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DailyTidings.com
  • OAK KNOLL FIRE

    Sifting through the ashes

    Family home burned on Oak Knoll Drive
  • Ashland High School senior Brady Thomas was at football practice when he looked up and saw black smoke streaming over south Ashland Tuesday evening.
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  • Ashland High School senior Brady Thomas was at football practice when he looked up and saw black smoke streaming over south Ashland Tuesday evening.
    Minutes later, his parents, Dan and Julie Thomas, came rushing onto the high school field to tell him their house was among 11 dwellings burning on their street.
    "The rest of the practice, I had a weird feeling in my stomach, knowing that the place I had lived for 10 years was gone," said Brady, 17, who is a defensive end and wide receiver. "I finished football practice knowing that there wasn't much I could do."
    Later that night, the Thomas family learned that almost everything in their home, at 897 Oak Knoll Drive, had been destroyed in the blaze.
    Ten other houses on the street were devastated in the fast-moving wildfire, and three on Pebble Beach Drive suffered damage to their roofs.
    On Wednesday, Brady was combing through the ashes and soot in what had been his bedroom just 24 hours earlier. Charred remnants of football posters clung to a wall that was still standing. Brady, who is also a pitcher on Ashland High School's baseball team, searched through blackened drawers looking for priceless photographs and mementos.
    "I'm shaken up, but you can't really dwell on that because it doesn't help in the long run," he said. "I never would have thought it would have happened here."
    Dan Thomas was removing the few pieces of salvageable clothing from the home. He believes he lost most of the records for his business, Circle T Construction, in the blaze.
    "We're doing OK," he said. "It won't hit until probably Thanksgiving, when my wife's looking for a recipe and we can't find anything."
    Dan Thomas said he hopes to rebuild on the property.
    Julie Thomas, an Ashland School District receptionist, reported for work Wednesday morning. She was home when the fire ignited the house Tuesday evening, Dan Thomas said.
    "She looked over the fence and saw it burning on the other side of the freeway, and didn't ever think it would come over here," he said. "And then within five minutes, all the houses were on fire."
    The Thomases feel fortunate they were able to salvage some items, and that they have a second home in the Greensprings area. However, they are seeking assistance in finding a home to rent in Ashland, Dan Thomas said.
    They are also hoping the community will assist their neighbors, several of whom returned Wednesday morning to find only blackened skeletons of their homes.
    "We're actually lucky because there are a few things we can salvage," Dan Thomas said. "I'm sure a lot of these people down the street lost everything."
    The Firehouse 5 Foundation is accepting monetary donations on behalf of the families affected by the Oak Knoll fire. Donations can be dropped off at Ashland Fire & Rescue Station No. 1, 455 Siskiyou Blvd., between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
    Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.
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