Monday, April 25, 2022

Jackson Wellsprings: The Fire Story

The Men's Gathering Place at Jackson Wellsprings

Faery Ring at Jackson Wellsprings
Photos courtesy of Debra Moon

Jackson Wellsprings: The Fire Story

This story by Debra appeared in the November issue of the Talent News & Review


Jackson Wellsprings, a 35-acre property between Ashland and Talent, has been a beloved site for local residents and visitors for centuries. It was threatened by the Alameda fire and saved by a handful of people. 


Priestess Graell, steward of the site, describes it this way, “The Wellsprings were protected by love, water dragons, front liners, first responders, global and local prayers, miracles, and truly dedicated guardians.”


Many people currently living in Ashland or Talent have believed the area to be a Hippie trailer park. Graell says this belief is somewhat of a gargoyle that allows the current users to enjoy the place in peace. In reality, the Wellsprings are much more. The ground at Jackson Wellspings has been considered sacred and the waters healing since its time of use by local native people. Through the centuries it was a place where waring native tribes laid down their weapons to partake of the healing spirit and waters of the site. It was a place of spirituality, peace and neutrality. It was also a place that native women came to for the birth of their babies 


The springs, giving 80,000 gallons of mineral waters daily into the pools, were first developed in Ashland in 1862 when Eugenia Jackson decided they should be open to the public. They were first known as Jackson Hot Springs (named after Eugenia). They are one of eight remaining hot springs in Southern Oregon. The Wellsprings spa, event facilities and gardens offer a healing environment to relax, enjoy and gather. The land is also home to the non-profit, Health Research Institute (HRI), which sponsors educational, botanical and environmental restoration projects. HRI and the Wellsprings are dedicated to promoting optimal human and environmental health. 


On September 7th there was a horrific windstorm that increased to 45-mile-per-hour winds. The next morning a handful of people living at the Wellsprings, and caretaking the grounds, were busy cleaning up trees on the roads and trails, and branches everywhere. At 11 am on the 8th, a half-acre grass fire started at Alameda Drive, close by. This was a fire that would consume 3,200 acres and destroy 2,600 structures in our area. At 11:53 am the police ordered the self-appointed fire fighters to leave, evacuate the area. But they did not leave. Graell sent out a Facebook blast calling for help and prayers. She reached out to other goddess temples: in Prague, Hawaii, Mount Shasta. Locals began showing up to help.


Because of covid—the grounds at the Wellsprings had been basically closed for 6 months and were somewhat overgrown. This was a dangerous situation. They dug a portable water tank out of high brush and began filling it from the largest pool on the property. They made numerous trips from the pool to the road bringing 200 gallons each time. They were soaking the Bear Creek Greenway. 


Cotton trees started exploding from the heat (they are filled with water). The Burger King across the road exploded, then cars started exploding. Graell said it was like a war zone, and none of the helpers had had any time to put on proper fire gear. She fought the fire in a cotton dress, and Herve, her life-partner and a very instrumental person in saving the Wellsprings, was wearing his normal work clothes. He is an arborist, The Tree Gardener.  Graell was helping with hoses and directing fire fighters from small crews to the pool, where they too were obtaining water to fight the fire. Meantime the wind continued to drive the flames further and higher. 


A larger fire crew came over to help Herve at the Wellsprings. At the Wellsprings, the pump drawing water from the pool had quit working after about 20 uses, and the crew helping Herve had turned into a bucket brigade. The larger crew eventually had to keep moving with the fire to prevent more damage down the road, and the local guardians were left with follow-through at the Wellsprings. The flames had jumped the road and were continuing northward down the side of the street that the Wellsprings were on. 


Fire in the trees that had started low, was now traveling up the center of the trees and dropping exploding fire balls from the treetops. The local residents and helpers had to be diligent to put these out quickly as they fell. They had to also mop up coals on the ground and extinguish sparks from the trees. Seven people fought the fire on the property from 11 am on the 8th until 5 am on the 9th, without stopping. At 5 am the group finally was able to lay down for a couple of hours of sleep. They slept on the ground in order to detect any change of wind or uprising of fire. 


Roads were blocked, and to add insult to injury, Graell had to deal with hordes of cars trying to cut through the Wellsprings to avoid the roadblocks. The area went into Emergency Mode and set up a fire safety station. They were on alarm for seven days. Many agencies provided food, water and supplies, including the Ashland Resource Center (Gnomadic Jack and LeBeau), Asha, a goddess attendant, provided global disaster relief, and the Food Bank in Medford of course sent food. 


Many thanks to all brave souls who stayed and saved this place from fire. They did also, with ingenious problem solving and persistence in their efforts,  slow, or stop, the spread of fire from that location forward. And they helped preserve a historic site. 



















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      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 blow...