A fast-moving brush fire erupted in the south Ashland hills this morning, throwing plumes of dark smoke over the city and putting dozens of homes at risk.

A fast-moving brush fire erupted in the south Ashland hills this morning, throwing plumes of dark smoke over the city and putting dozens of homes at risk.

The fire began at about 10:35 a.m. in the hills above the 3100 block of Siskiyou Boulevard, east of Tolman Creek Road. The cause was not yet known, but firefighters initially responded to a structure fire in the area.

At noon today firefighters were still battling the blaze, which appeared to be growing.

“I think it's getting bigger,” an official said over Ashland Fire & Rescue's emergency radio at 12:03 p.m. “I don't think its getting contained.”

Evacuations were ordered for 1940 Tolman Creek Road and above and all of Timberlake Drive, said Jon Peterson, a firefighter with the Medford Fire Department.

Person estimated that between 50 and 100 homes were under the evacuation order.

Due to the size of the fire and the number of homes in the immediate area, more evacuations appeared possible. Further details were not immediately available.

By noon, officials had blocked off Siskiyou Boulevard between Tolman Creek and Clayton roads, and were diverting traffic to Interstate 5.

“It's very scary,” said Leslie Terrill, who lives in the hills just south of Clayton Road, as she watched the smoke pour into the sky. “It's extremely scary with the wind blowing and how dry of a summer it's been.”

Minutes after it began, the fire was throwing a tower of smoke into the air. But about 30 minutes later, roughly around 11 a.m., the fire appeared to explode in size, as it chewed through the bone-dry brush and sent up mountains of smoke that could be seen across the city.

“It doesn't look like it's being contained very fast,” Terrill said. “I'm worried that if the wind shifts, we might have trouble getting off the hill.

Lou and Linda Morgan, who live in the 3600 block of Siskiyou Boulevard, left their home this morning, but only after checking to make sure their neighbor, a woman in a wheelchair, had already left.

“We couldn't find her, so she must have already left with someone,” Linda said, as they drove away, passing two fire trucks and an army of firefighters heading into the hills.

Lou said he wasn't sure what had started the fire, but he did hear “a little burst” right before it began.

Locals, parked on the side of Interstate 5 and other city roads, were warily watching as the smoke poured off the mountain and darkened Ashland's skies.

Mark Edwards stopped on the side of the road to watch the fire eat through the hillside.

“It doesn't look like its going to be put down anytime soon,” he said.

For updates on the fire, call the city's hotline, 552-2490, or tune into 1700 AM radio.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.