Grants Pass, Oregon
September 8, 2020
Donald enlisted in the Army in 1984 and proudly served in Field Artillery and ultimately became a Green Beret. Donald served in Grenada when the U.S. entered the Country to bring peace.
|From NBC KOBI 5 TV kobi5.com 09/18/20:
Phoenix man died trying to save others from Almeda fire, neighbors say
September 18, 2020 Jennifer Elliott
PHOENIX, Ore. – We’re learning more about one of the reported victims from the Almeda fire. Friends are calling him a hero. We’re told that one of the people who died in the fire, worked with others to evacuate a 55+ community in Phoenix, before law enforcement could arrive. Neighbors say the man and a handful of other people were calling for residents to leave, packing up pets, and pounding on doors. NBC5 News spoke with one of those community members about their efforts as the flames bore down on them.
“It sounded like a freight train,” recalled Shehan Boeme as he remembered Tuesday, September 8th and the approaching Almeda fire, “… an inferno, apocalypse thing coming at you.”
The Phoenix resident said he rushed toward the flames, instead of away. Boeme said when he got to the Bear Lake Estates, a community for those ages 55 and older, the fire was just a little over a football field away from the back of the property.
“I don’t know how to explain how it was. It was just so fast and we had to go,” said Boeme. That’s when he said they started evacuating residents. “I see all these elderly people out in their yard, like not knowing really what to do, because no one really said. I was just telling as much people to go as I can.”
But Boeme wasn’t alone, another man who friends say died, along with men on golf carts were trying to help evacuate the residents.
“Don was literally hosing things down, he was yelling at the people. Shehan was screaming at people, ‘Get out, you have to get out!'” Joanna Mohr was one of the residents Shehan helped at the next park over. She also knew Donald Schmidt. Shehan says Schmidt was likewise evacuating the elderly in the park, but they say Schmidt did not survive.
“To know that Shehan, and Don, and the men on the golf carts were at least trying to get people out, because the cops never made it to Bear Lake [Estates] as far as we know,” trailed off Mohr.
Shehan says as he and the others raced through the park, he took a little video, the last to show this community still standing and they also say capturing Schmidt’s heroic efforts.
“We’ve lost Don, and Don was a hero,” said Mohr in tribute. “He also got people out, and I wish that it wouldn’t have been the same situation: That he would have been successfully evacuated from the park too.”
The Jackson County Sheriff’s office has not confirmed the names of the three known victims of the Almeda fire. We reached out to Sheriff Nathan Sickler, he would neither confirm, nor deny our report. Meantime, Mohr says Donald Schmidt and Shehan Boeme are heroes.
“I am in great gratitude for what this man did for me,” said Mohr pointing to Boeme.
Like many in the community, the two families set up GoFundMe pages here and here*. Both Boeme and Mohr said they hope their story will shine a light on Schmidt’s brave actions and provide a beacon of hope moving forward.
|From KDRV TV ABC 12 kdrv.com
Phoenix family grieves the loss 55-year-old Donald Schmidt in Almeda Drive Fire
Posted: Sep 16, 2020 11:48 PM
Updated: Sep 17, 2020 5:54 PM
Posted By: Cameron Derby
PHOENIX, Ore. -- So far, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed at least three people have died in the Almeda Drive Fire that surged through the cities of Ashland, Talent, and Phoenix on September 8, 2020.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has yet to confirm the names of those people with NewsWatch 12.
Now, one family is telling NewsWatch 12 that 55-year-old Donald Schmidt is one of those who passed away during the fire.
“Great man. Full of laughter, lots of humor,” said Schmidt’s step-son Zachary Bulebar. “He treated my mom really well. He was just an all-around, great guy."
Schmidt’s sister told NewsWatch 12 that she was notified by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office that he has passed away. She told us that her brother, who served in the U.S. Army, was the "loud one on the block." She said that he had plenty of humor to go around.
Schmidt lived at the Bear Lake Estates in Phoenix. Bulebar says he called his mother to ask her if she knew a fire was on the way.
"No alert,” said Bulebar. “Nothing on her phone that she got an alert that there was a fire approaching the park. Everybody at the park seemed totally fine at the time right before the fire got to the park."
He says the lack of notifications from any Emergency Alert System led to his parents not knowing how serious the fire was.
"I don't think both of them realized how serious the fire was,” said Bulebar. "He told my mother to 'Go ahead and grab the animals and go and I will stay here and protect the house if the fire does come to the park.'"
So, Bulebar’s mother left Bear Lake Estates without Schmidt. Bulebar said that they attempted call Schmidt not too long after but the phone went straight to voicemail.
With questions circulating among the public about why no alert system was activated, those questions are also coming from Schmidt’s family.
"I would like to know why that alert system did not activate and send an alert message to everybody that said 'Hey, there is a fire and it is close to the park and it is time to evacuate.'"
Despite the lack of notifications, Bulebar says that he is grateful for the work first responders did in our local area.
“I definitely want to thank the police officers,” said Bulebar. “I thank the firefighters and the first responders for all of the great work they did. I mean, they are having to respond to something that has never happened before."
For some memorial service snapshots, click photo below for a youtube slide show.
September 26, 2020
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