Rogue Valley News, Monday 6/7 – Crews Get Fires Along Butte Falls Highway and Structure Fire in Phoenix Out Quickly, Accused Medford Bomb-Maker Pleads Guilty

The latest news stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and around the state of Oregon from the digital home of Southern Oregon, Wynne Broadcasting’s

Monday, June 7, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today– Partly sunny, with a high near 71. Light northwest wind increasing to 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon.

Tuesday– Partly sunny, with a high near 70. Calm wind becoming northwest 5 to 7 mph in the afternoon.
Wednesday– A 40 percent chance of showers, mainly after 11am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 70. West northwest wind 3 to 6 mph.
Thursday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 75.
Friday– A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 73.


Oregon reports 258 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 3 new deaths

There are three new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,694. The Oregon Health Authority reported 258 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 203,252.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (1), Clackamas (41), Columbia (2), Coos (1), Crook (5), Deschutes (19), Douglas (11), Harney (1), Jackson (7), Jefferson (2), Josephine (1), Klamath (6), Lane (18), Linn (11), Marion (35), Multnomah (56), Polk (7), Sherman (1), Union (1), Washington (20), Yamhill (12).

Oregon’s 2692nd death is an 84-year-old woman from Jackson county who tested positive on May 28 and died on June 5 at Providence Medford Medical Center. She had underlying conditions.

Governor Brown Gives More Information About What Will Happen To COVID-19 Restrictions Once 70 Percent Of Adults Are Vaccinated

In a press conference Friday morning, Governor Kate Brown gave more information about what will happen to COVID-19 restrictions once 70 percent of adults are vaccinated. What does fully reopen mean? Masks will “largely” no longer be required in businesses and most other places, with the exception of public settings currently outlined by the CDC such as public transportation. Schools are expected to return to a full in-person school day in the fall.

Restaurants will be able to open to a full house without capacity restrictions, and people can enjoy all the events they’ve missed out on due to the pandemic, Brown added.

Oregon’s current risk level framework, which determines county restrictions based on local case rates, will be retired once the vaccination benchmarks is hit. Brown also said that the vaccination status check guidelines will be made obsolete, as mask and social distancing rules will be the same regardless of vaccination status.

The state will still strongly recommend that the unvaccinated and those who are medically vulnerable continue to wear masks and practice other precautions. Brown pledged that vaccination efforts will not stop once Oregon hits that target, as the risk of COVID-19 remains for people who are not vaccinated.

Jackson County reports third week in a row of declining Covid cases, lowest weekly total since September

With the seven new cases of Covid-19 reported on Sunday, Jackson County’s weekly coronavirus total for last week reached 102 cases. This marks the third week in a row that Jackson County has experienced a decline in new coronavirus cases. 

The 102 new cases last week also marks an important milestone for the decline of the Covid-19 pandemic in Jackson County, as it has been several months since Jackson County reported anywhere near 100 cases during a seven-day period. 

Back in September, 2020, Jackson County reported multiple weeks of new cases being slightly over the 100 mark, before new cases began to explode to the 200’s, 300’s 400’s and even 500’s in a week over the next few months.

But since Covid-19 cases spiked towards the end of November and early parts into December, new Covid-19 cases have been steadily declining, excluded a peak towards the middle part of March and April, in which new cases increased.

However, it’s still been several months since Jackson County experienced a week in which it did not surpass the 100 mark threshold of new cases. The last time that happened, was back on the week on September 13, when the county reported 72 cases of the virus. 

But if new Covid-19 cases continues to follow this path of reduction, and new vaccinations continue to increase, weekly coronavirus cases could fall below the 100 mark in the next few weeks.  


Crews Get Fires Along Butte Falls Highway and Structure Fire in Phoenix Out Quickly

Fire crews responded to reports of a fire along Butte Falls Highway northeast of Eagle Point on Friday afternoon, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

ODF said that the fire was located in the 8900-block of Butte Falls Highway. According to the agency, crews arrived to find a structure on fire, with flames spreading to roughly 1/10th of an acre of the surrounding area.

Firefighters from ODF and Butte Falls Volunteer Fire & Rescue were able to knock the fire down in short order, and the grass fire was quickly lined and mopped up. An RV, a structure, and the surrounding area were impacted by the fire.

The fire investigation is being headed by Butte Falls firefighters, with ODF saying that the fire spread to the wildland but didn’t appear to start there. No injuries were reported and no other properties were impacted.

Friday Local 2596 and Medford Firefighters Local 824 members responded to a structure fire in Phoenix. Crews were able to get a quick knockdown and prevent any spread.

The unoccupied building was previously damaged during the Almeda incident. No injuries were reported in the process and the cause of the fire remains under further investigation.

Stabbing Suspect Apprehended Fleeing from the Scene

On June 6th, 2021 at approximately 0045 hours, the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety (GPDPS) Dispatch Center received a 911 call of an adult male who had been stabbed and was being taken to Three Rivers Medical Center in a private vehicle. The location of the incident was said to be the 1400 block of Rogue River Hwy. As GPDPS Police units responded to the scene, Dispatch advised the suspect had fled on foot and a description was provided. 

Arrestee: Thomas Edward Bair 32 year-old, Grants Pass resident

Charges: Assault in the Second Degree, Unlawful use of a Weapon, Menacing

The suspect was located on East Park St by patrol units arriving to the area; he was placed in custody and identified as Thomas Edward Bair.  A GPDPS Detective responded to assist in the investigation of this incident, which appears to have started as a verbal altercation. The victim, a 33-year-old Grants Pass resident, was treated by TRMC staff for what appears to be non-life threatening stab wounds.

Once the investigation was completed, Bair was transported to the Josephine County Jail and lodged on the listed charges. The Grants Pass Department of Public Safety asks anyone who was a witness to this incident to please call (541) 450-6260 and reference Case # 2021- 24889. — Grants Pass Dept. of Public Safety

Accused Medford Bomb-Maker Pleads Guilty

A Medford man was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to 21 counts related to building or possessing explosive devices.

The investigation began in early 2021 after police received multiple reports of explosions around Jackson County. On January 22, a witness brought several devices to the Medford Police Department that were later found to be “live explosives,” according to the Jackson County District Attorney’s office.

MPD worked with the Oregon State Police Explosives Unit on the investigation, eventually identifying 23-year-old Brian Lighthill as a potential suspect. 

Surveillance video from homes near some of the explosions also showed that two vehicles were in the area on each occasion. The DA’s office said that both vehicles were eventually linked to Lighthill.

On March 18, MPD and OSP served a search warrant on Lighthill’s home, finding 23 completed explosive devices that were later diffused by OSP. Investigators also found chemicals for making homemade flash powder, fuses, grenade bodies, and other items for making explosives.

The DA’s office said that Lighthill admitted to building the devices, but he said that he never intended to hurt anyone.

This week, Lighthill pleaded guilty on 12 counts of Unlawful Manufacture of a Destructive Device and nine counts of Unlawful Possession of a Destructive Device. On Friday, Judge Timothy Barnack sentenced Lighthill to 60 months in prison with three years of post-prison supervision.

Lighthill also pleaded guilty in a separate case for Unlawful Delivery of Heroin, but his 24-month sentence will run concurrent with the bomb-making sentence.


Water Crisis in Klamath Continues to Escalate

The fringe group of irrigators and People’s Rights Oregon volunteers who plan to forcibly open the Klamath Project’s A Canal say the law is on their side when it comes to who’s entitled to the water in Upper Klamath Lake. As it turns out, the law may be on many people’s sides. Led in part by irrigators Dan Nielsen and Grant Knoll, the group is
operating a “water crisis info center” on a plot of land adjacent to the canal headworks.

The red-and-white tent, along with signs criticizing federal water management, are visible from Nevada Street. The Klamath irrigation project has a right to stored water in Upper Klamath Lake dating back to the early 1900s, though some individuals and irrigation districts within the project have rights that go back even farther.

Oregon water law centers around the “first in time, first in right” doctrine, which indicates that the first user to take water from a stream has priority over those who make later diversions. When there’s not enough water available to meet all needs, senior water users can make calls on water to prevent junior users from taking theirs first.

However, the most senior water rights in the Klamath Basin don’t belong to farmers: They belong to the federally recognized tribes that have lived here for countless generations, their priority dates simply reading “time immemorial.” The rights of the Klamath Tribes have been affirmed by the Klamath Basin Adjudication in Oregon, which over the course of nearly 40 years sorted out the various water right claims in the basin.

The Yurok and Hoopa Valley Tribes downriver also possess time immemorial rights, but they were not quantified in the Oregon adjudication because their points of use lie in California.

Umatilla County Sheriff’s Deputy Drowns In Northeast Oregon River

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A sheriff’s deputy for Umatilla County died Saturday in an accident on a northeast Oregon river, the sheriff’s office confirmed Sunday.

The deputy drowned near Minam State Recreation Area, a state park in Wallowa County, according to Lt. Sterrin Ward with the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office.

Lt. Ward planned to release a statement later Sunday. The deputy’s name has not been formally released.

Wallowa County Search and Rescue said it was dispatched at 11:11 a.m. Saturday “for a boat accident on the Wallowa River near Minam Park.” The team had been training on the Wallowa River but quickly moved equipment to Minam, “where they backed up the emergency personnel already on scene.”

The man died during a weekend river trip, leaving his family and the regional law enforcement family grieving.

Locals in La Grande witnessed a law-enforcement vehicle procession escorting the deputy’s body through town on the way back to Umatilla County, where the deputy lived.

His home agency shared a message Sunday morning:

Our hearts are broken. To his family, you are our family. We are so sorry and we love you. To those who joined us yesterday to help bring our brother home, we are forever grateful for your outpouring of love, your support, your respect and your concern. We are family. 💔

A post Saturday night on the Union County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page reads, “Prayers to our family over the hill….” The photo attached is of a mourning badge: the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office badge with a black “mourning band” stretched across.

Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office shared the same image to Facebook, changing its profile photo in a show of support.

A mourning badge is typically worn in the days between the death of a law enforcement officer and the memorial service for that officer, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

The Minam River is a tributary of the Wallowa and runs through the Wallowa Mountains between La Grande and Joseph, Oregon. The Wallowa is a tributary of the Grand Ronde River.

Minor Earthquake That Struck Near Mount Hood on Saturday Night Triggered Oregon’s New ShakeAlert System

A map of the impact from Saturday’s earthquake near Mount Hood (the star is the epicenter). Most of the shaking people felt is within the blue polygon. The outer circles indicate how many seconds it took for any shaking to reach those areas.USGS

A minor earthquake that struck near Mount Hood on Saturday night triggered Oregon’s new ShakeAlert system for the first time. ShakeAlert is designed to give residents a momentary warning before a quake’s shock wave hits them.

Saturday’s quake, which measured magnitude 3.9, was too small to trigger regional emergency alert systems that are broadcast over TV, radio and to smartphones. So people didn’t receive warnings on their phones.

But the people who deployed the system were heartened that the ShakeAlert technology worked as designed Saturday.

“This is the first time that we have actually gone through this process in Oregon for an alert,” said U.S. Geological Survey scientist Robert de Groot. In a bigger quake, he said, alerts could have given people enough warning to get under a table or take other protective measures.

ShakeAlert operates in Oregon, California and Washington. California was first, in 2019; Oregon’s system went live in March, and Washington’s has been active since May.

The technology uses a network of regional sensors to detect an earthquake, then rapidly calculate a quake’s size and location, and where it is likely to generate shaking. ShakeAlert immediately sends alerts to phones and to other public safety networks within those areas.

Saturday’s quake hit about four miles northeast of Government Camp at 8:50 p.m. The staff at Charlie’s Mountain View restaurant reported feeling a gentle shaking, but didn’t immediately realize it was an earthquake. Even though the quake was small, de Groot said people reported feeling it as far away as Beaverton.

Initial calculations had indicated Saturday’s quake was a 4.0, just large enough to trigger emergency alerts in some automated safety systems close by. Those automated systems may slow trains or shut off gas valves. Larger quakes trigger wide alerts.

A 5.0 quake, which is 30 times more intense than Saturday’s, would produce alerts over the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system. WEA warnings reach every smartphone in areas close enough to feel significant impacts, unless the phone’s owner has disabled public safety emergency notifications.

“If it was a magnitude 5, that’s when alerts would be delivered,” de Groot said. “And it would be delivered to people who would feel a minimum level of shaking, which is considered to be a light level of shaking.” That could reach a wide geographic range.

Because an earthquake’s vibrations move more slowly through the earth than radio signals travel over wireless networks, it’s possible to provide a warning that ranges from a couple seconds to a very significant advance notice.

Warnings about Saturday’s quake, for example, gave Hood River 1.9 seconds of warning, according to ShakeAlert metrics. However, de Groot cautioned that may overstate the amount of warning people actually had – he said it takes some period of time for ShakeAlert to process information before sending out the alerts.

Farther away, the warnings arrived long before any shaking. In Portland, 49 miles from Saturday’s epicenter, the alert provided 11.9 seconds of warning. In Eugene, 112 miles away, ShakeAlert gave 40.5 seconds of warning.

Saturday’s quake wasn’t large enough to trigger smartphone notifications. People who have smartphone apps that tap into the ShakeAlert network can customize their notifications to receive alerts at modest thresholds, for quakes of magnitude 4.5 or greater.

In Oregon, de Groot said there are two such apps available – MyShake and QuakeAlertUSA. Additionally, smartphones running Google’s Android operating system have ShakeAlert notifications built in. (Again, though, you don’t need these apps for notifications about larger quakes – the WEA system should notify smartphone owners automatically.)

The apps will provide additional information about a quake’s size, epicenter and intensity – but de Groot cautions that you should take protective measures before studying the data too closely.

Joseph Canyon Fire’s Growth Slowed – Second Nearby Fire Grows To 1,600 Acres

Cooler temperatures and moderate winds Sunday slowed the growth of the Joseph Canyon Fire in northeast Oregon, estimated at 4,000 acres with no containment Monday morning, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported.

Extreme winds on Saturday challenged air resources battling the fire, located on the border of northeast Oregon and southeast Washington, officials said Sunday, but also aided the suppression effort by pushing the active fire line back onto itself in some areas.

The Joseph Canyon Fire was one of several blazes sparked by an overnight lightning storm Thursday and Friday. It was reported Friday morning by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, burning in steep, rugged terrain in northern Wallowa County.

The blaze began on Vale Bureau of Land Management lands, but soon crossed over onto Washington state lands protected by Oregon Department of Forestry, about 23 miles southwest of Lewiston, Idaho.

By Monday morning, more than 200 firefighters were battling the blaze. Officials hope they can declare containment by June 14.

You can find a map, photos and more details on the fire’s InciWeb page.

A second fire, Dry Creek, was burning just to the east of the larger blaze, estimated at 1,600 acres by Monday morning, all on on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

“This is probably one of the most difficult places to fight fire in Oregon,” said Matt Howard, deputy agency administrator for the Oregon Department of Forestry. “Joseph Canyon is known for its extreme terrain, communications challenges and natural hazards.”

The Northwest 7 Type 2 Incident Management Team shadowed the interagency Blue Mountain Type 3 Incident Management Team Sunday and assumed command of the Joseph Canyon Fire Monday.

Engine crews on Saturday were able to establish and hold a line along 10 miles of roadway bordering the east side of Cottonwood Creek. They worked Sunday to reinforce the line and contain any slop-overs (areas where the fire has crossed the line).

Fire personnel from the Oregon Department of Forestry, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Vale Bureau of Land Management and Washington Department of Natural Resources worked cooperatively to protect public and private lands affected by the fire.

Several ranchers and permittees were moving cattle out of the fire zone to protect the livestock and allow firefighters unrestricted access into and around the fire footprint.

“The private landowners involved are no stranger to fire,” Howard said. “We have good communication with them and, given the circumstances, they are happy with the progress that has been made in battling this wildfire.”

Sine Die, Housing and Business Relief and More
Sine Die Imminent On Tuesday, Speaker Kotek and President Courtney declared Sine Die (session’s adjournment) imminent. While this may sound like we’re close to the end of session, what it really means is the notification process about bills and committee hearings becomes much quicker. For most of the session, the legislature is required to give 24-hour notice before a bill is heard in committee or receives a vote. Once sine die is declared imminent, we enter into a time known in the Capitol as “post and go” as committees and bills can be scheduled with as little as one hour notice. While this makes it hard for most Oregonians to keep up with the legislative proceedings, you can be assured that my staff and I will be paying close attention to any last-minute schedule changes or vote announcements!

House Bill 3026 Earlier this week, the legislature passed House Bill 3026 which I was proud to Chief Sponsor along with Rep Zach Hudson. This bill will waive application fees for homeless individuals applying for an Oregon ID card. An identification card is necessary for many parts of daily life, yet the $44.50 application fee can be an expensive barrier for many individuals experiencing homelessness. Applicants would qualify for the fee-waiver by obtaining an attestation from a homeless services provider using a form that will be provided by the DMV. The fee-waiver will not apply to a driver’s license application. HB 3026 is now awaiting the Governor’s approval.
School Funding Our kids and families have struggled with remote learning and the effects of being out of school for the past year. They need all the support we can give to complete their education which is the foundation for the rest of their lives. I believe that we should fully support students by fully funding our schools and fully opening our schools. On Thursday, my colleagues in the House Republican Caucus and I advocated to fully fund our schools. Unfortunately, the majority party voted down our motion and instead passed a reduced budget. You can listen to the remarks I made on the House floor here.

Housing Relief As I’ve mentioned in previous newsletters, there is still state relief available for housing needs for both landlords and tenants.
For landlords, the Landlord Compensation Fund is now accepting applications for the third and final round of funding. This round is first-come, first-serve so eligible landlords are encouraged to apply quickly.
Important to note – besides just the first-come, first-serve nature, there are additional changes to this third round. Landlords may now apply for former tenants, not just current tenants. Landlords may now apply for pet and garage rents, not just dwelling rent
An updated FAQ addressing the third round changes can be found HERE.
For renters, the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program is accepting applications for individuals in need.
Representative Fahey and Senator Jama are hosting a virtual learning session for tenants on Thursday, June 10th at 6:00pm. Experts from Oregon Housing and Community Services and the Oregon Law Center will present information and answer questions. You can RSVP HERE.

Business Oregon Grants
Business Oregon has opened applications for grant funding for businesses affected by COVID-19.
Eligible companies have 100 or fewer employees that: offer the consumption of food and or drink on premise; provide specified indoor physical exercise, recreational or family entertainment; OR provide specified personal services; and that experienced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Oregon.
Restaurants, bars, gyms, brewpubs, theaters, bowling centers, and salons are some of the more common examples of eligible businesses.
The application deadline is June 6th. Awards will be selected after a random lottery process of all complete and eligible applications received.

SOU President Search Earlier this spring Southern Oregon University President Linda Schott announced her intent to retire at the conclusion of 2021. The university is hosting a series of listening sessions to gain perspective and understanding about the ideal candidate to lead SOU. Alumni, parents, and members of the community are invited to join the conversation.
There are two sessions scheduled for Monday, June 7, 2021 for public participation.
10-11 a.m. – am – 12:15 pm –
If you are unable to attend the Zoom session, you are encouraged to submit your feedback in writing

All my best,

Must Read

Rogue Valley News, Monday 4/11 – Marijuana Seizure At Warehouses Adjacent to Glendale High School, Fatal Traffic Crash in Medford

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Rogue Valley News, Wednesday, 11/11/20 – Veterans Day, Jackson and 8 Other Counties Begin COVID-19 ‘Pause’

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Rogue Valley News, Wednesday, 9/30 – Covid-19 Cases Continue To Soar in Oregon

Brian Casey