Rogue Valley News, Wednesday, 9/9 – Rogue Valley Cities On Fire, Many Homes & Businesses Lost; Fires Continue

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Rogue Valley Weather

This Afternoon Widespread smoke, mainly after 2pm. Sunny and hot, with a high near 101. Southeast wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. Overnight, widespread smoke. Clear, with a low around 58. Southeast wind 5 to 8 mph becoming calm in the evening.

Thursday Widespread smoke. Sunny and hot, with a high near 101. Calm wind. Overnight, areas of smoke. Clear, with a low around 58. Northwest wind around 6 mph becoming calm in the evening.

Friday Areas of smoke. Sunny and hot, with a high near 97. Calm wind.

Saturday Sunny and hot, with a high near 97.

Sunday Sunny, with a high near 91.

The Obenchain Fire burning near Eagle Point.   
The fire was first reported Tuesday afternoon. At last report the fire was an estimated over 1,800 acres.

Much of the state of Oregon is on fire.  Wildfires are consuming forest lands and now neighborhoods across the state. Here in Southern Oregon, the fires are devastating the Rogue Valley and continue to burn today.

Governor Kate Brown declared a statewide conflaguration yesterday afternoon for the Almeda Drive fire area. Countless homes and businesses have already been lost.

The Governor’s declaration authorizes the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal to mobilize resources to assist local resources in battling the fire.  The State Fire Marshal has also mobilized the Blue Incident Command team to the Rogue Valley.

Medford fire exit 33, GreenwayFire, Wednesday Sept 9, 2020

Update 5PM Wednesday, 9/9/20

Interstate 5 between north Medford and Central Point interchanges, Exits 30 and 33: Interstate 5 closed between Exits 30 and 33 due to wildfire. Avoid the area. Seek alternate routes.

Fire-fighting efforts include multiple retardant and water drops.

Update below from 10AM Wednesday, 9/9/20

Here in Southern Oregon fire crews are responding to multiple major fires in Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Medford, Central Point and Eagle Point all on Tuesday, spurred by embers moving in high winds with hot temperatures and dry conditions.  Fires are still raging throughout the Rogue Valley today.

In the Rogue Valley area, update from ODOT at 10AM this morning, Wednesday:


Interstate 5 (Pacific Highway)-Ashland: interstate is closed between exits 14 (south Ashland) and 21 (Talent) due to wildfire. Expect delays. Avoid the area.

Oregon 99 – (Rogue Valley Highway):southbound lanes are closed due to wildfire at MP 17, two miles south of Talent. Evacuation levels have not yet changed on the Almeda Drive Fire area as of 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Fires continue to burn in Talent and Phoenix, north into south Medford.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal Team has arrived on scene and will be transitioning to relieve local resources as crews continue to fight the Almeda Fire. A northern Oregon task force has arrived with them to supplement efforts to contain and control the fire.

Fire crews will be working throughout the day and night. Please take note of these important resources:

⚠️Know your Ready, Set, Go! –> https://bit.ly/2FcrK35
⚠️Latest Evacuation information –> https://bit.ly/2F2KDFN
⚠️Sign up for Citizen Alert –> www.rvem.org

Jackson County is urging evacuated residents to stay away from the closure area and “respect the evacuation zone.” Evacuees are asked to continue sheltering in place and otherwise avoid the area.

“Crews are actively working in the Talent/Phoenix area. Attempts to enter are hindering emergency efforts and blocking roadways, including I-5. There are downed utility lines and poles and other fire debris. Please stay away until such time it’s clear,” said Captain Tim Snaith with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Several evacuation orders for the Rogue Valley have been downgraded to Level 1. Evacuation levels are broken down by region below. 

NORTH MEDFORD: North Medford is now a Level 1, which means be ready to evacuate. This area includes McAndrews Road to the south; Oregon 99 to the west; Beall Lane to the north; Interstate 5 to the east. 

CENTRAL POINT: Central Point is now a Level 1, which means be ready to evacuate. This area includes Beall Lane to the South; Freeman Road to the West to Exit 33; and Petro Truck Stop to the East as well as all of east Central Point, Pine Street to Table Rock Road. 

SOUTH MEDFORD: LEVEL 3: If you are south of Glenwood Ave. on Hwy 99 and south of Campbell Road in the North Phoenix area you are at Level 3. This area is from Hwy 99 to the area of North Phoenix. LEVEL 2: All areas south of Barnett Road to Campbell Rd and Glenwood.

LEVEL 1: All of Jackson County is considered at Level 1.

Crews are tackling a fast-moving fire that started in the City of Ashland, burned through Talent, Phoenix, and into parts of Medford. The fire has been officially named the Glendower fire, but has also been referred to as the Almeda fire, because it started near Glendower Street & Almeda Drive in Ashland, Oregon.

The Obenchain Fire burning in northern Jackson County is prompting more evacuation notices.  The fire was first reported Tuesday afternoon east of Eagle Point. At last report Tuesday afternoon, the fire was an estimated 1,700 acres.

The latest evacuation orders around the fire were issued at about 9:00 a.m. Wednesday. They include Level 3 (Go!) from Butte Falls Road north along both sides of Highway 62 west to Rogue River to Brophy Road at the south end of Shady Cove. The City of Shady Cove will remain in a Level 2 (be set) evacuation status until further notice.   A temporary evacuation point has been set up at the Jackson County Expo in Central Point. However, sheltering is not available.

FEMA regional administrator in Oregon, Mike O’Hare, determined that “the fire threatened to cause such destruction as would constitute a major disaster” and approved a federal fire assistance grant for Oregon.

The City of Ashland yesterday ordered evacuations for “all homes near fire from Michelle Street west to lower Cambridge Street” due to a fire near Bear Creek.

By mid-afternoon, Interstate 5 was closed as was the detour route, Highway 99, between Medford and Ashland and both roadways were full of traffic with no alternate route to take.  Evacuations were started all the way to Talent.

Jackson County Expo Center was taking stranded motorists and evacuees in shelter in Central Point as of Tuesday night.

Medford Police said that the fire is moving in a northwest direction from Phoenix and into south Medford, but flames are also moving up the Bear Creek Greenway toward the middle of Medford. Charles Point Estates on Lowry Lane are also being evacuated.

The Almeda Drive Fire is still completely uncontained. It was last estimated at 1,500 acres.

The Emergency Operation Center Command is urging residents to “respect the zone.”

They say residents trying to enter the closed areas in the Talent/Phoenix area are hindering emergency efforts.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Department says fire crews are busy today actively working in the Talent and Phoenix area.  Attempts to enter the area are hindering emergency efforts and blocking roadways, including I-5.  They ask residents to stay away from these areas while they fight fires of homes and businesses.  There are downed utility lines and other fire debris. 

 A new wildfire start in Douglas County has prompted evacuation orders and the closure of Highway 138E yesterday morning.

Firefighters have been battling the nearby French Creek fire since Monday — also resulting in multiple evacuation orders and warnings — but this latest fire is a separate incident.

The Grizzly Creek Fire near Howard Prairie has held at 340 acres for the third day in a row. According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, 240 firefighters have helped increase containment of the fire to 20 percent. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Commissioners in Marion County declared a state of emergency hours after officials issued Level 3 “GO” evacuation orders for residents in Santiam Canyon as the Beachie Creek fire continued to spread amid dry conditions and high winds Tuesday.

Evacuation warnings have been issued due to a new wildfire in Northern California. CAL FIRE said Tuesday morning the Slater incident is burning outside of the community of Happy Camp.The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office issued an evacuation warning for residents in the area of Indian Meadows up to the south fork of Indian Creek. People covered under the warning should be prepared to leave the area. SCSO said the fire is burning near Slater Butte Lookout.

Around the state of Oregon

COVID-19 has claimed four more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 486, the Oregon Health Authority reported today.  Oregon Health Authority reported 169 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today bringing the state total to 28,355.

The new cases reported today are in the following counties: Benton (1), Clackamas (17), Crook (1), Deschutes (1), Jackson (17), Jefferson (2), Lane (7), Malheur (4), Marion (25), Morrow (4), Multnomah (39), Polk (4), Umatilla (10), Wasco (1), Washington (25), and Yamhill (11).

10AM Wednesday, 9/9/20 …ODOT on Southwestern Oregon 138E 
(North Umpqua Highway) is closed between Glide and Dry Creek (milepost 17-47) due to fire. Only local traffic and emergency service vehicles will be allowed through. More information on road closures available at www.TripCheck.com.

Whale dies after stranding near Bandon Saturday

Bandon, Ore. — What has been tentatively identified as a 38′ Sei whale became stranded on the Oregon coast south of Bandon Saturday afternoon, September 5. Oregon State Park rangers, the Oregon State Police, Oregon State University, Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network, and representatives of the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network and NOAA Fisheries responded.

While alive when it first came ashore, the Sei whale was stranded by the tide and died Saturday evening. Based on its size, it was a subadult male, meaning it was not yet fully-mature. The necropsy will be led today, Sunday, September 6 by Oregon State University, World Vets, and Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Research. The necropsy will allow marine mammal biologists to collect samples to try to determine what may have caused the animal to strand. The carcass will be buried on the beach shortly thereafter. It is against federal law to take pieces from a whale carcass.

The Oregon Republican Party’s statement for the state voters’ pamphlet arrived 29 seconds too late and won’t appear in the guide mailed to voters for the November election, officials say.

Laura Fosmire, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Bev Clarno, said deadlines apply equally to everyone. But Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that Kevin Hoar, the communications director for the state GOP, insists the party did get its statement into an online filing system by 4:59 p.m. on Aug. 25, the final day for filing. He said the party filed a lawsuit in Marion County demanding that the statement be included in the voters’ guide before it goes to print later this month. State Republican Chairman Bill Currier said the failure to include his party’s statement from the voting guide “reeks of partisan discrimination.”

Afriend to few lately, weak Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler faces calls to resign from sources as wide-ranging as liberal constituents who once supported him to the nation’s Republican president, who cite what they say is his lack of clear leadership as the city hit 100 days of protests.

Many critics say they’re frustrated that Wheeler, the city’s police commissioner, expresses support for police reforms yet hasn’t come out strongly when officers appear to use excessive force on people during protests. Many others are frustrated he hasn’t done more to end the nightly demonstrations and the property damage, small fires and provocations of police that usually accompany them.

Still others feel he has said more about his disagreements with President Donald Trump than his solutions to aid a city reckoning with a pandemic, a recession, homelessness, unaffordable housing, increased gun violence and other racial and economic inequalities.

On Sunday, at approximately 1:12 P.M., Oregon State Police and emergency personnel responded to a vehicle crash on Hwy 101 near milepost 232.

Preliminary investigation revealed that a Nissan Titan, operated by Renee Reiser (56) of Florence, was northbound when it crossed over the fog line and struck two, also northbound, bicyclists.

Bicyclist Jason Dixon (42) sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased.

Bicyclist Robert Hammonds (52) sustained life threatening injuries and was transported to a local hospital.

On Saturday, September 6, 2020 at approximately 8:27 P.M., Oregon State Police and emergency personnel responded to a single vehicle crash on Hwy 26 near milepost 30.

Preliminary investigation revealed that a Ford F350 pickup was westbound when it drove off the roadway and down an embankment.

The operator and lone occupant sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased. Name will be released when it is appropriate.

FATAL CRASH ON HWY 38 – DOUGLAS COUNTY

On Saturday, September 5, 2020 at approximately 9:40 P.M., Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a two vehicle crash on Hwy 38 near milepost 47.

Preliminary investigation revealed that a Harley Davidson motorcycle, operated by Seth Albert (38) of Eugene,  was westbound when it collided with a Ford F150, operated by Michael Fluharty (57) of Walla Walla, that was turning to go eastbound onto Hwy 38. 

Albert and his passenger, Cherissa Rainwater (35) of Marcola, sustained fatal injuries and were pronounced deceased. Hwy 38 was closed for approximately 3 hours following the crash

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will conduct a virtual tour of a wild horse off-range pasture via Facebook Live on Sept. 21, 2020 starting at 9 a.m. Mountain Time. The purpose of the tour is to allow the public to see and learn more about BLM’s wild horse and burro management mission, including the agency’s responsibility for providing humane care for thousands of animals held in off-range facilities.

The BLM currently cares for approximately 35,000 wild horses on 35 off-range pastures throughout the Central Plains and parts of the West. These are animals that were removed from Western public rangelands as part of BLM’s mission to protect and preserve America’s wild horse and burro herds. The off-range pasture to be featured during this virtual tour – known as the Jameson Ranch near Davis, Oklahoma – is a private ranch under contract with the government to feed and care for up to 200 federally protected wild horses in a natural free-roaming environment.

Two For Two Fire near Chiloquin

The fire is now over 10,000 acres with 5% estimated containment. The dangerous wildfire, pushed by strong winds through dry grass and timber, continue to take up ground near Chilquin, thereatens hundres of homes and ranches in the area west of Highway 97. The Two Four Two Fire is burning everything in it’s path, forest land, dried grass and brushy areas. Highway 97 is still closed near Chiloquin as of Wednesday at 11:00AM.

It’s growth west of Chiloquin yesterday was wind-driven, and similar conditions are expected today due to a Red Flag Warning in effect until midnight for strong gusty winds and low relative humidity.  Today the fire continues to move in all directions.  Multiple structures are threatened.  Fire managers are still assessing structures that may have been lost.

U.S. Highway 97 remains closed between Oregon State Highway 62 south of Chiloquin north to the intersection with Forest Road 9732 at Oux Kanee Overlook.  Oregon State Highway 422 North is closed between Highway 97 and Oregon State Highway 62.  Highway 62 is closed from the junction with Highway 97 north to the State Fish Hatchery.  The Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Transportation are handling highway road closures.

Kelvin Valentino McDuffie, 34, of Supai, Arizona, was sentenced to eight months in federal prison and one year of supervised release today for assaulting an in-custody defendant in the Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland.

According to court documents, on July 26, 2019, Deputy U.S. Marshals escorted McDuffie, an adult female victim, and other male and female inmates into a prisoner elevator inside the federal courthouse. The male and female inmates were separated by a metal chain-link screen and McDuffie was restrained with handcuffs and a belly chain. As the elevator arrived at a floor, McDuffie reached his fingers through the chain-link screen and touched the victim’s inner thigh and buttocks through her clothing with the intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, and degrade the victim and arouse and gratify his own sexual desire.

McDuffie was in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service after being arrested in the District of Oregon for an alleged violation of the supervised release that had been imposed following a conviction for assaulting a federal officer in the District of Arizona. On November 21, 2019, a federal grand jury in Portland returned a two-count indictment charging McDuffie with assault and abusive sexual contact. On April 21, 2020, he pleaded guilty to assault.

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