Ashland, Oregon fire, 1959

It was 50 years ago, Saturday, that two fires threatened Ashland, Oregon. Here is the beginning of an article about the fires, from the Mail Tribune:

It was 105 degrees on Aug. 8, 1959, when two fires broke out in the dry grass above the railroad tracks by Jackson Hot Springs, near Highway 99 and South Valley View Road.

The fires grew quickly, driven by steady winds, and began climbing through the Ashland Mine Road area toward Wrights Creek canyon, raising a giant plume of smoke and ash.

By nightfall, the flames had traveled five miles to the crest of the Ashland watershed, and thousands of awed townsfolk watched as the flames consumed big pines and firs that exploded in the dark. Many feared the flames would creep into town.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival went on with its production of “Antony and Cleopatra,” despite the flames on nearby hills, helping the Ashland Fire Department keep traffic off the streets.

“It was a terrible conflagration,” said Bill Patton, the festival’s retired executive director. “The trees exploded like Roman candles in the intense heat. The wind was blowing. It was amazing. We’d turn and look at the audience and here were a thousand faces, cherry red, reflecting the flames.”

The actors playing Antony and Cleopatra were visiting Ashland, staying in the motor court then located in Lithia Park, recalled Patton’s wife, Shirley. “When they left for the theater, they took their precious things with them. But the fire stopped at the crest.”

The rest of the article is HERE.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.