Rogue Valley News, Monday 7/19 – Grass Fire on Bear Creek Greenway Near Airport, ODF Scheduling Strike Team Around the Rogue Valley

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 RogueValleyMagazine.com

Monday, July 19, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today– Widespread haze after noon. Partly sunny and hot, with a high near 97. Calm wind becoming northwest 5 to 8 mph in the afternoon.

Tuesday– Sunny, with a high near 92. Calm wind becoming northwest 5 to 8 mph in the afternoon.

Wednesday– Sunny, with a high near 90. Northwest wind 3 to 6 mph.

Thursday– Sunny, with a high near 94.

Friday– Sunny, with a high near 95.

LOCAL HEADLINES:

Grass Fire on Bear Creek Greenway Near Airport Causes Scare

The fire broke out on milepost 31 near the Bearcreek Greenway Sunday afternoon.. Crews at the scene of a 5-6 acre grass fire stated that the fire had been fully contained by 5:15pm.

Crews state that there was some damage to camping trailers at Camping World thought the total number of units lost has not yet been determined.

There were also structure fires at a meatpacking plant in the area. Authorities say all of those fires are now contained.

ODF responded with multiple engines and a crew to assist Medford Fire Department on a grassfire along the Greenway near I-5.

Fire District 3 was also on scene, and the Rogue Valley 1 Strike Team were called to fill local stations. The task force staged in Ashland was also on the scene helping local crews.

The cause is under investigation.

ODF Scheduling Strike Team Around the Rogue Valley

Firefighters from across the country are merging in the Rogue Valley in anticipation of extreme fire danger conditions over the next week or two. The strike team will be based out of the Medford ODF headquarters starting at 10 a.m. on Monday morning.

The force will be based in the Rogue Valley, but could be sent anywhere in ODF’s Southern Oregon Area, which includes the Western Lane, South Cascade and Southwest Oregon Districts, as well as the Douglas and Coos Forest Protective Associations.

The Oregon Department of Forestry said that the strike team includes members from as far as Arizona and Tennessee, and will be on hand to help ODF resources in the area.

In full, the strike team consists of five Rural Metro Fire Type-6 engines, three of them from Yuma, Tucson, and Maricopa County in Arizona. Two other engines come from Grants Pass, and a local Rural Metro firefighter will be joined by staff from Tennessee.

“Combined with a strike team leader from Yuma, Arizona, this mobilization will provide 11 additional firefighters to the region,” ODF said.

“Resources are limited due to a large amount of incidents on the landscape; with potential lightning in the forecast early next week, prepositioning this strike team ensures added capacity to the area,” ODF said. “These resources will be available for up to two weeks beginning Monday, July 19, 2021.”

Firefighters from CalFire also stationed themselves in the Ashland area on Friday in anticipation that they might be similarly needed.

Multiple Vehicle Crash Near Gold Hill

Around 11 a.m. Sunday morning police were called to the scene of a multi-vehicle crash, around the 13000 block of Highway 234, that has left two drivers with life-threatening injuries according to Oregon State Police Troopers. Two other drivers sustained minor injuries.

Oregon State Trooper Michael Benson states that two of the drivers in that crash, one adult male and one adult female, are facing ‘potentially fatal injuries’ and have been taken to a local hospital.

Trooper Benson confirmed as well that three vehicles were involved in the crash and that one of the drivers, who was operating a work truck for a sewage company, failed to pass a DUI test.

Highway 234 remains closed at this time as investigators continue to investigate the scene.

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

WILDFIRE UPDATES

Meteorologists predicted critically dangerous fire weather with lightning possible through at least Monday in both California and southern Oregon.

Extremely dry conditions and heatwaves tied to climate change have swept the region, making wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

Firefighters said in July they were facing conditions more typical of late summer or fall. It is still early in the fire season, and the size and frequency of wildfires is concerning to fire officials. ODF encourages Oregonians to please be fire-safe, have an evacuation plan and create defensible space around your home to keep you and your family safe this season

There were about 70 active large fires and complexes of multiple blazes that have burned nearly 1,659 square miles (4,297 square kilometers) in the U.S., the National Interagency Fire Center said. The U.S. Forest Service said at least 16 major fires were burning in the Pacific Northwest alone.

Bootleg Fire:

The largest wildfire in the U.S. torched more dry forest landscape in Oregon on Sunday, one of dozens of major blazes burning across the West as critically dangerous fire weather loomed in the coming days. 

The Bootleg Fire made history, becoming just the fourth wildfire in the modern history of Oregon, to surpass 300,000 acres burned. The Bootleg Fire is also the largest wildfire in Klamath County’s history. 

The destructive Bootleg Fire just north of the California border grew to more than 476 square miles (1,210 square kilometers), an area about the size of Los Angeles.

Erratic winds fed the blaze, creating dangerous conditions for firefighters, said John Flannigan, an operations section chief on the 2,000-person force battling the flames.

“Weather is really against us,” he said. “It’s going to be dry and air is going to be unstable.”

Authorities expanded evacuations that now affect some 2,000 residents of a largely rural area of lakes and wildlife refuges. The blaze, which was 22% contained, has burned at least 67 homes and 100 outbuildings while threatening thousands more.

Officials are warning more Oregon residents to prepare to evacuate as the Bootleg Fire scorches more than 300,000 acres, with a national fire official warning it could take a major weather event to subdue the flames.

Jack Fire:

The Jack Fire in Douglas County is burning near Glide and has increased containment to 35%. The fire has burned at least 16,667 acres.

The Jack Fire closed Highway 138 East, but firefighters are saying they hope to reopen that section of the highway this weekend.

In addition to those plans, crews also said cooler temperatures and higher humidity this weekend will assist them in holding the fire line. 

Evacuations:

  • The Level 3 “GO!” evacuation for all residences and businesses located between milepost 43 and 51 on Highway 138E, including the Dry Creek Community has been reduced to a LEVEL 2 “BE SET” notice.
  • All residences and businesses located between milepost 38 and 43 on Highway 138E, including the Steamboat Inn and all residences located on Brindle Bug Road and Steelhead Caddis Road, have been downgraded from a Level 2 “Be Set” to a Level 1 “Be Ready”.
  • All residences and businesses located between milepost 51 and 55 on Highway 138E have been downgraded to a Level 1 “Be Ready”.
  • All residences and businesses located between milepost 55 and 60 on Highway 138E, to include the Slide Creek Village, Toketee Village and Clearwater Village, are no longer under a formal evacuation notice.

Grandview Fire:

The Grandview Fire northeast of Sisters is now mapped at 6,013 acres and is 43% contained, officials said late Saturday, noting that the increased acreage is due to more accurate mapping and not fire growth. Full containment is expected by Friday.

Due to the tremendous partnership between the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office and Oregon Department of Forestry in maintaining the fire footprint and protecting homes and nearby communities, the Oregon State Fire Marshall Incident Management Team will be demobilizing today. This will allow firefighting resources to return to their home agency and prepare for other fires burning throughout the state.

Elbow Creek Fire:

The Elbow Creek Fire reached 10% containment on Sunday after state resources were sent out to help battle the wildfire burning in Northeast Oregon over the weekend.

The Elbow Creek Fire burns on steep terrain in Northeast Oregon. July 2021 (Oregon State Fire Marshal)

The fire in Wallowa County covers 10,941 acres.

Fire officials say progress was made on the northwest side of the fire this weekend as crews were able to construct a fire line and stop the progression of the fire into the Elbow Creek Drainage. There are dozer operations on both the north and south ends of the fire.

The fire in the mountains of northeast Oregon grew to more than 17 square miles (44 square kilometers) by Sunday.

The Elbow Creek Fire that started Thursday has prompted evacuations in several small, remote communities around the Grande Ronde River about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of Walla Walla, Washington. It was 10% contained.

Natural features of the area act like a funnel for wind, feeding the flames and making them unpredictable, officials said.

The Elbow Creek Fire reached 10% containment on Sunday after state resources were sent out to help battle the wildfire burning in Northeast Oregon over the weekend. The fire in Wallowa County covers 10,941 acres.

Bruler Fire:

As of Sunday morning, the Bruler Fire remains at 156 acres with containment now at 10%.

A photo of the Bruler Fire on July 12, 2021 in the evening

Temperatures have been cooler, winds have been lighter and humidity has been higher, which officials say helped firefighters reduce fire activity.

Currently, crews are working to bring indirect line closer to the fire perimeter to keep the fire size close to its current footprint.

On Sunday, the plan is to place sprinklers on the perimeter of the Bruler Fire, which will add water to dry and dead down trees and plants.

A large closure area is in place to protect firefighters and the public. It encompasses:

  • Large portions of Forest Service lands south of Detroit Lake, west of Highway 22 and north of Highway 20
  • The Middle Santiam Wilderness, Daly Lake, Tule Lake and the Old Cascade Crest trail system
  • Lands along the Quartzville Scenic Byway including Yellowbottom Campground, Old Miner’s Meadow Group Site, and nearby dispersed camping areas

Darlene Fire:

Officials announced Sunday night that the Darlene Fire was 85% contained and the Grandview Fire 57% contained.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and Klamath County Sheriff’s Office announced Sunday evening they are adjusting evacuation levels around the Darlene Fire in coordination with fire managers.

The following areas have been reduced from a Level 2 (Get Set) Evacuation Notice to a Level 1 (Be Ready) Evacuation notice:

  • All residences south of La Pine off of Darlene Way to the Deschutes/Klamath County Line including Old Ice Cave Rd.

All evacuation notices have been dropped in the areas previously in a Level 1 (Be Ready) Evacuation Notice:

  • Areas south of the Deschutes/Klamath County line including most of township 23 east of Hwy 97.  This area includes Sun Forest Estates, Split Rail, and Antelope Meadows.

This decision was made after consultation with fire managers. We will continue to work with fire managers to ensure public safety and prevent conflicts between citizens and fire operations.  Please refrain from unnecessary travel through these areas as fire equipment and personnel are moving through the area. 

Several property owners sustained damage from the fire.  At this time, preliminary reports indicate 2 residential buildings, several outbuildings, RVs, and other vehicles were damaged or destroyed.  Property owners inside the fire area, should be aware of hazards including burned trees, structures that may been destroyed by fire, and hazardous substances.  Please use caution if your property was impacted by fire.  

Log Fire:

The Log Fire, located 8 miles southwest of Summer Lake, continued to spread to the east driven by steady west winds and is now 4,830 acres. Large pyrocumulus clouds developed over the eastern portion of the fire during the afternoon and are possible again today. Throughout the night, crews continued working in the greater Fuego Mountain area as well as to the southeast along the 34 Road, improving existing containment lines. 

Night Fire Activity

 “This fire is going to continue to grow – the extremely dry vegetation and weather are not in our favor,” said Joe Hessel, Incident Commander for ODF Team 1 Incident Management Team. “We are going to continue to prepare lines, protect structures, and move resources as we can around the fire’s edge.”

With continued west winds predicted, firefighters will continue to work to hold the fire to the 34 Road to prevent further eastern and southern spread. Heavy beetle killed timber and active fire behavior will present challenges in keeping the fire north and west of this road. Crews will continue to work on strengthening their existing line as well as scout for potential contingency lines. Structure protection groups are in place along the fire to help reduce risk to area homes.

Game Hog Creek Fire:

The Game Hog Creek Fire burning near Forests Grove remains at 135 on Saturday, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Plane picks up water to fight Game Hog Creek Fire 

On Saturday, ODF briefly closed access to Hagg Lake while helicopters picked up water to drop it onto spots in the steep terrain of the Elk Creek drainage where the blaze is located. The fire remains entirely within the Tillamook State Forest. A second-hand crew arrived and increased the fire personnel to about 100, according to fire officials.

New Wildfire Breaks out Southeast of Bend

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A new wildfire broke out Sunday evening about a dozen miles southeast of Bend and quickly grew to about 50 acres, putting up a smoke plume visible for miles and prompting a major firefighter call-out to tackle it, as well as closure of China Hat Road in the area.

It also sparked many calls to dispatchers and officials from worried residents amid continued heat, tinder-dry conditions and major wildfires battled around the state.

Incident 610 was reported shortly after 5 p.m., burning about a mile southeast of Boyd Cave near the Swamp Wells Trailhead, fire information spokeswoman Jean Nelson-Dean said. It had grown to about 40 acres about 90 minutes later and to 50 acres by 8 p.m., growing toward the southeast.

Two large air tankers, a helicopter, an initial air attack plane, three single-engine air tankers (SEAT planes), hand crews and bulldozers were sent to the scene, Nelson-Dean said, adding that the new fire “has the potential to grow rapidly.”

China Hat Road was closed at milepost 9, at the end of the pavement near Boyd Cave, according to Deschutes County sheriff’s Sgt. Nathan Garibay, who added they were “asking people to stay out of the area.”

A Type 3 management team was activated to oversee the fight, and Nelson-Dean said in a post, “Residents and others in the area should avoid interfering with resources responding to the fire and should avoid the area if possible.”

Oregon’s classic salmon license plate gets a new look

A new salmon plate design will be on the road September 1st, with limited time left to purchase classic salmon plate design

Oregonians will soon have a choice about how they display their support for salmon habitat. A new salmon license plate design will be available September 1st, or Oregonians can opt for the classic salmon license plate until August. Lowest-numbered new plates will be available through a special auction in cooperation with Oregon nonprofits that support salmon habitat restoration.

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department first debuted the salmon plate in 1998. Revenue from the specialty plate protects and restores native salmon habitat. To date over $8 million of salmon plate funding has been invested in Oregon.

“When coupled with voter-dedicated investments from the state’s Lottery, this plate allows salmon supporters to show their true colors and invest in a worthwhile cause – healthy salmon habitat,” says Meta Loftsgaarden, Executive Director of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

The original plate was one of the earliest custom designs available in Oregon, and the new design is a colorful upgrade, showing spawning salmon in a clear, cool stream. The new art was created by Gretchen Kirchner, an amateur artist and former graphic designer for Oregon Watershed Enhancement BoardThe public can continue to order the classic plate design before they retire in August and can keep the classic plates on their car if they choose, while still supporting habitat projects.

To launch the new salmon license plate, the Oregon Conservation Partnership (ORCP) is hosting a Salmon Plate VIP List Auction using eBay. On July 20, 2021, members of the public can go to https://www.ebay.com/ and search for “Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts Salmon License Plate.” The auction allows bidders to secure low number spots on the VIP list for plate numbers SM 00001 through SM 00020 when the new plates are released. Bids must be placed by 5:00pm on July 30, 2021 to be eligible. Proceeds from the auction will benefit statewide nonprofit organizations who strongly support on-the-ground salmon recovery in Oregon.

The new plates will be available for passenger vehicles through the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Driver and Motor Vehicle Services (DMV) beginning September 1, 2021, but when and how Oregonians apply for the new plate matters. To guarantee landing the new salmon plate design, vehicle owners need to apply in person, online at DMV2U, or by mail on or AFTER September 1, 2021. Orders online or in person before August 31, 2021 will receive the classic plate.

More information about the new Salmon License plate, and auction rules and eligibility, is available at orsalmonplates.com. Registration fees and ordering information are available on the DMV website at https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/Pages/Vehicle/index.aspx.  —- Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept. 

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Oregon reports 369 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 7 new deaths

There are seven new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,817, the Oregon Health Authority reported Friday. OHA doesn’t do weekend updates anymore and new numbers will be available later in the day today. Oregon Health Authority reported 369 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 211,998.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Benton (9), Clackamas (27), Clatsop (2), Columbia (7), Coos (4), Crook (6), Deschutes (19), Douglas (14), Hood River (1), Jackson (28), Josephine (12), Klamath (6), Lake (1), Lane (28), Lincoln (8), Linn (18), Malheur (3), Marion (28), Morrow (2), Multnomah (55), Polk (15), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (28), Union (3), Wasco (3), Washington (33) and Yamhill (8).   

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA reported that 5,295 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 2,896 doses were administered on July 15 and 2,399 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on July 15.

Oregon has now administered 2,607,790 first and second doses of Pfizer, 1,765,059 first and second doses of Moderna and 175,839 single doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

As of today, 2,445,717 people have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 2,271,516 people have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series.

Cumulative daily totals can take several days to finalize because providers have 72 hours to report doses administered and technical challenges have caused many providers to lag in their reporting. OHA has been providing technical support to vaccination sites to improve the timeliness of their data entry into the state’s ALERT Immunization Information System (IIS).

To date, 2,975,895 doses of Pfizer, 2,267,560 doses of Moderna and 299,100 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to sites across Oregon.

These data are preliminary and subject to change. Updated vaccination data are provided on Oregon’s COVID-19 data dashboards and have been updated today.

COVID-19 hospitalizations

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 141, which is four more than yesterday. There are 44 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is six more than yesterday.

The total number of patients in hospital beds may fluctuate between report times. The numbers do not reflect admissions per day, nor the length of hospital stay. Staffing limitations are not captured in this data and may further limit bed capacity. More information about hospital capacity can be found here.

As the highly transmissible delta variant sweeps across the nation fueling an increase in COVID-19 cases Oregon is no exception. For at least 11 consecutive weeks COVID-19 cases had been decreasing in Oregon, until last week. Health experts point to the highly contagious delta variant, first detected in India, as a factor as state and federal officials continue to warn about a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

According to Tim Heider, a spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority cases are increasing and this is certainly due to the increasing percentage of the delta variant in Oregon. This has been seen in communities across the world. If you are fully vaccinated, you are well protected from COVID, including the delta variant. If you are not vaccinated, make a plan to do so, and take precautions like wearing a mask indoors and in outdoor crowded places until you are vaccinated. “The outbreak in the U.S. is becoming “a pandemic of the unvaccinated” because nearly all hospital admissions and deaths are among those who hadn’t been immunized.

In Oregon, more than 70% of Oregon’s adults have been fully or partially vaccinated. But in some rural counties there is a significant portion of the population that still has not received a shot. In Lake County a mere 36% of adults are partially or fully vaccinated. In 12 out of the state’s 36 counties, less than 50% of adults in those counties have been vaccinated.

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