It started with a plume of smoke just past 10 a.m. this morning. Within minutes, the hills east of Ashland were ablaze.

It started with a plume of smoke just past 10 a.m. this morning. Within minutes, the hills east of Ashland were ablaze.

A hillside fire sent local police and fire crews near Crowson Road and Old Highway 99 Monday morning, as residents filed out of their homes by the dozen to check on the commotion.

"There wasn't any smoke in town at first," said Richard Edward, who drove east on Siskiyou Boulevard to see what was going on. "Suddenly I saw this plume of smoke rise up, and it went from nothing to this big in minutes."

By the time Edward arrived on the scene, dozens of cars lined the boulevard. Some people were standing on the hoods of their cars and taking photographs. Daniel Hill was using his cell phone camera. He said the thick smoke filled the entire sky within minutes.

"It's crazy," Hill said. "It's moving so fast, I didn't realize fire could move like this." Several feet away from Hill, Daniel La Fond, 10, watched the blaze with his father.

"It's huge," La Fond said. "I've never seen something this intense."

The fire comes less than a week after a brush fire sent crews to the Watershed behind Jackson Wellsprings, on the opposite side of town.

Monday's fire sent black and orange smoke into the air near Bellview Elementary School and Tolman Creek Road. Police arrived on the scene within minutes, and blocked off Siskiyou Boulevard traffic at the corner of Crowson Road.

Gennie Arndt was watching anxiously nearby. She lives in an apartment complex near the Bellview Armory, and says the fire had her scrambling for her belongings.

"This is the scariest thing I've ever seen," she said. "I'm thinking I should get my stuff into the car and get out of here."

Onlookers were standing on street corners from the scene of the fire and back all the way into town. More than a mile away from the blaze, at the corner of Walker Avenue and Siskiyou Boulevard, a dozen people packed the sidewalks to get a view. Shawnee Bell said the smoke was so abundant she thought there were two separate fires on opposite sides of town.

"It's everywhere," Belle said. "I'm from California so I've seen fires before. But the smoke is everywhere." Fire crews continued to attack the blaze into the afternoon. Several helicopters could be seen dropping water onto the hills. The plume of smoke could be seen from practically every vantage point in town.