For more than five years now, Lisa and I have lived in a house that faces an empty field. When we moved in, the realtor assured us that the lot across the street wouldn’t be developed for a decade. From our southern windows, we have enjoyed expansive views of the Siskiyou Mountains. Jackrabbits have frolicked and neighborhood cats have hunted on the property. In the last couple of weeks, however, the work has started that will change all of that. The land was sold. The parcel is zoned high-density mixed-use and the buyer isn’t wasting any time. Bulldozers, front-loaders and dump-trucks arrived a couple of weeks ago. The noise of loud machinery and the filth of billowing clouds of dust have filled the formerly calm air.
The plans were posted online. They include a four-story structure with commercial space on the ground floor, a three-story apartment building and two-story townhouses (a retirement home already stands beyond the field). Lisa isn’t happy about the upheaval. Our world is being altered (or, as she would say, ruined). We were discussing it this morning when I remembered the date. Today marks two months since a catastrophe devastated our area.
On September 8, 2020, the Almeda Fire destroyed more than 3,000 structures in our part of Oregon. The blaze erupted while Lisa and I were watching her sister’s house an hour away. We had come back to Medford to run some errands that morning, saw the smoke engulfing the sky and were amazed. Even so, another conflagration, the Slater Fire, threatened her sister’s home. We returned there, stayed the night and awoke to learn that our own city, Central Point, was under evacuation orders. Ninety-five acres of the greenway two miles from our house were burning.
Emergency crews credited a change in the wind’s direction for preventing greater losses. Before the conditions had changed in their favor, though, large portions of Talent and Phoenix, Oregon (ten miles south of us) were decimated. My first reaction was, “Thank God that we were spared!” Hundreds of other families weren’t, however, so I had better not make God a part of the equation. Rather, I should blame the low humidity, gusting wind and mental illness of the arsonist for costing so many so much. It’s also a good idea to keep some perspective. A little construction in our neighborhood isn’t a major issue by comparison. We still have a place to live regardless of how it may be changing.