Aug. 4—A grass fire in lower Lithia Park drew response from city, county and state agencies, who knocked it down around midnight Thursday.
The fire between the park's band shell and the playground was caused by a cooking fire that was still burning — and food actively cooking — when crews arrived, said Ashland Wildfire Division Chief Chris Chambers. Some personal items were recovered from the point of origin, but the suspect had already fled the scene, he said.
Chambers said the Ashland Police Department was investigating the fire and searching for the suspect.
Ten firefighters from Ashland Fire & Rescue responded with four engines to the call at 11:38 p.m. Wednesday. Oregon Department of Forestry sent an engine and a hand crew, for which Chambers said he was grateful, given ODF firefighters' skill and speed at digging line around a fire, as well as their readiness to move snags and logs out of the way.
Crews were able to get an engine onto Pioneer Road, above the fire, and spray water down onto the flames, he said. The portion of the road above the fire is unpaved, serving as a natural fire break, Chambers explained, so the houses nearby were not considered threatened.
"We did evaluate the need for an evacuation, but based on what we saw on the ground, we decided it wasn't needed," Chambers said.
Fire District No. 5 served as backup, ready to assist if the fire spread beyond the park and threatened neighboring houses, but they were not needed.
Firefighters were on scene within five minutes of the call. The fire was knocked down by 12:16 a.m.
During the fire, there was one medical call in the city of Ashland. Fire District 5 and Mercy Flights assisted with the transport of the patient to allow Ashland firefighters to remain on scene, according to an email sent by Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief Ralph Sartain to Ashland City Council.
"Luckily, at the time of the fire we had everybody here; there were no other calls at that time," Chambers said.
Fire crews stayed on scene until it was light, roughly 6 a.m. Thursday, Chambers said, when they could thoroughly sweep the area for spot fires. None were found.
The main walking trail of Lithia Park is safe and free of hazards, Chambers said, but he cautioned against going off trail.
"Some trees may have been weakened by the fire, and crews will be monitoring the area for hot spots throughout the day," he said.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.