By DAMIAN MANN
Orange, mushroom-shaped clouds of smoke blew up over Glendale on Sunday afternoon as Raul Sanchez nervously watched from the American Red Cross shelter.
“This is the scariest situation I’ve ever lived through,” the 65 year-old said.
Sanchez and his wife, Stella, are some of the 45 households that have been told to evacuate as scores of lightening-caused fires loom above the towns of Glendale and Wolf Creek north of Grants Pass near Interstate 5. A total of 75 homes are threatened by the fire.
Sanchez said the prospect of losing his home, horses, goats, rabbits and geese at his 115-acre property next to Rattlesnake Creek is scarier than surviving a knifing in San Jose, Calif., many years ago.
“Way scarier,” he said.
Sanchez, and his wife nervously eyed the plumes of smoke in a fire that has already come within 1,000 yards of their house.
“It’s too close for comfort, Sanchez said.
The couple was notified at 3 p.m., Saturday, that they had only one hour to collect their belongings, giving them only enough time to gather a few things including medications and their two Labrador dogs.
They moved into the shelter at the Glendale Elementary School.
Sanchez said he’s confident firefighters will do everything in their power to save his house. “They said they might make a command post on my property,” he said.
The couple had received a $28,000 grant earlier this year to clear out the vegetation on the property, which they hoped would make it more defensible.
But the canyon has fickle wind patterns, Sanchez said.
“It swirls in, and it swirls out,” he said.
They appeared to make the best of their situation, sleeping on a cot at night, and they both said they are being well taken care of by the Red Cross.
“They’re really friendly here,” Sanchez said.
His 63-year-old wife said her husband, who had throat cancer, has to sleep sitting up, so the Red Cross created a makeshift bed for him.
“That was very nice of the Red Cross lady,” she said.
Donda King, Red Cross volunteer, said six people checked into the shelter. She said she expected another 20 homes could be evacuated. Two homes from the Wolf Creek area were also evacuated, she said.
“Most people have found homes to stay at,” she said.
In addition to food, clothing and a place to sleep, the Red Cross offers mental health counseling and health services, King said.
Tony Lee, a 58-year-old Glendale resident, said his sister and her husband fled the fire and are living with him.
Like other townspeople, Lee is carefully watching the fire, hoping it doesn’t bear down on the town, which would force an evacuation of the almost 900 residents.
Smoke from the blazes stayed clear of the town most of Sunday, but large columns of orange and white smoke would lift high into the air, appearing to surround the town from three sides.
A lifelong resident of Glendale, Lee said the wet springs over the last few years have provided welcome relief from the smoke that often socks in Southern Oregon.
Glendale doesn’t usually see the kind of fires that strike other areas of Oregon and Northern California, he said.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it here,” he said.
Mike Peavyhouse, a 55-year-old Glendale resident, said he was surprised when the lightning storm started in the middle of the night.
He said there appears to be sufficient fire crews to keep the blaze away from the town. The winds are also cooperating, Peavyhouse said.
“I don’t think it’s time to pack everything,” he said. “Everbody’s concerned — no doubt.”
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.