Rogue Valley News, Friday, 9/11 – Firefighting Continues, Obenchain Fire at 23,500 Acres, No Containment Yet, 39 Major Fires in State of Oregon

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and around the state of Oregon from the online digital home of the valley, RogueValleyMagazine.com, Wynne Broadcasting.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Rogue Valley Weather

Today Widespread smoke. Sunny, with a high near 88. Light and variable wind becoming south around 5 mph.  Overnight, smokey and winds up to 10 mph, low around 52.

Saturday Areas of smoke. Sunny, with a high near 91.

Sunday Areas of smoke. Sunny, with a high near 90. Light and variable wind becoming south 13 to 18 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 26 mph.

Monday Mostly sunny, with a high near 82.

Tuesday A chance of rain, mainly after 11am. Partly sunny, with a high near 81.

Today’s Headlines

South Obenchain Fire Update 

Firefighters are trying to dig in along the north and east flanks of the South Obenchain Fire in order to keep it from reaching Shady Cove and Butte Falls, according to the latest from fire officials.


(Photo courtesy of Pam Baker)

Flames raced east from the fire toward Butte Falls on Thursday, forcing evacuations in the Butte Falls area and south to Highway 140. Officials said that the fire burned to Star Lake Reservoir and just above Salt Creek Road.

“The smoke created visibility issues and aircraft were only able to fly intermittently,” officials said. “The southwest perimeter is holding. Crews chased a few spots over the created fireline.”

The Obenchain fire’s northern tip has reached the Indian Creek area. A hotshot crew is working in the area on Friday to tie in fire line. Officials also said that a large spot fire has spring up near the junction of Derby Creek Road and Crowfoot Road, but structural firefighters are in the area.

Near Eagle Point to Butte Falls, Northwest Incident Management Team 8, Incident Commander Doug Johnson, and Oregon State Fire Marshal Incident Management Blue Team, Incident Commander Scott Magers, are in unified command, in management of the South Obenchain Fire.

The incident command post is located at the Scenic Middle School in Central Point and a base camp is located at the Jackson County Expo Park. The life and safety of the public and all wildland fire responders is always the number one priority for all fire agencies.  To keep firefighters and communities healthy and safe, all firefighters are asked to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the spread of illness.  This also includes limited entry into the incident command post and base camp.  

Please see the websites below or contact the South Obenchain Fire information center at Jackson County Emergency Management Office at (541) 776-7338 for further fire information. 

General Updates: The South Obenchain Fire was very active yesterday making a major push towards Butte Falls.  The fire burned to Star Lake Reservoir and just above the Salt Creek Road. Residence from the Butte Falls area are under a Level 3 evacuation. The smoke created visibility issues and aircraft were only able to fly intermittently. The southwest perimeter is holding.

Crews chased a few spots over the created fireline.  The northern tip of the fire is in the Indian Creek area.  An Interagency Hotshot Crew is assigned to this area and is working to tie this section of line together.  A large spot fire is burning at the junction of Derby Creek Road and Crowfoot Road. Structure protection is in place.   

Today, firefighters will continue to hold all fire lines, scout for anchors to begin new line construction, and provide point protection to infrastructure.  

An unmanned aircraft (UAS) was reported over the fire area.  If you fly, we can’t.  The entire air operation must be shut down until the air space is reported clear. 

Obenchain Fire, from Eagle Point to Shady Cove and now beyond.

Acreage: 23,150  

Containment: 0% 

Cause: Under investigation

Fire Information:  (541) 776-7338 

E-mail:  SouthObenchainFire@gmail.com 

Information Websites: 

Facebook: South Obenchain Fire 

Inciweb:  https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7185

Air Quality: oregonsmoke.blogspot.com 

Weather:  A Red Flag Warning remains in effect until 8 PM this evening for unstable atmospheric conditions. High pressure will still be in control over the area.  Winds will trend lower and remain westerly around 3 to 5 mph.  Temperatures will be moderated due to a thick layer of smoke covering  

Resources-331:  1-type 1 hand crew, 1-type 2 initial attack crew, 10-type 2 crews, 3- light helicopter, 3-medium helicopter, 3- heavy helicopter, 31-engines, 11-dozers, and 18-water tenders  

Evacuations: See the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office website for a full description of the evacuation levels. Link is below. 

Jackson County Emergency Management Website link. 

Shelter Location: Please go to the Jackson County Expo Center, 1 Penninger Rd. in Central Point, where there is food, medical care, bathroom and showers. 

Temporary Flight Restrictions: For the safety of the firefighters and aircraft fighting the South Obenchain Fire, a temporary flight restriction has been placed over the fire area.  Please consult the Notice to Airman for specifics 

From RogueValleyMagazine.com:
During Oregon’s wildfires and safety evacuations, it is important to take precautions to avoid spreading COVID-19, particularly for those in isolation or quarantine due to a positive diagnosis or exposure to the virus.

The first priority in wildfire situations is responding to the evacuation and safety instructions of local and state fire officials – and heeding their warnings. Regardless of disease status, if you are asked or ordered to evacuate, you should do so. 

If you or a household member are quarantining or isolating to prevent the spread of COVID-19, please take the following precautions:

  • If ordered to evacuate, do so immediately. Follow all instructions from fire officials.
  • If you have time, reach out to your local public health authority, who should have already been in contact with you about your isolation/quarantine. They may have solutions to help you continue to isolate/quarantine if you are evacuated.
  • Should you be directed to a shelter or other evacuation space, please let officials know you are in isolation/quarantine so that they can take steps to keep you distanced from other evacuees. 
  • Wear a mask at all times when outside your home, or if you may come into contact with people who do not live with you.
  • If you are an older adult or a person with disabilities, reach out to the Aging and Disabilities Resource Connection for information about resources 1-855-ORE-ADRC(1-855-673-2372).
  • Practice physical distancing to the greatest extent possible, if you must travel outside your home for any reason, including evacuation.
  • More information about wildfire safety and your health is available on healthoregon.org/wildfires.
  • Additional resources can be found by calling 2-1-1.
  • Find statewide Oregon Wildfire Resources at wildfire.oregon.gov/

From the FBI Portland Bureau

FBI Portland and local law enforcement agencies have been receiving reports that extremists are responsible for setting wildfires in Oregon. With our state and local partners, the FBI has investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue. Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control. Please help our entire community by only sharing validated information from official sources.


Facebook is being partly blamed for rumors of Antifa arrests in southern Oregon. Rumors spread just like wildfire and 9-1-1 dispatchers and professional staff are being overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires in Douglas and Jackson Counties.

Law enforcement officials urge residents to stop spreading rumors. Follow official sources of information such as local emergency response websites and pages, government websites and pages and local reputable news outlets.

In a prepared release late yesterday afternoon, Jackson County sheriff Nate Sickler said. “It’s an increasingly problematic issue related to the disastrous fires in Jackson County is the spreading of false information.”  He added, “There are numerous FALSE reports of arrests and other situations over the past days that are the content of postings, fake stories and gossip.


When you see or hear a story please check official sources only to verify the information.” The sheriff asked that residents please don’t re-post and spread misinformation based on some unverified random post or meme. Rumors make the job of protecting the community more difficult. Jackson, Douglas and Klamath County emergency services have been inundated with questions about things that are fake stories. One example is a story circulating that varies about what group is involved as to setting fires and arrests being made. This is not true.  When official information about the investigation is available it will be on reputable government, fire and law enforcement internet sites and social media pages.

Aftermath photo of Phoenix, Oregon neighborhood.

Stunned residents of the small Oregon town of Phoenix walked through a scene of devastation Thursday after one of the state’s many wildfires wiped out much of their community, including a mobile home park, houses and businesses.

After spending the night in their cars in a Home Depot parking lot, a stream of people walked into what was left of the town that hugs Interstate 5 near the California border. They hauled wagons and carried backpacks and bags to salvage whatever was left of their belongings.

PHOENIX, Ore. – Businesses still standing, and some of those that last been lost.  A current list:

BUSINESSES STILL STANDING

  • All RV Needs
  • Debby’s Diner
  • Ray’s Food Place
  • Phoenix High School
  • Plaza 721
  • Minute Market
  • Chevron Gas Station (Exit 24)
  • Ray’s Food Place
  • Carquest Auto Parts
  • Jack-In-The-Box
  • Certified Barbershop
  • Good Morning Panderia
  • Home Depot

TOTAL LOSS TO FIRE

  • Northridge Senior Center
  • A1 Self Storage
  • Harley Davidson
  • Umpqua Bank
  • Phoenix Motel
  • Puck’s Donuts
  • Garrison’s Express Home Store
  • Cheryl Lane Apartments
  • Coleman Creek Estates
  • Esaan Thai Cuisine
  • Some businesses in the Pacific Plaza: Garrison’s Express, Fireside Dispensary, Fastenal
  • Burger King (Exit 19)
  • Jantzer Automotive
  • State Farm Insurance – Brad Linnell Agency

ALMOST COMPLETE LOSS

  • Royal Oaks Mobile Park

Oregon officials were shocked by the number of simultaneous fires, which stood at 39 on Thursday morning, according to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

At least three people in Oregon were reported killed, including a boy and his grandmother, and several others critically burned. Deaths in Washington included a 1-year-old boy. Elsewhere, wildfires damaged towns in a canyon and the foothills of the Cascade Range, where the remains of a boy and his dog were found. Flames also hit the coastal town of Lincoln City and Estacada, 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of Portland.

Fires also erupted along Interstate 5, forcing a shutdown Wednesday of the main freeway along the West Coast. U.S. Highway 101, the main coastal highway running through California, Oregon and Washington, was affected too.

Authorities are investigating the Almeda fire as an arson after discovering human remains in Ashland, the city police chief said.

The Ashland Police Department, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and Oregon State Police arson investigators are investigating the nature of the death of the person found, according to Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara. Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler is reported as saying the remains found in Ashland might not be the only fatality from the fire that ravaged Talent and Phoenix and threatened parts of Medford. An Oregon State Fire Marshal incident management team is assisting with the Almeda fire.

Pic of Chiloquin area Two Four Two Fire on Thursday, now at about 12,500 acres and only 5% containment.

As of late yesterday, the Two Four Two Fire near Chiloquin is about 12,500 acres in size as of this morning, Friday. It remains at about 5 percent containment. About 315 homes remain evacuated, according to the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership.

The Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team says the evacuations of the Woodland Park and Rainbow Park communities were lifted on Thursday. These areas contain about 175 homes. None of these homes were damaged. About 228 people on Wednesday were able to return to their homes west of Highway 62 at Modoc Point, and at Oregon Shores 1 and 2. There were no known injuries or fatalities as of Thursday morning.

Eight homes were confirmed destroyed and 31 others have been damaged. A total of 70 structures have been damaged. The estimated cost to fight the fire is $1.2 million and rising.

The sheriff issued a new Level 1, “Get Ready”, evacuation notice for Highway 62 from milepost 94 to Sun Mountain Road. All other evacuations remain the same.

Two Four Two Fire Facebook page:    https://www.facebook.com/TwoFourTwoFire

The fire’s Facebook page has a video explaining the evacuation areas and levels. Late this afternoon, a retardant drop along the fire’s north side helped slow the fire’s spread, allowing firefighters to strengthen the containment lines. Firefighters held the line along Highway 97. Along the west side, firefighters removed dangerous trees and cooled hot spots. Crews will use water and hand tools to put out hot spots along Highway 97.

On the north side, firefighters will also continue strengthening the line. Safety remains our top priority. This includes trying to prevent COVID-19 infections. Personnel are following the Center for Disease Control guidelines. This means limiting personal contact within fire camp and the community. The fire camp is closed to the public and media.

Crater Lake National Park has issued a Level 1 evacuation notice for the entire park effective at noon yesterday.

The Level 1 notice informs residents and visitors to “be ready” for a potential evacuation, including employee dormitories and trailer sites, in the event that a fire approaches. Current or projected threats from nearby fires indicate that there may be a need to evacuate in the future. However, there are no mandatory evacuations at this time. In the event that conditions worsen, the park will make every attempt to contact visitors and residents personally.

If visitors are absent from your residence, lodging room, campsite, or vehicle for more than a short time, leave a note with your name and a contact telephone number in a door or window where it can be easily seen.

Around the state of Oregon

Evacuation Status Update for fairgrounds is being updated on the Oregon Fairs Association Website – www.oregonfairs.org. Click on WILDFIRE FAIRGROUNDS RESOURCE GUIDE. To provide updates, email info@oregonfairs.org

Governor Kate Brown has issued an executive order declaring an “abnormal market disruption” due to Oregon’s wildfire state of emergency — a method for state agencies to crack down on price-gouging in times of distress. Brown’s office said that it has seen reports of “unusual increases in lodging rates” for Oregonians who have evacuated or lost homes from the multiple wildfires burning around the state, prompting Brown who last declared an abnormal market disruption in March as the coronavirus pandemic sparked similar concerns over price gouging on essential items, particularly cleaning and hygiene supplies. Brown’s office said that this order remains in effect amid concerns that other goods or services could likewise lose availability or rise in price.

COVID-19 has claimed three more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 497, the Oregon Health Authority reported yesterdayOregon Health Authority reported 187 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 28,654.

Eight new cases were reported in Jackson County.  Two new cases were reported in Klamath County.

During Oregon’s wildfires and safety evacuations, it is important to take precautions to avoid spreading COVID-19, particularly for those in isolation or quarantine due to a positive diagnosis or exposure to the virus. The first priority in wildfire situations is responding to the evacuation and safety instructions of local and state fire officials – and heeding their warnings. Regardless of disease status, if you are asked or ordered to evacuate, you should do so.

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