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Flaming statue to honor Almeda Fire victims draws criticism

The 20-foot statue of people surrounded by flames has drawn criticism that it is out of touch with the trauma victims endured.
Credit: KGW

MEDFORD, Ore. — The city of Medford has withdrawn plans for a 20-foot-tall statue of humanlike figures surrounded by flames, meant to honor the victims of the Almeda fire.

The plans drew criticism that the statue was out of touch with the victims' trauma. 

The city had pledged to spend $34,000 on the statue, called "Firestorm," and erect it in downtown Medford. It would be lit with LED flames that could be seen from miles away. 

The artist, Robert Barnum, said it was meant to be "a profound statement." But critics argued it would be constant a reminder of the trauma fire victims endured.

The Almeda Fire in 2020 killed three people and destroyed more than 2,600 homes. Many of the victims are still working on rebuilding their lives. 

Credit: KGW
A rendering of the Firestorm statue that was planned in Medford, meant to honor victims of the Almeda fire.

Mandy Capehart started a Change.org petition to stop the plans for the statue from moving forward. As of Friday, it had more than 1,700 signatures. Capehart said she works with people dealing with trauma and grief, and that a statue showing flames surrounding people was "a visual and visceral reminder of trauma." 

"Exposure over and over is not how you bring healing to a group of people who have experienced great loss. The way we bring healing is by bringing the opposite of pain," she said.

The city withdrew financial support for the project after hearing criticism from people in the community. City councilors now say they'll create a public process to decide what a memorial would look like and where it would go.