City sends evacuees to Red Cross at RCC in GP

The city of Cave Junction has made the decision to prohibit the use of Jubilee Park as an evacuation site for Valley residents. The official evacuation center for the Smith River Complex wildfire is Rogue Community College’s gym on their Redwood Campus in Grants Pass. The American Red Cross is already in place in anticipation of Valley residents having to get out of the way of the fire. People with animals are encouraged to go to the County Fairgrounds in Grants Pass.
But for some Valley residents, Grants Pass is too far. According to some local evacuees, they don’t have reliable transportation, need to stay closer to move sprinklers and keep their property as moist as possible in an effort to save their home, or help neighbors. Others want to bring their RV or campers to stay in (these are not allowed on the RCC campus) or because they don’t want to be separated from their pets, that are also not allowed at the Red Cross shelter. However, the Red Cross volunteers will help you find a place for your pet through veterinarians and animal organizations.
In the past, Valley residents took refuge in Jubilee Park so that they could remain close to home and still be safe. Many residents of Takilma and O’Brien evacuated but still returned to their homes, if they could, to keep an eye on things. One resident at the time said they went home to make sure the sprinkler placed on the roof was still functioning.
With the closure of the park, eyes turn to alternatives within the Valley.
Monty Pope, pastor of Selma Baptist Church, said, “Well, we’re part of the community, and communities need to stick together because help isn’t coming from anywhere else, and people from the community are going to be there for the long haul. I’m born and raised in this community and I’m going to help as much as I can. We opened up during the Biscuit Fire too, and our church parking lot was filled with campers, horse-trailers and RV’s. People can use the restroom, cook some food on the stove and get clean water but we don’t have showers.” He asks that people who want to evacuate to Selma call ahead so that someone can open the gate for them. That number is 458-221-3093.
Sonny Moore, Pastor of Bridgeview Community Church, is also prepared to open their facility if it’s needed. They opened the church during Slater and allowed people to come in out of the smoke, get water, and use the toilet.
Parishioner Jimmy Evans said, “The gate to Saint Patrick of the Forest Catholic Church is open for anyone needing a place of safety. They are welcome to come here and use Saint Patrick as a sort of staging area until they make their next decisions. If we get a lot of people we’ll have to coordinate and open the hall so people can use the toilets and get water. The gates will remain open for the immediate future. I recommend people go to the Red Cross because sleeping rough can get hard and the Red Cross has provisions and infrastructure set up. I’m disappointed in the decision to close the park and would like to know more about why that was decided.”
Mayor Martell of the city of Cave Junction conveyed in a recent telephone conversation that negative blow-back from staging Jubilee Park as an evacuation site during the Slater Fire in 2020 contributed to the decision. At the time, Emergency Preparedness managers told the city that Jubilee Park was not an official evacuation site.
Mayor Martell also expressed concern that having people evacuate to the park would strain the resources of the city. She cited keeping the bathrooms open and clean, and an increased homeless presence if the park was kept open 24 hours a day during the evacuation, as examples of those resources. Martell was also concerned about the increased load on the park camp-hosts and not knowing how the hosts would react to a swell in the numbers of people utilizing the park.
Evans pushed back on this by saying, “We kept the park clean, the toilets clean, picked up trash all through the park. There were no fights and everyone in the park during the Slater fire chipped in to keep it clean and orderly.”
Whatever the contributing factors to the park closure decision are, the fact remains that the park will not be available should the residents of O’Brien, Takilma and other communities located in the south of the Valley need to heed level 3 evacuation and, “Go!”
Please see Mayor Martell’s weekly column in this paper for further comments by the mayor.