, the first in Ashland and one later in Phoenix. Michael Jarrod Bakkela, 41, has been charged with starting one of the fires.
Artist studios destroyed by the fire include DoJo Glass Studio, Phoenix, including glassblowers Big Country, Jay (birddog) Harrower, Amani Summerday, Mia Shae Williams and Doug (Taco) Williams. Other glass community members affected by the Almeda fire include artists Ron Regan, Adam Kissinger, Bernie Rodriguez, Jenay Elder and Gabe Arafai; glass collectors Shawn Thompson and Benjamin. Two dispensarys burned to the ground, and those employees are also being helped by the Southern Oregon Glass Community Relief fund, to which over 350 people have donated so far.
On September 13, birddogart posted on his Instagram:
As most of you have already heard or seen, several miles of our beautiful little Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon burned down on September 8th due to a catastrophic wildfire. Over 3000 homes burned, countless businesses burned to the ground, and many lost everything. Our shop was one of the businesses lost that day. As with any disaster, many have risen to support those affected. We have local efforts as well as the national support of the glass and cannabis industries, which has been phenomenal. I know there has been some confusion as to which GoFundMe is which and who gets what help. None of us has ever been through loss like this before, and there is no handbook, so we’ve done our best, and we are supporting each other as well.
The support and love from this community has been overwhelming. There is a team of us making sure that the disbursement of funds is equitable, and that people have their needs met. My vision is that we will be made whole very soon because you all rock, and then we can be pillars in our community and help those who don’t have access to the amount of amazing people and resources that we do. We will get through this together, and I can’t express enough how much you all have meant to us during this trying time, whether it be shops, collectors, or other artists. Thank you so much!
In this conversation, Lacey St. George Walton, aka LaceFace, discusses the fire and its effects on her local glass and cannabis communities. Talking Out Your Glass podcast and all of its sponsors, along with Mountain Glass and Lampwork Supply, have made donations to Southern Oregon Glass Community Relief (SOGCR). Click on the link below to donate now!! Follow @LaceFaceglass on Instagram for the latest on the recovery.