Brent Jacobs, still in his Mormon missionary service clothing, and neighbor Forest Kollar fight a brush fire with garden hoses. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Residents push back flames in Ashland

ASHLAND — A two-alarm, two-acre brush fire Saturday afternoon took the efforts of three fire departments, local police and several neighbors with garden hoses to keep it at bay as flames licked the sides of houses off Siskiyou Boulevard.

Church elders Brent Jacobs and Jordan Furniss, missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were returning from a morning of Mormon missionary service when they noticed smoke billowing from the Ashland hills. As they neared their Clay Street home, they grew nervous.

"We said, 'That's kind of close to our house,' " said Furniss.

Within moments, the two were jumping from their car, grabbing water hoses and tackling the flames that charged uphill toward the house where they are staying.

"The firemen were on the other side so we were on our own for a while," said Furniss, 19. "We were in our white shirts and ties the whole time."

The fire was contained to a two-acre city-owned parcel at the end of Chitwood Lane off Clay Street. Ashland Fire and Rescue, Jackson County Fire District 5, the Oregon Department of Forestry and officers from the Ashland Police Department responded to the 12:49 p.m. call.

The fire began in some brush, and the cause was undetermined Saturday, said Margueritte Hickman, Ashland fire marshal.

Hickman said two homes suffered minor exterior damage. One of the firefighters injured a knee, but there were no other reported injuries.

Matt Freiheit, captain for Ashland Fire and Rescue, said flames spread quickly on the wooded, city-owned property, threatening several homes. Several neighbors surrounding the burning vacant property grabbed their garden hoses to spray their homes and the flames. One house had several windows break from the heat of the flames. Another house with a wood-shake roof began smoldering and the homeowner got on top to hose it down, officials said.

"They're very fortunate that that wasn't more severe because it was wood shakes," said Hickman.

Asked if his exciting experience dousing flames inspired him to consider a future in firefighting, Furniss grinned.

"I was kind of enjoying it," he said, adding that flames came right up to their house. "I had a rag with water over my face. It was pretty fun."

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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