Monday, January 23, 2023


    The purpose of this blog is to document the history of the Almeda Fire. To protect contributors, we have intentionally not allowed comments. To submit a story or to comment please email us at

    El propósito de este blog es documentar el incendio de Almeda. Para proteger a quienes han contribuido, nosotros no hemos permitido comentarios en el blog. Para enviar una historia o comentar, envíenos un correo electrónico a  

    On September 8, 2020, a fire was started at the North end of Ashland, Oregon, on a street named Almeda.  Sixty-mile-an-hour winds blowing from the South over Southwestern Oregon drove flames along the vegetation on both sides of Interstate 5 and Pacific Highway.  Like numerous other wildfires that have plagued the drought-stricken states in Western United States, the September 8th fire destroyed homes, businesses, animals, and plant life in its path from Ashland to Medford, crippling the heart of Talent and Phoenix, Oregon.  The Talent Historical Society has collected the following personal accounts, photos, artwork, and links to news articles with the goal of preserving and acknowledging the amazing stories of those who survived, the resilience of those who lost everything, and the compassionate response of the community to those affected.  Our purpose is not only to preserve history but to learn how to respond to future disasters and bolster the hope of healing and restoration.

Note: All stories and photos that appear on this blog were contributed with the intention to publish on the blog and in the Talent Historical Society's up-comming book documenting the Almeda Fire.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

In the Smoky Sadness of my Soul

In the smoky sadness of my soul,

In between the lung that aches

And a heart that breaks,

There remains a small flickering light, 

Hope and wonder, a filtered something.

Emotional thunder.

We await the rains that will wash some of 

Our pains away. For a day, perhaps. 

But the charred couch, and the burnt books,

And the immense shock in our stunned looks,

Will not be washed away. That is for another day,

A much longer time, of healing and comfort.

Mother Nature bats last, they say.  

And she sure won this game. 

If this disaster holds a tiny blessing, 

It is this: That for a few moments, a few days,

No one cared whether you were for Trump or Biden.

No one cared if you were blue or red. Just safe. Not dead.

In the smoky sadness of my soul,

In between the lung that aches

And a heart that breaks,

There remains a small flickering light, 

Hope and wonder, a filtered something.

Emotional thunder.

JHE 2020

En la Tristeza Humeante de Mi Espíritu, Spanish translation of In the Smoky Sadness of my Soul


En la Tristeza Humeante de Mi Espíritu

Por JHE 2020


En la tristeza humeante de mi espíritu

En medio del pulmón y el dolor

Y el corazón que duele,

Se mantiene una pequeña luz parpadeante

Esperanza y maravilla, algo filtrado.

Estruendo emocional.


Esperamos las lluvias que laven y alejen algunas 

De nuestros dolores. Tal vez, por un día.

Pero el sofá achicharrado, y los libros quemados,

Y en inmenso susto en nuestras miradas atónitas,

No se lavarán y alejarán. Eso es para otro día,

En un tiempo mucho más largo, de sanación y consuelo.


Los últimos murciélagos de la Madre Naturaleza dicen,

Y de hecho ella ganó este juego

Si este desastre tiene una pequeña bendición,

Es este: Que por unos momentos, unos dias,

A nadie le importó si apoyabas a Trump o Biden.

A nadie le importó si eras azul o rojo. Solo seguro. No muerto.


En la tristeza humeante de mi espíritu

En medio del pulmón y el dolor

Y el corazón que duele,

Se mantiene una pequeña luz parpadeante

Esperanza y maravilla, algo filtrado.

Estruendo emocional.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Talent Cafe Siding


Photo courtesy of Talent Historical Society 

The Talent Café Story

The Talent Café Story

by Debra Moon

The Talent Café was a truly beloved eatery in our town. It was unique. It was Denise O’Brien’s special brand of hospitality. From the artwork on the walls, the music, the décor, the authentic home-made food, everything was unique, right down to the home-made catsup sauce. Denise painted all the art on the walls. They were scenes from her life. 

Covid was hard on the café. Denise did receive a couple of covid relief grants which helped her to make adaptations to accommodate social distancing and fewer customers. She added a deli case for take-out. Even with these adjustments, business was just not good enough to keep the café open. Denise decided she had to close the café and regroup. She intended to open in a smaller place with a take-out window and outdoor seating.  She had her eye on a place in town that might be coming up for sale where she thought she could manage a smaller version of the café and stay in business. On July 27th of 2020, she moved out of the location off of North Pacific Highway 99 and put her supplies and equipment into a unit at Bear Creek Storage, which her insurance would not cover. She had several refrigerators and freezers, still full of food, in her yard, plugged in with the use of extension cords. On September 8, 2020 the storage unit burned in the Almeda Fire. Denise lost approximately $70,000 of equipment and supplies in that fire and had no insurance to cover it. 

Not willing to give up, Denise applied for more grants and loans, and eventually she ended up in a small food truck across from Gather Café and Bistro on Talent Avenue. The food truck business was not that good either, and what’s more, it seemed depressing after running her lovely café.

Denise had lived in Kona, Hawaii before moving to Oregon. She owned a hair salon for a long time and then worked for Aloha Airlines for a while. While still in Hawaii she began making pies and selling the big, delicious desserts for $35 each, delivered in a hat box. I’d say that’s unique too. She wanted to start a business called Beauty and the Bean, where customers could go for hairstyling and coffee. Denise was leaning toward a café kind of enterprise when she saw the Talent Café advertised for sale on the internet. In 2005, wanting to leave Hawaii and thinking that Oregon was appealing, Denise came to the mainland and started looking around the area. She came upon the Talent Café accidentally and remembered seeing it for sale online. It was still for sale, and the previous owner was happy to sell to her. 

When Denise bought the Talent Café in December of 2005, it was located at Main Street and Talent Avenue, where the Pump House is now. She ran the restaurant there for six years. In 2011, the café moved to the strip mall on North Pacific Highway.  The section of the strip mall that was the site of Talent Café was built to suit. It was a very artistically designed restaurant, decorated well, warm, and welcoming. This was accomplished because of Denise’s artistic eye and discerning touch in planning the construction and implementing the set-up and décor of the restaurant. For fifteen years in the two locations, the Talent Café was a success serving breakfast and lunch to the community and to visitors generated through tourism. The café has also hosted many special events in the evenings, and it was the site of countless business meetings and gatherings over the years. It was one of those restaurants where you feel comfortable settling in, and where you could actually hear well enough to have a conversation while eating. The music was up-beat, not too loud, and acoustics seemed to be good. And the food was the best!

The signage and set-up of the new place, and the food truck itself, were all very attractive, and the food was still very good, it just didn’t meet Denise’s need for creativity, inspiration, or her special brand of atmosphere. She ended up selling the truck after a year.

And yet, through pandemic, fire, loss, and all the red tape of grant applications and personal stress, she still did not give up. She started a nail salon. It is called Mystic Moons. True to her nature, she has made the nail salon welcoming and artistically decorated. Her prices are extremely reasonable, the music is up-beat, and not too loud…you can settle in there and enjoy your manicure or pedicure. All you have to do is call for an appointment…541-227-3255. But she does miss her restaurant. She is on the lookout to start again if she can find the right place. 

The Talent Café was a little jewel of hospitality and comfort in our town and will not be forgotten by all who loved it. 

Monday, January 9, 2023

Untitled Poem by Kathleen


The black remains of the tree stumps stand still, 

silent sentinels of the past, keeping guard over

what was and what remains... reminding us of

the unspoken promises of renewal, of what can

and will be when all the burned remains of lost

dreams are replaced by new dreams and hope.

Hope is the glimmer of light in the darkness.

Hope is trust in the unseen and the unspoken.

Hope is believing in the Phoenix that rises out

of the ashes... trusting that we too will rise!

We must not dwell on what was... was is past.

The present is now and in this space and place

we will create what will be... our future, our hope.

The future holds the promise of possibilities...

Hold on to those and give it your best to make

this promise a reality... your reality.


Sunday, January 8, 2023

Saturday, January 7, 2023

STUDENT INTERVIEW: TALENT MIDDLE SCHOOL INTERVIEW- Interview with Eli Champaign, a Firefighter in Medford Who Fought the Almeda Fire by Lucas, Griffen, Jordan, and other students

Interview with Eli Champaign, a Firefighter in Medford Who Fought the Almeda Fire

by Lucas, Griffen, Jordan, and other students

Interview date: 11/25/2020 8:30 AM

Recorded by: Max Nicholas/Transcript: 00 - 15:00 minutes 

Note: Eli Champaign is a Medford firefighter who worked on the Alameda in talent OR fire. This interview was conducted by School of Discovery and Innovation students and staff at Talent Middle School. The interview was held and recorded by Google Meets.

Lucas: What is back draft, and did you see it in the fire?

Eli: It is a deadly condition you have to pay close attention to. Pressure builds in a building and air is suddenly introduced and explodes.  

Lucas: How many straight hours did you have to work?

Eli: I got called in around 10:30. He had to work around 45 to 46 hours. After around 30 hours

we got a break. 

Violet: Did you get to save any pets from the Alameda fire?

Eli: I saw a lot of pets flee the area. But we always save people first. And we try and save

property second. I saw a lot of pets rescued after the fire. There was a lot of pets that were rescued. Saving pets was not our initial concern.

Reshel: What were you feeling the day of the fire?

Eli: I woke up that morning, randomly on the morning of the 8th, around 1 am. I smelled smoke. And the instinct I have from my job, I thought maybe I left the oven on. I remember

going downstairs and opening the door to my back patio. It was like it was dense fog because the

smoke had blown in from fires we had from northern California. The wind was very, very strong

already at 1:30 in the morning, and usually winds die down at night and night is usually when we

fight fire. There was a lot of different emotions going on, but we don’t really express them because we are focused on our task. After the fire is when everything hits you.

Elijah: How often do you fight fires?

Eli: It depends. Each fire department is a little different. It is based around population, and I live

in Medford which is the biggest city we have in rogue valley. So, we stay a lot more business than other places like Phoenix, Talent, or Ashland. I would say on average I would go to about two or three fires a month. That´s just on average. Maybe I will have only one fire a month, or I could have five fires. It all depends on what happens.

Genesis: Do you get fire calls a lot?

Eli: Yeah, we do. With this fire was unlike any fire we have fought before. There were so many

buildings on fire it was very overwhelming we ran out of water as well. Looking back at it you think you didn’t do enough. And you try and realize that there was no way we could put out all the fires.

Derek: What made you want to be a firefighter?

Eli: Being a firefighter, I am also a paramedic, so the firefighter kind of just fell into place because I have always had a drive to be in the medical field. I worked with sports injuries at first, then I quickly found out being a paramedic and doing firefighting was a good combination and a passion of mine. I did not grow up wanting to be a firefighter, it just fell into place.

Griffen: What was the worst thing you saw during the fire?

Eli: The toughest thing to see that day was seeing house after house burn and just kind of

knowing we could not do anything about it

ENTREVISTA CON ESTUDIANTES: TALENT MIDDLE SCHOOL: Entrevista a Eli Champaign, un bombero en Medford quien combatió el incendio de Almeda, Spanish translation of STUDENT INTERVIEW: TALENT MIDDLE SCHOOL INTERVIEW- Luke, Griffen and Jordon Interview Eli Champaign


Entrevista a Eli Champaign, un bombero en Medford quien combatió el incendio de Almeda

por Lucas, Griffen, Jordan y otros estudiantes


Fecha: 11/25/2020 8:30 AM

Grabada por: Max Nicholas

Descripción: Eli Champaign es un bombero de Medford quien trabajó en el Incendio de Almeda en Talent, Oregón. Esta entrevista fue conducida por el estudiante de SDI y un trabajador de Talent Middle School, esta entrevista fue sostenida y grabada en Google Meets. 

Transcripciones: 00-15:00 minutos

Estudiante – Lucas: ¿Que es una contracorriente y que viste en el fuego?

Eli: Una condición muy peligrosa a la que le tienes que prestar atención. La presión se acumula en un edificio, el aire entra y produce una explosión. 

Estudiante – Lucas: ¿Cuántas horas tuviste que trabajar sin parar?

Eli: Me llamaron alrededor de las 10:30. Tuve que trabajar alrededor de 45 a 46 horas. Después de 30 horas pudo descansar.

Estudiante – Violet: ¿Pudiste salvar muchas mascotas del incendio Almeda?

Eli: Vi un montón de mascotas escapar del lugar. Pero siempre ayudamos a las personas primero. En segundo lugar, ayudamos a proteger la propiedad. Vi un montón de mascotas ser rescatadas después del incendio. Había muchas mascotas rescatadas, salvar a las mascotas no era una preocupación inicial.

Estudiante – Reshel:¿Cuáles fueron sus sentimientos el día del fuego?

Eli: Me desperté al azar la mañana del 8, como a la 1am. Olía a humo. Y el instinto que tenía por mi trabajo es que había dejado el horno prendido. Recordé bajar las escaleras y abrir la puerta del patio trasero. Parecía que había una densa neblina por que el viento había traído el humo de los fuegos que teníamos en el norte de California. El viento ya era muy fuerte como a las 1:30 de la mañana que es cuando usualmente el viento pasa y es precisamente cuando combatimos el fuego. Había varias emociones juntas, casi no las expresamos porque nos enfocamos en nuestro trabajo. Después del fuego es donde todo se asienta.

Estudiante – Elijah: ¿Con cuánta frecuencia usted pelea contra el fuego?

Eli: Depende. Cada cuerpo de bomberos es diferente. Está basado en el tipo de población y yo vivo en Medford que es la ciudad más grande del Valle del Rogue. Así que ayudamos a más negocios que en otras partes como Phoenix, Talent, o Ashland. Yo diría que en promedio acudimos a unos 2 o 3 incendios al mes, y eso solo en promedio. Diría que tal vez es 1 incendio por mes o tal vez 5, todo depende de lo que esté pasando. 

Estudiante – Genesis: ¿Tiene muchas llamadas contra incendios?

Eli: Claro que sí. Este incendio fue como ningún otro que hayamos lidiado antes. Había tantas

construcciones en llamas, era abrumador y también nos quedamos sin agua. Recordando todo es como que no hicimos lo suficiente. Y uno se da cuenta de que hubiera sido imposible apagar todos los fuegos. 

Estudiante – Derek: ¿Que lo impulsó a ser bombero?

Eli: Aparte de ser bombero soy paramédico, así que ser bombero encajo bien, ya que siempre tuve el impulso de estar en el área de medicina. Empecé trabajando con lesiones deportivas y rápidamente encontré que ser paramédico y al mismo tiempo bombero era una combinación buena y una pasión mía. No crecí con deseos de ser bombero, solo que encajo bien. 

Estudiante – Griffin: ¿Qué fue lo peor que vio durante el incendio?

Eli: Lo peor que vi ese día fue ver una casa detrás de otra quemarse, y simplemente que no podíamos hacer nada al respecto.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Ken’s Story about the Mountain Lion

 Ken’s Story about the Mountain Lion

    The fire started a ½ block from my house… I wasn’t there but my son and housemate were told to immediately evacuate and take nothing, as the firefighters surrounded the street of my ¼ acre tinderbox corner property to fight the fire licking against the back of the houses across the street, which faced the Ashland Pond.   

    Many theories of how the fire started, some dependent on political persuasion. Was it arson? ANTIFA? Someone smoking? Homeless? Nobody knows. But then there was also this, the month before a 22-year old woman was found drowned in the Ashland Pond under sad and seemingly self-inflicted and confused circumstances ( Which created a definite, perhaps ghostly ‘feeling’ in respect to this beautiful Pond. The night before the blaze I was walking around, and the wind was blowing and it felt very dry… and ominous.

    The day after the blaze I was already back in the house and the fire had swept down the bike path and the Greenway and into the destruction of the communities further down. The initial response of the Ashland Fire Department had saved us, but the devastation gathered steam and rolled on down from here. The next day, and for days to come, the fire fighters and local people were still putting out the embers with hoses around the pond. The inside of the trees glowed for days, deep orange fires still within. An apocalyptic Mordor-like feeling permeated the environment.  

    I decided anyway to ride my bike along the bike path and see what it looked like. Earlier that 2nd day it was too smoky to be healthy. Later in the early evening I decided to go. There was some initial blockage, but nothing had really been codified into a stern “DO NOT” warning signs yet, it was still too early. I was alone on the path and after a while I had a fairly clear ride….and then I saw the mountain lion.

    I jumped off and was very dazzled at first, it seemed all to surreal. I snapped a photo. It seems to me to capture the spirit of that moment, the sky…. our lifestyle and patterns creating the circumstance for perhaps just the beginning chapters of what we will have to deal with because of our self-created Climate Change. That isn’t just about us - but about the creatures that take the hit due to us. 

  I had no idea that these large cats, these animals were in our midst, down here away from the forest. 

    They hide from us well. How strange it should die in this matter lying next to the bike path.

La historia de Ken acerca del puma, Spanish translation of Ken’s Story about the Mountain Lion

 La historia de Ken acerca del puma

    El fuego empezó a medio bloque de mi casa…yo no estaba allí, pero a mi hijo y a mi compañero de piso les dijeron que evacuen inmediatamente y de no llevar nada, mientras los bomberos rodeaban las calles de mi propiedad de cuarto de acre en la esquina de la bomba de tiempo, para combatir el fuego que acariciaba la parte trasera de las casas, al otro lado de la calle que daban al Asland Pond. 

    Había muchas teorías de cómo empezó el fuego, algunas de ellas dependientes de la persuasión política. ¿Fue un incendio provocado? ANTIFA? ¿Alguien había fumado? ¿Vagabundo? Nadie sabe. Pero también había esto, un mes antes una mujer de 22 años fue encontrada ahogada en el Ashland Pond bajo circunstancias tristes y aparentemente autoinfligidas y confusas. Lo que creó un “sentimiento” definitivo, quizás fantasmal, con respecto a este hermoso estanque. La noche antes del resplandor yo estaba caminando en los alrededores, y el viento soplaba y se sentía muy seco… y siniestro.

    El día después de la llamarada yo estaba de vuelta en casa y el fuego había arrasado con el carril de la bicicleta y el Greenway para continuar con la destrucción de las comunidades más abajo. La respuesta inicial del Departamento de Bomberos de Ashland nos salvó, pero la devastación tomó fuerza y siguió descendiendo desde aquí Al día siguiente y por varios días los bomberos y la gente local estaban apagando las lumbres con mangueras alrededor del estanque. La parte interna de los árboles brillaban por días, fuegos de color anaranjado profundo muy adentro. Un sentimiento apocalíptico de Mordor impregnaba el ambiente. 

    De todas maneras, decidí manejar mi bicicleta en el carril de bicis y ver cómo se veía. Al comienzo del segundo día había mucho humo para ser saludable. Decidí ir antes del anochecer. Había una barricada inicial, pero nada estaba codificado con una señal de “NO PASE”, era todavía muy fresco el asunto. Estaba solo en la vía y después de un rato de ver un camino vacío…vi al puma.

    Me pareció que capture el espíritu del momento, el cielo…quizás nuestro estilo de vida y patrones crean las circunstancias solo para los capítulos iniciales de lo que tendremos que enfrentar, debido al Cambio Climático creado por nosotros mismos. No se trata solo de nosotros si no de las criaturas que reciben los golpes por nuestra culpa. 


    No tenía idea que estos gatos grandes, que estos animales estuvieran entre nosotros, aquí abajo fuera del bosque.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Hermeticus Books Is Back in Business!

 Hermeticus Books Is Back in Business!

by J.A. Gardener

    If you have been wondering since the Almeda fire what happened to the delightful Hermeticus Bookstore that was located in the historic Hanscom Hall in downtown Talent, you need not worry, it has successfully relocated to Ashland, Oregon at the corner of 4th and B streets. The new shop continues to be a source of hope and inspiration delivering books at a bargain price that features Richard’s unique ability to match the book to the reader, a kind of library angel. 

    The Ashland location of Hermeticus Books is Richard’s sixth bookstore. He opened his first bookstore in 1976. Hermeticus Books lived on Talent Avenue for six years. After a couple of years of being at that location, Richard was able to create a profitable business for himself and good books for the community. However, like many other businesses, the bookstore was faced with impending economic pressure due to COVID-19. Richard responded by staying open and having half-price sales to clear inventory and attract people into the shop. Tragically the September 8, 2020 Almeda fire burned Hanscom Hall, built in 1906, to the ground, including Richard’s storefront, home, and inventory, a complete loss. 

    Fortunately, divine providence and timing seemed to be smiling upon him. Prior to the fire he had purchased a van and was actually asleep that night in the beautiful landscape of Wagner Creek. Richard awoke to the shock of the fire the following morning. He was safe, but the store and his home was gone. Proceeding with the sense of eternal optimism and confidence that Richard carries through his life, he soldiered on to build a new life.

    The Town of Talent provided financial support to help the new Hermeticus Bookstore manifest. Through GoFundMe, Richard received $10,000 in funds from the community of Talent to begin again. He also received 25% of his new inventory directly by donation from friends of the store. This help was absolutely essential as there was no funding coming from traditional organizations such as the Red Cross. Richard said he is deeply grateful to the people of Talent for their support and help. Richard, with his new bookstore partner Pauly Fox, is open for business Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. The store is very much alive and vibrant with that feeling of community and openness to ideas and possibilities. This vital learning hub features a beautiful new sign, and Richard continues his skillful work of matching books with readers. 

    This article of hope is intended to inspire others to find reward and richness from the ashes. Richard moves forward with a feeling of relief and letting go of what was not needed. He holds a sense of purification from the fire. Richard, with his ever optimistic and youthful attitude, views himself as still young and strong. The new store is now paying its own way. He has been open for about six months and accepts donations of books from the community. He attempts to keep prices down and pass the savings on to the community.  

¡Hermeticus Books abre sus puertas nuevamente!, Spanish translation of Hermeticus Books Is Back in Business!

¡Hermeticus Books abre sus puertas nuevamente!

por J. A. Gardener

Si, desde el incendio de Alameda, nos hemos preguntado, ¿qué pasó con la encantadora librería, Hermeticus, que estaba ubicada en el Centro Histórico Hanscom Hall en Talent?  No debe preocuparse, se ha reubicado exitosamente en la esquina de las calles 4a y B en Ashland, Oregón. La nueva tienda continúa siendo una fuente de esperanza e inspiración que ofrece libros a un precio de ganga en la cual el don particular de Richard es el de conectar al lector con el libro, él es un ángel de la biblioteca.

Hermeticus Books en Ashland es la sexta librería de Richard. Abrió su primera librería en 1976. Hermeticus Books estuvo en Talent Avenue durante seis años. Después de estar un par de años en ese lugar, Richard logró elaborar un negocio lucrativo para él y ofrecer buenos libros para la comunidad. Sin embargo, como muchos otros negocios, la librería enfrentó una presión económica inminente debido al COVID-19, y para permanecer abierta la librería Richard ofreció ofertas a mitad de precio para liquidar el inventario y atraer a la gente a la tienda. Trágicamente, Hanscom Hall, construido en 1906, se quemó hasta sus cimientos en el incendio de Almeda del 8 de septiembre de 2020, incluyendo la fachada de la tienda, su casa y el inventario de Richard. Fue una pérdida total.

Afortunadamente, parece que la divina providencia y el momento oportuno estaban de su lado. Antes del incendio había comprado una furgoneta, y esa noche estaba durmiendo en el hermoso paisaje de Wagner Creek. Richard despertó esa mañana con el impacto del fuego. Estaba a salvo, pero la tienda y su casa desaparecieron.  Con el optimismo y la confianza de siempre que ha tenido Richard a lo largo de su vida, siguió adelante construyendo una vida nueva.

El Pueblo de Talent le brindó apoyo económico para ayudar a la apertura de la nueva Librería Hermeticus. A través de GoFundMe, Richard recibió $10,000 en fondos de la comunidad de Talent para comenzar de nuevo. También recibió el 25% de su nuevo inventario directamente de donaciones de amigos de la tienda. Esta ayuda fue absolutamente esencial ya que no existían fondos procedentes de organizaciones tradicionales como la Cruz Roja. Richard indicó que está profundamente agradecido con la gente de Talent por su apoyo y ayuda. Richard, con su nuevo socio en la librería, Pauly Fox, abren la tienda de 10 am a 5 pm, de martes a sábado.  La tienda está muy activa y vibrante con ese ambiente de comunidad y abierta a ideas y posibilidades. Este importante centro de aprendizaje cuenta con un hermoso letrero nuevo, y Richard continúa con su hábil trabajo de hacer contener los libros con sus lectores.

Este artículo de esperanza pretende inspirar a otros a encontrar gratificación y riqueza de las cenizas. Richard avanza con el sentimiento de alivio dejando ir lo que no es necesario. Tiene una concepción de purificación del fuego. Richard, con su actitud siempre optimista y juvenil, se considera todavía joven y fuerte. La nueva tienda ahora se sostiene económicamente estando abierta durante unos seis meses aceptando donaciones de libros de la comunidad. Intenta mantener los precios bajos para el beneficio de la comunidad.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Myke G's Fire Story

 My Fire Story 

by Myke G

    On September 8, 2020 I had a medical appointment at 10:30 in the morning at La Clinica in Phoenix. I left my home at Holiday Gardens in Talent at 10:00am. When I got to the clinic, the first thing that was alarming was that the two sets of sliding doors leading into the lobby were opening and closing, not rapidly but nevertheless, repeatedly on their own. I was there for lab work, which happened, and to have a chat with the nurse practitioner, which didn’t happen because the computers were down. I was sent on my way, saying they would call me. No one said anything about a fire although everybody seemed rather jumpy, but I still didn’t think too much about it.  

    My plan was to get groceries at Winco and go back home so I headed out towards Medford. While I was shopping, the store started shutting down the checkout lanes. I asked one of the employees and he told me they were probably going to close down the store because there was a fire burning on the Bear Creek greenway and it was coming our way. There was never any announcement over the intercom, at least while I was there. I hurriedly went around and put back frozen goods and quickly checked out. Thinking ahead, I kept a few things to eat, should I need them, bananas and turkey lunch meat, and headed out to my car to think. What was I going to do? What did I need to do? 

    The first thing on my mind was I had to call my close friend and neighbor, Patti. We had previously discussed, and had an agreement, that I would help her evacuate should we ever need to do that because she did not have a car. She was of course scared, and pleaded with me to come back and get her, a plan that I felt was fraught with danger. Talent Avenue going past our homes was by this time packed with traffic making an escape. I asked her to please go up to the office and let them know that she was still there. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life to say I couldn’t come get her. As soon as we hung up, I called 911 and told them that there were several people still at the Holiday Gardens location, in their apartments. I heard later that that call resulted in them sending officers around to knock on the doors. Patti meanwhile rounded up my cat and put her in the carrier I had there for her, and then went up to the office and found a ride out of danger, thank goodness.

    The next thing I quickly realized was that I needed to go buy a charge cord to keep my phone going in the car, something I had always meant to buy and never did. I found my way to a very busy Freddie Meyers, especially the gas station, in a panic and found those items. 

    The other thing I was concerned about was, I did not have any of my diabetic medications with me. It was not my habit to carry them around when I went shopping. They were home in my refrigerator. Patti said she would grab a few and take them with her, which she did, because we had agreed to try to meet up at the Fred Meyers parking lot, if at all possible. That never happened because the people that she was being rescued by were on their way to Williams, and it was too confusing in the madness of evacuation to make that long detour. The rest of Patti’s story is told in the documentation of the fire under her name. She and Sassy, the cat, spent some quality time together in Williams.

    When I was in Fred Meyers, I asked at the pharmacy what one did when one needed emergency insulin. They had no answer and looked at me blankly. I think everybody was in a state of panic at the moment, worried about their own safety as they should.

    I called everybody, my sisters, my kids, the people at the museum, letting them all know that I was okay and out of danger, something I was actually not quite sure of yet, how far was the fire going to reach? Was my home still standing or had it burned down? Where would I sleep that night? I drove around a lot, all over, just continually wondering, where can I get insulin? Where should I go if Medford starts burning?

    I already knew that if I needed to, I could sleep in my car. Being a bit of an explorer/traveler in the past, it wouldn’t be the first time. Around dusk and still in search of insulin, I drove into the emergency area at Asante Hospital. There was nobody there, no one. I never figured that out. I parked in the hospital parking lot facing south, watched the fire progress and ate my simple supper of banana and turkey. Then I decided to see how far south I could go on 99. I was turned back at Garfield, but that did answer one question, it didn’t look like the fire was going to be advancing into Medford.

    Since the south facing parking lot was way too bright, I went up to the Black Oak parking lot, it was empty and much darker. I crawled in the back seat, locked the doors, covered up with a blanket I thankfully had there, and promptly went to sleep. I was exhausted.

    The next morning, I called 911 again about my insulin problem. I had heard from somebody already that our dwellings at Holiday Gardens were still standing so I knew I could go there and get my medications if I could get in through the police barricades. When I had called 911 the day before, I never got anybody who could help me figure out my problem. I think they were overwhelmed by calls of help and had younger people answering the phones. But that day when I called, I got a very efficient woman who immediately understood what I needed and gave me a password to get into Talent through the police barrier. Amusingly, it was “Captain White House.” I drove directly there and got my medications and packed a bag of clothes and toiletries.

     I had also gotten a welcome phone call from my museum friend and same-named sister-in-history, Myke R, inviting me to come and stay with her at her house in Ashland. Hallelujah, things were coming together. Thank you again my friend, I can’t say that enough. I stayed with Myke for 4 restful days. We residents at Holiday Gardens were allowed back in the apartments 5 days after the fire. There was no running water for a while, and we were told we shouldn’t drink it for quite a while after it came back on, but the buildings were undamaged, if a bit smoky smelling. However, just across from us on Talent Avenue, the neighborhoods were burned to the ground. You could see the traffic running on Hwy. 99 through the burned tree trunks. So sad.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Bottles from Crown Market


Photo courtesy of Talent Historical Society

The Story of Julek’s Polish Kitchen

The Story of Julek’s Polish Kitchen

Interview by Diana Roome

Owner: Bogusia Klinefelter

    Julek’s was an authentic Polish restaurant. Everything was made from scratch and made to order by Bogusia herself. Bogusia used organic, non-GMO, pesticide-free, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, and free-range ingredients. The restaurant opened in 2012 and was destroyed in the Almeda Fire in 2020.

    Bogusia was born and raised in Poland and moved to Southern Oregon from Poland in 1989. She has always had a passion for bringing people together over homemade meals, and always hosted large dinner parties at her home while raising her three children. She had dreamt of hosting on a larger scale, and eventually she was able to bring Julek’s into fruition. 

Here is her story in her own words:

    I had been prepping all day the day before the fire and had planned to prep all day on the day of the fire as well. I was planning to be open for business the following day. I arrived at Julek’s in the morning, as I usually did, and began prepping and cooking. I remember the horrific wind that had been howling throughout the night and morning. I also remember hearing about a fire that broke out in Ashland. In the late morning, my sons, who also live in Talent, called me in a panic. They were doing everything they could to soak their house with their garden hoses and prepare for the rushing fire to hit their neighborhood. They told me to leave Julek’s right away and that the fire was coming up toward us. They said to grab whatever I could from Julek’s and from my home and get out of the valley ASAP. In a panic I grabbed what I could (which did not end up being much at all) and ran to my home (also located in Talent) to grab a few things. My daughter and her husband were stuck at their jobs, her being in Ashland with no way to get to Talent due to road closures, and him hurriedly evacuating as many neighborhoods as possible, and transporting families who did not have vehicles to the Fairgrounds. My daughter and son in law’s home was also in danger, so I was able to pick up their two dogs and a few important documents from their home. From there I went toward the Applegate but was stuck in traffic with everyone else trying to flee the valley. Eventually I made it to our family friend’s home safely and waited for news from there. 

    It was grueling, spending all night not knowing what was of the valley. All I knew was that my children were safe. 

    In the morning, I got the news that shocked me to my core. Quite honestly, I still have not recovered from this initial shock. I was in pure denial that Julek’s was gone. I did not believe it. Over two years later I still wake up in the middle of the night and think, “what am I prepping tomorrow?” and then I remember. 

    My children did not want me coming back to the valley right away. Their homes, as well as mine were safe, but they said the town wasn’t safe- there were still spot fires breaking out everywhere, the air quality was horrible. And I know they were also trying to protect me from seeing the destruction of what Julek’s now was. 

    When I returned to the valley two days after the fire, I needed to go straight to Julek’s. I had to see it with my own eyes. I couldn’t believe it until I saw it for myself. There was nothing left. It was leveled. I lost my breath. I was crushed. I cannot describe the feeling. I had spent nearly every day of the last 8-plus years there, and before that I had spent over two years planning for what it would be. Julek’s was my home, it was where I spent most of my days, it was where my family gathered.

    I was unable to salvage anything. As I walked very carefully through the dangerous rubble, with metal sticking up and poking everywhere, all I could find were a few ceramics, but as I reached for them, they literally crumbled in my hands. 

    I had many family heirlooms at Julek’s, including Polish cookbooks that had been passed down to me from my Polish Elders, many family photos, and Polish antiques. I had on display Polish tablecloths and all of the large Polish tapestries that had been passed down to me, which were very old and handmade. They were intricate and gorgeous. These were of the most sentimental to me. My most sentimental valuable possessions were at Julek’s. 

    I had insurance however it did not help nearly as much as insurance should, or as promised. The insurance process was exhausting, and the company was so demanding. I did, to the best of my ability, list every single item lost and the amount of which each and every item was worth. This took months and months and pages upon pages of lists. Once I submitted the enormous amount of paperwork they required, they reimbursed a laughable (rather, cry-able) amount, and then later retracted and demanded I return a large portion of what they had reimbursed. I ended up having to hire an attorney to dispute this and thank goodness I did. The attorney worked hard for months to fight the insurance company and eventually the insurance company gave up. 

    I was blessed to have incredible support from the community in the form of a GoFundMe account that my daughter set up. I would not have been able to keep my head above water without this support. A local small business, The Cheese Cave, delivered sweet gift baskets to the business owners who lost their businesses as well. 

    I was in a lease agreement with the owners of the building Julek’s was located in, and they decided not to rebuild. The lot is currently for sale. I have been and am working toward finding another storefront that would work well for me. In these trying times where it is extremely hard to find employees, and seeing many other businesses struggle with being understaffed, I am forced to redesign my business. I want to serve the valley again, and I cannot wait to do so. 

    I greatly appreciate the calls, texts, and emails I continue to get from past customers and friends, it gives me the strength and encouragement I desperately need to push on. I feel the urge to give up, I can’t lie. But then I remember how much I loved serving the wonderful folks of the valley, and how much love and support I felt, and it reminds me to carry on. I hope that whatever shape or form Julek’s is revived in, that I can once again bring forth the same comfort food that fed so many bellies, and once again bring joyous smiles to so many faces. I dearly miss these moments. 

    Thank you for the opportunity to share my story, it was painful and hard to relive these moments that I try to bury down deep in order to protect my heart. My heart breaks for everyone who lost their homes and businesses in this horrific fire that destroyed our beautiful little towns.

La historia de la cocina polaca de Julek, Spanish translation of The Story of Julek’s Polish Kitchen

La historia de la cocina polaca de Julek 

Entrevista de Diana Roome 

Dueña: Bogusia Klinefelter

Julek's era un auténtico restaurante polaco. Todo era hecho desde cero y hecho a pedido por la propia Bogusia. Bogusia utilizó ingredientes orgánicos, no transgénicos, sin pesticidas, sin hormonas, sin antibióticos y de gama libre. El restaurante abrió en 2012 y fue destruido en el incendio Almeda en el año 2020.

Bogusia nació y creció en Polonia y se mudó al sur de Oregón desde Polonia en 1989. Siempre ha tenido una pasión por reunir a las personas durante comidas caseras, y siempre organizó grandes cenas en su casa mientras criaba a sus tres hijos. Ella había soñado con ser anfitriona a mayor escala, y finalmente pudo llevar a cabo Julek.

Aquí está su historia en sus propias palabras:

Yo había estado preparando todo el día y el día antes del incendio y había planeado preparar todo el día el día del incendio también. Estaba planeando estar abierto al día siguiente. Llegué a Julek's en la mañana, como solía hacer, y comencé a preparar y cocinar. Recuerdo el horrible viento que había estado aullando durante toda la noche y la mañana. También recuerdo haber oído hablar de un incendio que empezó en Ashland. A última hora de la mañana, mis hijos, que también viven en Talent, me llamaron en pánico. Estaban haciendo todo lo posible para empapar su casa con sus mangueras de jardín y prepararse para que el incendio llegara a su vecindario. Me dijeron que saliera de Julek de inmediato porque el incendio venía hacia nosotros. Me dijeron que tomara todo lo que pudiera de Julek y de mi casa y saliera del valle lo más pronto posible. En pánico agarré lo que pude (que no terminó siendo mucho en absoluto) y corrí a mi casa (también ubicada en Talent) para agarrar algunas cosas. Mi hija y su esposo estaban atrapados en sus trabajos, ella estaba en Ashland sin forma de llegar a Talent debido a los cierres de carreteras, y él evacuó apresuradamente a tantos vecindarios como le fue posible y transportó a familias que no tenían vehículos al recinto ferial. La casa de mi hija y mi yerno también estaba en peligro, así que pude recoger a sus dos perros y algunos documentos importantes de su casa. De allí fui hacia Applegate, pero estaba atrapada en el tráfico con todos los demás que estaban tratando de huir del valle. Finalmente llegué a la casa de nuestro amigo de la familia a salvo y esperé noticias de allí.

Fue agotador, pasando toda la noche sin saber qué era del valle. Todo lo que sabía era que mis hijos estaban a salvo.

Por la mañana, recibí la noticia que me sorprendió hasta el corazón. Honestamente, todavía no me he recuperado de este shock inicial. Estaba en pura negación de que Julek se había ido. No lo creía. Más de dos años después, todavía me despierto en medio de la noche y pienso: "¿qué voy a preparar mañana?" y luego me acuerdo.

Mis hijos no querían que volviera al valle de inmediato. Sus casas, así como la mía estaban a salvo, pero dijeron que la ciudad no estaba aún a salvo, todavía había incendios en todas partes, la calidad del aire era horrible. Y sé que también estaban tratando de protegerme de ver la destrucción de lo que era ahora Julek.

Cuando regresé al valle dos días después del incendio, necesitaba ir directamente a Julek. Tenía que verlo con mis propios ojos. No podía creerlo hasta que lo vi por mí misma. No quedaba nada. Fue nivelado. Perdí el aliento. Estaba destrozada. No puedo describir el sentimiento. Había pasado casi todos los días de los últimos 8 años allí, y antes de eso había pasado más de dos años planeando lo que sería. Julek era mi hogar, era donde pasaba la mayor parte de mis días, era donde se reunía mi familia.

No pude salvar nada. Mientras caminaba con mucho cuidado a través de los peligrosos escombros, con metal saliendo y hurgando por todas partes, todo lo que pude encontrar fueron algunas cerámicas, pero cuando las agarraba, literalmente se desmoronaron en mis manos.

Tenía muchas reliquias familiares en Julek, incluyendo libros de cocina polacos que me los habían pasado mis polacos mayores, muchas fotos familiares y antigüedades polacas. Tenía en exhibición manteles polacos y todos los grandes tapices polacos que me habían pasado, que eran muy antiguos y hechos a mano. Eran intrincados y magníficos. Estos fueron de los más sentimentales para mí. Mis posesiones más sentimentales y valiosas estaban en Julek.

Tenía seguro, sin embargo, no ayudó tanto como el seguro debería, o como se prometió. El proceso de seguro fue agotador y la compañía era muy exigente. Hice lo mejor que pude enumerar cada artículo perdido y la cantidad de lo que valían todos y cada uno de los artículos. Esto tomó meses y meses y páginas sobre páginas de listas. Una vez que presenté la enorme cantidad de documentación que requerían, reembolsaron una cantidad ridícula (más bien, para llorar), y luego se retractaron y exigieron que devolviera una gran parte de lo que habían reembolsado. Terminé teniendo que contratar a un abogado para disputar esto y gracias a Dios que lo hice. El abogado trabajó duro durante meses para luchar contra la compañía de seguros y, finalmente, la compañía de seguros se rindió. 

Tuve la bendición de tener un apoyo increíble de la comunidad en forma de una cuenta GoFundMe que mi hija creó. No habría podido mantener mi cabeza a flote sin este apoyo. Un pequeño negocio local, la Cueva del Queso, entregó canastas de regalo con dulces a los propietarios de negocios que también perdieron sus negocios.

Estaba en un contrato de arrendamiento con los propietarios del edificio en el que se encontraba Julek, y decidieron no reconstruirlo. El lote está actualmente a la venta. He estado y estoy trabajando para encontrar otro local que funcione bien para mí. En estos tiempos difíciles en los que es extremadamente difícil encontrar empleados, y ver a muchos otros negocios luchando con la falta de personal, me veo obligada a rediseñar mi negocio. Quiero servir al valle de nuevo, y no puedo esperar a hacerlo.

Aprecio enormemente las llamadas, mensajes de texto y correos electrónicos que sigo recibiendo de clientes y amigos pasados, me dan la fuerza y el aliento que necesito desesperadamente para seguir adelante. Siento la necesidad de rendirme, no puedo mentir. Pero luego recuerdo cuánto me gustaba servir a la maravillosa gente del valle, y cuánto amor y apoyo sentía, y me recuerda que debo seguir adelante. Espero que cualquiera que sea la forma en la que Julek sea revivida, que pueda una vez más dar a luz la misma comida reconfortante que alimentó tantos vientres, y una vez más traer sonrisas alegres a tantas caras. Extraño mucho esos momentos.

Gracias por la oportunidad de compartir mi historia, fue doloroso y difícil revivir estos momentos que trato de enterrar profundamente para proteger mi corazón. Mi corazón se rompe por todos los que perdieron sus hogares y negocios en este horrible incendio que destruyó nuestros pequeños pueblos hermosos.

Monday, December 5, 2022


 1.Okay, thank you for being here Brian. I just want to let you know this meeting will be shared publicly with the Talent Historical Society. So, let's get started. Were you on call when the fire started?

2. I was not on duty but in the summertime any off-duty firefighter can come help with any bigger event. So, that day, I was off duty but went to help because it was clearly a big fire.

1. Yeah, for sure. Did you think the fire was going to spread like it did or did you think that people that were on call were going to get it put out quickly?

2.Good Question. In the summer, most of the grass fires we have, if we go help, if there's plenty of folks available, then usually, it's taken care of in a relatively small area and timeframe. If we have a fire bigger than an acre, that's kind of a bigger deal and obviously takes more time and people to put out. When I first went down there, I figured it was a grassfire that, you know, I'd be home within a couple of hours, as per usual, in the summertime. It became obvious, pretty early on, that that wasn't the case due to the wind quickly spreading it.

1.So, other than the wind and the dryness, what other factors, that many people don't know about, can cause a fire to spread into strain ways?

2.Well, there maybe a few other minor reasons are contributors how fire spreads but wind is probably the biggest. Also, low humidity, like the dryness. Even now, fire season was declared in mid-May because the fuels have low moisture. The State Department of Forestry measures the fuel moisture and that's what determines what fire danger level we're at right now. Fuels are pretty dry but temperatures aren't that extreme, yet, although they're supposed to be 100 degrees. So, as temperatures go up and the fuels drought further then the fire danger will go up. So, dryness, heat, low humidity and wind are all contributors for red flag warnings. These are days where the Weather Service basically warns the public and fire departments that any fire that starts is likely to grow quickly. And that was the case on September 8

1. I know we're not getting any water for sprinklers or anything yet, so everything's so dry around here.

2.Yeah, my ground’s cracking, I mean it was cracking two weeks ago, and it's crazy for me. I mean, everything looks so dry.

1. Yeah. So, what happened to the water pressure for the fire hydrants and how did it affect you guys filling up the tanks in your truck?

2. Great question. That became, for me personally, and the crews I was in charge of…that became a big issue. Later in the day on the 8th I phoned the Phoenix public works director and asked about the hydrants in Phoenix because I got complaints from crews that it was taking more than 20 minutes to fill a fire engine. Normally, that takes less than five minutes to fill. And so, crews were fighting fires, then they had to leave the scenes to go fill up with water and return with that kind of delay. Obviously, that allows fires to grow more quickly. He told me that during the power outage, they're running on backup generators to run the pump, and they were at full capacity, He said Phoenix and Talent were running at full capacity on the backup generator and it wasn't enough. Later, as we talked about it, he said, yeah, you know, with each home that's burning or burned down, broken water pipes are leaking water throughout both towns. On top of the water that all the fire engines were using. So, it just tapped the reservoirs basically.

1.So, what was the craziest thing you witnessed working on the fire?

2.A normal house fire will have four engines. Battalion Chief, on a first response. So, the call comes in as a structure fire or a potential structure fire. We'll get that many vehicles and that many people. On September 8th, in the first 10 hours, I think 900 structures were burning in our area, so you can imagine how thinly we were spread. I think the toughest part for me was having crews engage in a particular spot, like trying to put out fires in one spot and making little headway but looking down when two fires away were starting to grow. That was the hardest part. I remember pulling into a mobile home park, and there were three fires in there. Each one of them was working on a different house that was on fire, just a little bit, you know how a small fire kind of has incipient stages of a house fire but within minutes... 

The amber shower in the air and the winds blowing embers around, there were probably 20 structures on fire and so they had to retreat and pull out of there. One way in, one way out of the park, single fires are hard enough for one crew, which is typically either two or three people, but 20 is just impossible. Especially with that mass amount of fuel load, fire potential and actual fire spread.

1.Wow. So, how many hours did you work straight on the fire?

2.I showed up about noon, the fire slowly started around 11. I dropped my son off to his driver's test at Phoenix high at 11, and went straight to the station. My gear is in the Phoenix station. When I arrived there to get it there were no vehicles in the station. That that was a clue to me that it had grown and it was big. So, I grabbed my gear and drove to Talent Fire Station. When I got there, there were only two vehicles left, one is a ladder truck that wasn't in service yet and a battalion Chiefs rig. So, I got in that vehicle and started to take some direction from the instant commander, like where I should be. We were assigned down to South Valley View near Ashland, I was actually assigned some engines to manage about noon and then my regular shift was supposed to start the next day for 48 hours. So, I ended up putting in about 68 hours straight, without sleep. That was challenging. We were exhausted in more ways than just physically and emotionally. It was a lot. 

1.For my last question, I have to ask you these three things. What would you rather use at your department. First, drive the back foot ladder truck, second, have fire pole or third use the Dalmatian dog?

2.I do like heights, so a lot for each option. I have to go with the Dalmatian. I think it'd be fun having a station pet. Yeah, that's a good question.

1.Yeah. Well, thank you so much for being here. It's been a great interview, I got some great things, and it’s cool hearing a firefighter’s point of view.

2.Yeah, you're welcome. I’ve got to hand it to law enforcement because they dealt with the evacuation side of it. Considering the destruction that you see every day, you and I see when we drive through our community, it's amazing that they were able to evacuate as many people as they did. I know it was chaos for most people trying to evacuate but I think our death toll could have been a lot higher. Yeah, if it weren't for law enforcement work.

1.Well you guys did a great job too and we thank you so much for working that many hours straight and saving many lives and homes. 

2.We did what we could but with that wind. If the wind was a light breeze that day it would have been a one-acre grass fire and wouldn't even make it in the newspaper. Here with those high winds, it just pushed that fire right through our communities. 

1.Thank you for being here Brian. 

2.Yeah, you're welcome, take care man, 

1.You too. I will talk to you later then. 


Photo courtesy of Talent Historical Society

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Simple Machine Winery and Tasting Room- Brian and Clea's Fire Story

 Simple Machine Winery and Tasting Room, owners Brian and Clea 

Interview by Diana Roome

    Clea was born and raised in Applegate and Ashland and her parents have lived in Talent for 30 years. Brian moved to Ashland from California in 2010 and started making the Simple Machine wines. They moved together to Talent in January of 2017 and opened Simple Machine Winery and Tasting Room on Pacific Highway 99 in late 2017. This was the second business that Clea started in Talent. Her cafe, Cantina Vida, was sold to Awna Zegzdryn, who created the Sweet Beet Station at the end of 2016. 

    Clea tells their story: I was trail running on the PCT on Mt Ashland when the fire started. I had finished my run and was driving home when Brian called me. He said that he was evacuating the winery and that our tenants were also leaving. At that time, Brian was working on the first fruit of the 2020 harvest: Sauvignon Blanc. He had walked across the street to get ice from Crown Market. When he was walking back he saw the wall of smoke. Almost immediately, he was certain that we would be in the path. 

    When I heard this, my first reaction was only for Brian and our tenants to get to safety. Nothing else mattered. Our second priority was to secure our pets and have a safe way to evacuate further as needed. No one knew how the fire was going to spread. We didn’t try to salvage anything. I was unable to get back to Talent. The onramp to I-5 south from Mt Ashland was closed at this time due to road construction. I drove back via the old highway, behind a rural fire truck that was heading toward the fire, too. When we got to Emigrant Lake there was a vehicle on fire with a person standing next to it. No other cars were on site. Thankfully, the fire truck was there to put out this fire before it spread toward Ashland. It was incredibly scary to see this second fire with the winds howling and potentially pushing it toward Ashland. I then got stuck in traffic in town, and I couldn’t get back to Talent. I ended up evacuating with friends down to Mt. Shasta. We were all really freaked out that the winds could shift. 

    Brian was able to get to our house in the hills south of Talent and gather up our pets. He spent a super tense day and part of the night with neighbors and family, gathered at the Stearns Cemetery on Anderson Creek Road. Late in the night a lot of people decided to get out of there because the fires seemed threatening even a mile or so outside downtown Talent. Some folks went up the backroads and over into the Applegate. Others took backroads to Medford. My step-dad invited some other evacuees to stay at his house in the hills above Talent and they waited it out. Brian was able to get to the east side of the valley on Valley View Road where he watched the fires most of the night before making his way to our friend Eric Weisinger’s home on the south end of Ashland. He spent the night in his truck with our three cats and our 90-pound rescue dog, Marvin. He drove back through Talent the next morning when it was just getting light. That is when we knew that we, along with unfathomable numbers of other people, had lost everything. We live outside the city limits and our own home was not impacted. On the same property as our commercial business, we also owned a three-bedroom house which we rented to a local family. The house burned down, and the family lost everything. 

    For us, the loss of over four vintages of wine in addition to all our library wines was catastrophic. Every drop of wine that Brian had carefully crafted was destroyed. Each year’s vintage is unique and cannot be reproduced. The heart, the soul and the back-breaking work that went into each bottle was just wiped away in a couple hours. As Brian wrote in a letter to our wine club members on September 12, four days after the fire: “Every barrel, bottle, and every piece of equipment was incinerated. The loss of the winery and all inventory is devastating, but seeing the destruction our friends’ and neighbors’ houses, businesses, and memories in our beloved hometown of Talent, Oregon was infinitely worse. The tragedy that struck Talent prompted some serious soul searching about whether or not to pull up roots and move on.” Five days after the fires the air was too hazardous to breathe and our power was still off so we were staying at a hotel outside of town. We quickly decided that we had to keep our business going and we needed to figure out a way to rebuild. We made arrangements with our growers for the remainder of the 2020 fruit and within a few days Brain was working 50+ hours a week crushing grapes at our friends’ winery down the road.

    We had lost all our inventory and we needed to figure out how to raise money to keep paying all the bills. I launched a promotion selling future wines to help keep us in business. We pre-sold packages of 6 or 12 bottles of two future wines. We didn’t even know what the wines would be yet because the fruit was still being picked. We received some powerful local, regional and even national news coverage because we were the only winery in Oregon to burn down. Our After Fire (AF) wine sale was a huge success and the two new wines were ready to ship by May of 2021. We ended up shipping AF Wines to over 20 different states. We created a custom “Thank You” on the back labels of these wines and it really allowed us to share a story of hope and collaboration. The list of folks who donated items and supported us was long.

    Then, I got to work on navigating the world of insurance. We found amazing partners with our construction team at the Ausland Group and they moved heaven and earth to get us rebuilt in time for the 2021 harvest. The new winery and tasting room were operational in under a year. We were not able to re-build the residential part (3-bedroom house) on the property due to lack of insurance funds. We had insurance, but not enough. FEMA does not have programs for businesses or rental properties. Luckily, we were able to get SBA EDIL loans. They are not forgivable, but they have very good rates. We got some grants from the Energy Trust, the Rotary Club and the State of Oregon for the materials used to rebuild. But in the end, it was necessary to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in new debt to rebuild. 

    To survive something like this you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward, but it is an excruciating experience that I would not wish on anyone. You also have look for the silver linings. This community rallied behind us and we had a crazy amount of encouragement particularly from within the wine industry. We made the absolute best of a terrible, potentially business ending, event and we are incredibly grateful for everyone who helped make it possible. In particular, our friends at Barrel 42 were unbelievably generous and because of their support we were able to still produce a 2020 harvest. 

    Now, in 2022, we are operational year-round, five days a week and we have two employees. Business is good but still slower than before the fires. Once more housing is complete and more people are living in nearby neighborhoods, things will improve. We also look forward to more businesses returning to the highway.

    Rebuilding does not equal recovery. The scars that this event have left on our community are still raw and it will take years to work toward healing. There are many families still living in hotels and other temporary housing. Our communities really rose to up to meet this challenge and that continues to inspire us. We truly are stronger together.

Green Tree Building


Photo courtesy of Talent Historical Society


 Dillon’s Fire Story

    On the morning of September 8, 2020, I woke up and it was very windy. When the smoke came, I realized there was something going on. We figured out that if there was smoke, there must be fire. We got a call from the cops saying, “Pack up and evacuate!” “Pack up and evacuate!”

    We packed up all of our stuff and loaded up our camper and boat. We went to my granny’s house in Medford. I saw a lot of traffic and a lot of smoke. We stayed there for about four weeks. Then we discovered that our house was still there. I am grateful to still have my house.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Melted Coins


Photo courtesy of Talent Historical Society

Cathy's Fire Story- Almeda Fire Memoirs

Almeda Fire Memoirs - by Cathy

Including the Adventures of Rocky the Great Pyrenees

note: this article appears on pages six and seven of the March 2021 issue of the Talent Historical Society Newsletter, The Historicale

    I live in South Talent Oregon on a small farm with sheep and chickens with my husband, Richard. On Sept 8, 2020, I woke up in the middle of the night to high winds. We have a lot of walnut trees on our property and in this season, walnuts are dropping from the trees when they are ripe. The high winds that night caused walnuts to pound down on our roof. There were so many and constant. It was way beyond anything I’d ever experienced before.

    Late morning that same day the winds were still blowing very hard, and I got a fire alert on my phone that was located in Ashland just south of here. Evacuations were being ordered there. My husband, Richard, and I had lunch and went to a neighbor’s house that is up the hill from us and we could watch the fire advance. It was headed in our direction. I went home and started packing. Shortly after, I got a text message from Dana, my husband’s cousin who also lives in Talent. He and his partner, Michele were evacuating. I was shocked!! I had heard NOTHING about the fire being in Talent. We live on the south end of town, so I was very concerned. 

    I texted Richard and told him to come home immediately. Once he came home, we made the decision to leave. Richard went outside and turned on our water cannon so it was spraying the roof of our house. We finished packing.  We packed up the car with our things, our two small dogs and dog food. We got a call from a neighbor who was stuck in Ashland. Her mother was in their house alone and they asked us to get her and take her out. We said sure. As we were heading out, she called again and told us she had called the sheriff and they said they would get her. So, we left. It was very clear right away that it was going to take a long time to get out of town. We were in a long line of cars trying to go the same way we were. About 10 minutes later that same neighbor called us to tell us that the sheriff hadn’t picked up her mother yet. 

    Richard turned around to head back home, but the police stopped him. Richard said he needed to get to this elderly woman who hadn’t gotten picked up yet. The police pointed out some police cars up the road and said they were on their way. We turned back and started out again. We spent an hour going about 2 miles. Finally, Richard turned off the highway on a back road and we headed to Medford where his brother Steve lives. We spent that afternoon and evening with Steve and Kate. We watched the news about the fire, and they graciously served us dinner. About 8PM we heard that they were then at evacuation level 2. That means they should be packed and ready to go. Level 3 means go. It became clear to us that we needed to leave. We decided to drive back home to see if it was still there. We didn’t know where else we could go. We also knew that the leading edge of the fire was past us. In retrospect, I don’t think I would do that again, but we wanted to see if we still had a house.

    We drove the back roads through Medford and Phoenix towards Talent to avoid traffic and the fires on the main roads. When we approached Phoenix, we could see the flames in town. The sky was red. It was awful. Then we got to Talent and turned up the main road, Talent Avenue. The left side of Talent Ave for about 1/2 mile was in flames. It was a nightmare. We continued up the street and got to a place where there were no flames and finally reached home. 

    There was a car blocking our driveway. Someone had pulled off the road into our driveway crosswise. Then they left their car presumably to enter our property. Since looting is a common occurrence in these situations, I was scared. We drove on the grass around the car and entered our property. It was clear right away that we had no power. I went into the house, and Richard started walking around looking for the owner of the car. By the time I left the house with a flashlight, Richard had found the man who had expensive looking camera equipment around his neck. He was apparently using our property to get pictures of the fire. I was pretty shocked.

    Before he left, he saw one of our big field dogs, Lilly walking around our yard. She and Rocky live outside in the field protecting our sheep from predators. The breed is Great Pyrenees. They are very good at protecting our sheep and also escaping the field. Since we had no power, our invisible fence system was down, and she “escaped”. Little did we suspect at that point that she wasn’t the only one. We put her in the barn until we could get some power to the fence system.

    We went to bed with our cell phones close by. The next morning, we still had no power. That meant we also had no water (we are on a well with a pump) and no internet. Our first priorities were our refrigerator and freezers. Richard went back to his brother’s house in Medford and borrowed a generator. He started it up and ran extension cords into the house and barn to keep them going. Over the course of the next 5 days, we learned how to take sponge baths with very little water, flush toilets with buckets of water from the irrigation canal and start up our stove with matches. We also adjusted our sleep habits to go to bed when it got dark and wake when it got light. Our nephew filled a large tank with clean water for us and the rest of the neighbors. Another neighbor helped us get more gas for the generator. It was so wonderful the way our community helped each other out.

    It took us a day to notice that one of our field dogs was missing. Since our invisible fence was down (due to the power outage) we figured it was a strong possibility that Rocky had escaped. Both our dogs are escape artists. They love to go wandering. They have no fear of climbing a fence if they are allowed to get close to it. I had long ago deleted the Facebook app from my phone, but I decided it was time to put it back on since I couldn’t use my computer. I had to get onto one of the lost pet’s pages and put in an ad to look for him. I started that process and found that it basically went “viral” all across the state. Two of my nieces in the Portland area were cross posting my ad in other sites. I am so grateful for their help. without it we might not have found him.

    I got several pictures from folks, but one caught my eye. A vet in Portland sent me a picture of a dog whose head was clearly Rocky’s, but he had been shaved. I was not clear it was Rocky, so the vet also sent me a picture of his license tag (Yes, he had that, and our phone number written on his collar). The license number clearly matched our records. It was amazing to me that our dog was now 300 miles away with no hair. I couldn’t comprehend that.  I notified my nephew Travis that our dog was now in Portland. He said he was going to drive there to fetch him with his daughter. 

    Rocky lives outside. He has long thick hair which requires grooming several times a year. He is constantly dirty and full of mats. Frankly, he looks like a dog who is not cared for. Which is really incorrect but that's the way it is. Appearances can be deceiving. We didn't have the whole story on why he was brought up to Portland. I now knew that is the case though. He already escaped the original person and someone else found him and took him to a clinic in Portland where the pictures were taken.

    Once Rocky left the clinic, the first rescuer saw the second rescuer and Rocky and claimed the dog belonged to him. Rocky was turned over to him at that point. My understanding is that the first rescuer took Rocky up to Portland to purchase a truck. After that was accomplished, he headed home to southern Oregon. Meanwhile Travis was still headed to Portland. 

    Further conversations with the vet put me in contact with the second rescuer. She felt bad about handing over Rocky, but I felt she really had no reason to doubt him. He apparently felt that Rocky had been abandoned in the fire and that he would now take him as his own. He had decided to shave Rocky to clean him up.

    Travis reached Portland and was doing investigations of his own. He got the name of the man who originally found Rocky, and he also got the name of the person who sold him the truck. He called the man who rescued Rocky. Travis found him at work in Grants Pass. He also found out that he lives on the same road we do. The man promised Travis that he would return Rocky when he got home from work that evening. Richard and I went to his house at the time when he was expected home and waited and waited. Finally, we called Travis and found that his new truck had broken down on his way home from work. Travis said he would stop by later that evening to pick up Rocky.

    The next morning, we found Rocky in the barn with Lilly. She had stopped crying. I’ve since purchased a jacket for Rocky to help keep him warm this winter. I hope he doesn’t tear it up!! We are very happy to have Rocky home with us again.  

    The storm left a huge mess in our yard. We have many trees and they had shed many leaves, walnuts, and branches in our yard. The grass was totally covered in many places. Clean up was complicated by the incredibly bad air quality. I could not go outside without a mask as it hurt my throat. Our air quality was terrible from the California fires It took about 2 weeks for that to clear up so we could go outside again. We still have a huge burn pile to take care of this spring. 

    It took 5 days to get our power back. We were afraid to leave home as the police weren’t letting anyone back in. They are trying to reduce looting and reduce exposure to toxic materials from burning structures.

    I am so grateful for our community and how we all helped each other out that week.


     The purpose of this blog is to document the history of the Almeda Fire. To protect contributors, we have intentionally not allowed comm...