Rogue Valley News, Thursday 7/29 – Grants Pass Construction Firm Picked to Renovate Visitor Center at Crater Lake, Roseburg Library Commission Seeks Applicants, Gov. Brown Visits Bootleg Fire

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

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today– A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2pm. Mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 103. Calm wind becoming northwest 5 to 7 mph in the afternoon.

Friday– A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 11am. Mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 103. Light and variable wind.

Saturday– A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 11am. Partly sunny and hot, with a high near 98. Calm wind becoming northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Sunday– Mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 97.

Monday– Sunny and hot, with a high near 97.

LOCAL HEADLINES:

Jackson County Public Health Urging People to Wear Masks in Indoor Public Places

Jackson County Public Health issued a statement on Wednesday urging that people wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status. The county-level recommendation comes after similar changes to
guidance at the CDC and Oregon Health Authority on Tuesday due to extensive spread of the Delta COVID-19 variant.

The recommendation applies to everyone 5 years and older, or 2 and older if tolerated. The Delta variant in particular has mutations on its spike protein that make it easier to infect human cells, and thus has been more contagious.

Health officials cited a recent study, which found that the Delta variant’s viral load is about 1,000 times higher than the original virus that causes COVID-19.

For now…the Oregon Department of Education will not immediately require the state’s public schools to adopt indoor mask mandates, even as thousands of students are enrolled in summer programs, many of which are being conducted in-person.

Roseburg Library Commission Seeks Applicants

ROSEBURG, OR – The City of Roseburg is accepting applications from people interested in serving on the City Council’s Library Commission.

Applicants must live within Roseburg city limits or within the city’s Urban Growth Boundary.

The commission has a vacancy after Commissioner Laura Harvey resigned because she’s moving. The resignation was accepted by the City Council at its Monday, July 26, meeting.

The Library Commission meets at 4 p.m. on the third Tuesdays of each month. Serving in an advisory capacity, the group considers efficient, effective library operations; reviews current trends and library-related technology; develops and recommends long-range plans for library services; reviews terms and conditions for contracts and working relationships with private and public agencies; assists with annual reports; and advocates for the library budget, events and programs.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. Friday, August 13. Application forms can be downloaded from the City’s website, obtained by emailing info@cityofroseburg.org , or picked up in person from the City Administration Office, Roseburg City Hall, 900 S.E. Douglas Ave. in Roseburg, OR 97470. Applications can be mailed in or emailed to  info@cityofroseburg.org.

For more information, call 541-492-6866.

Grants Pass Construction Firm Picked to Renovate Visitor Center at Crater Lake

A Grants Pass-based construction firm has been picked to renovate the historic Steel Visitor Center at Crater Lake National Park, an $8 million project that enters its preliminary stages tomorrow.

Ausland Group said that representatives from the National Park Service were flying into Medford on Wednesday for a pre-construction meeting at the park.

The project is set to include rehabilitation of the existing structure, updates of all systems, structural strengthening, and preservation of the building’s “cultural history.”

The project is supposed to preserve and restore the integrity of the existing building. The Steel Visitor Center’s exterior walls are built of massive, locally sourced stacked stones, but the original building does not have the strength to withstand a major earthquake. Ausland said that it will reinforce the walls by core drilling vertical rods into the stones that will connect to new concrete foundations.

Ausland said its Rogue Valley-based crews of carpenters and laborers will do the majority of the construction, with help from other local subcontractors and suppliers.

Mountain of the Rogue Trails Slated to Re-Open July 30

Bureau of Land Management officials have been working hard to re-open popular downhill biking and hiking trails at the Mountain of the Rogue recreation area after damage from the North River Road Fire, which started June 19.

Portions of the Rat Pack, PB & J, Pay Dirt, and Freewheel trails were impacted and required extensive reconstruction. The BLM will partially re-open the trail system July 30. Significant progress has been on trail repairs; however, long term closures on some trails are likely until the area receives enough moisture to compact the work that has been completed. Currently PB&J Trail and Freewheel Trail will remain closed to the public.

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“We appreciate the community’s support and patience in continuing to respect the trail closure until we’re able to safely reopen,” said Jared Nichol, Butte Falls Field Manager. “Mountain of the Rogue is one of the BLM’s Backyard to Backcountry treasures and provides world-class riding experiences.”

Until trails officially reopen, members of the public may not enter closed areas, and all uses—including mountain biking, hiking, and hunting — are prohibited. The BLM is working as quickly as possible to stabilize the area and create safe conditions for public access.

Maps of the closure areas, as well as a list of personal use restrictions, are available on the Bureau of Land Management’s website: https://blm.gov/orwafire

Officials Warning Public to Prepare for Another Heatwave in Oregon

State leaders are pleading with the public to be careful as another heatwave is expected to hit Oregon in the coming days.

Oregon Health Authority : Extreme Heat : Get Prepared : State of Oregon

“Stay in air-conditioned buildings,” said Rachael Banks of Oregon Health Authority. “Don’t rely on fans as primary cooling devices. Limit outdoor activity, especially mid-day when it’s the hottest part of the day.”

These tips are so critical because the excessive heat in late June killed 83 Oregonians. That number could rise as more than 30 deaths are still under investigation.

“Many of these deaths, in my mind, are preventable,” Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM) director Andrew Phelps said.

Phelps said state leaders have learned a lot in the last few weeks. Take for instance the importance of the 211info help line. Late last month, it was not functioning properly.

“There was a delay or gap in 24/7 211 coverage ,” Phelps said. “That was rectified during the weekend and moving forward during events like that, we need to make sure 211 service is provided around the clock.”

The goal is to have 24/7 coverage available this weekend.

“We don’t have authority to direct jurisdictions to waive their mass transit fares,” Phelps said. “The recommendation is if communities are opening up cooling centers, transportation to access those centers should be free.”

While that is out of our control, other things are not. Here is some more advice for beating the heat.

“Wearing loose, light-colored clothing,” Banks said. “When getting hot, take cool showers to lower body temperature.”

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

Governor Brown Tours Bootleg Fire Camp

Governor Brown visited a fire camp near Bly in Klamath County on Wednesday, receiving a briefing from fire officials on the current state of firefighting efforts on the Bootleg Fire which is still the largest fire currently burning in the nation, and the third-largest in Oregon’s post-1900 history.

Fire officials said that Governor Brown had an opportunity to fly out over the vast burn area, then received an in-depth briefing on current suppression efforts and evacuation levels from the Incident Management Team.

The camp near Bly includes both firefighters and crews from the Oregon National Guard. Brown thanked the Guardsmen as well as the local, state, and federal firefighters that came out to work on the fire.

After seeing the devastation, Gov. Brown said the state has to rethink how it fights wildfires in an era of hotter, larger blazes, and mitigate dangers before they spark.

Brown also acknowledged the difficulty for Klamath County communities, and the broader region, suggesting residents stay prepared and ready in the face of increased wildfire activity.

Brown also underlined the state’s readiness in the face of severe fire danger this year, with the Office of the State Fire Marshal able to quickly respond to major fire incidents like the Bootleg Fire.

“OSFM was able to have a team here pretty close to immediately,” the Governor said. “That makes a huge difference. We had folks staged in central Oregon over the Fourth of July weekend because we were so concerned about the fire danger there, so you have to be proactive . . . you’ve got to be able to make sure your communities are fire adaptive, and that’s going to look different for different communities — it will look different for Ashland than it will for Bly.”

“My heart goes out to the people of the Klamath Basin,” said Gov. Brown. “This is a really challenging summer, we know this is going to be an incredibly challenging fire season, and obviously we’ve got the challenges around drought.”

Brown said the state is committed to assisting displaced families as quickly as possible, and said federal assistance is on the way. 

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” she said, promising to call Rep. DeFazio (D-OR), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, who is leading alongside Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) a delegation pushing for FEMA readiness. 

Brown said there are other ways for the state to prove its readiness.

“We must do more of the preventative mitigation work (such as) the thinning and the prescriptive burning,” she said from fire camp in Bly. “The goal is to eliminate biomass fuel off the forest floors so that you either prevent fires or if there are fires, it is not as damaging.”

Brown said stopping wildfires before they start is a better plan, but crews also need the manpower and funds necessary to fight them when they do get out of hand.

“There is absolutely no question that we need to modernize our firefighting practices,” she said. “And that’s what we are doing with the work of the legislation that I’ll be signing into law on Friday… Senate Bill 762.” SB 762 introduces a number of policy proposals as part of enhancing fire preparation. 

Brown said these mega-fires are dangerous to communities, damaging to the environment, and taxing for firefighters.

“The challenge is these fires are substantially hotter, they are faster, they are simply much more ferocious than in decades past,” she said. “So we have to make sure that we have both the people power and the equipment to tackle them.”

Brown urged local communities to “get ready,” and “be prepared” for these changing climate events such as larger, fiercer wildfires, but added she believes communities in the Klamath Basin are better prepared and more self resilient than most.

WILDFIRE UPDATES:

BOOTLEG FIRE:

As of Wednesday morning, the Bootleg Fire remained the nation’s largest, checking in at 413,400 acres.
According to fire managers, the west side of the fire received steady, light rain on Tuesday that allowed more direct attack on the fire’s edge. The rain significantly moderated fire behavior. Fine fuels are most affected by moisture, although larger diameter fuels are still critically dry.

The rain tapered off overnight, although isolated thunderstorms are still possible, especially in the northwest region, over the next few days. Warmer temperatures will return and humidity will decrease starting today and over the next few days, so crews are watching for increased fire activity.

On the east side of the fire, crews continued to mop up after the spot fire from Tuesday. With the added moisture they have no concerns about that area today. The Oregon National Guard crews are working on the east flank of the fire area to secure the perimeter and put out any hot spots. Crews are completing lines on the fire perimeter near the Old Trunk road around the burned area of the 2018 Watson Creek Fire.

Drier conditions are forecast to return today. Overall, air quality will remain generally good to moderate. Klamath Falls and Paisley are the exceptions; Klamath Falls could see periods of poor air quality, and Paisley could see periods of unhealthy air.

JACK FIRE:

The Jack fire is currently at 22,248 acres with 60 percent containment. The fire is burning in steep, rugged terrain and continues to be a challenge for fire operations causing some areas to be inaccessible. Yesterday firefighters continue to successfully hold fire within control lines north of Hwy 138. Patrol and mop-up operations will resume for this area.

Challenges yesterday in the weather-delayed firing operations due to rain in the SE quadrant of Twin Lakes and Calf Creek.  The lightning from the day before placed a greater demand on initial attack resources.  Operations managers placed an Initial Attack Task Force in a location for better response needs.  Personnel deployed to one initial attack response just outside the TFR area with ground and air resources.  

Resources from the Jack Fire organization previously identified to assist the Umpqua National Forest in extinguishing new fire starts were deployed. Through the assistance these resources, the new starts were successfully contained. These resources will continue to assist the forest on any new starts. Today, along South of Hwy 138, firefighters continue to work on securing the southeast corner of the fire. Operations for the southeast corner included developing plans for future burn operations when conditions allow. If burn operations occur, please be aware smoke may be visible to the public. Preparation of the 4770 road and 500 spur road on the east flank will resume with the utilization of mechanical equipment. Firefighters along the west flank continue to patrol control line and implement hazard mitigation.

ELBOW CREEK FIRE:

The Elbow Creek Fire is approximately 22,901 acres and 43 percent contained. Firefighting personnel and equipment continue to arrive, filling most fire line resource needs.

Crews continued with burnouts in the east side of Elbow Creek and working grids to locate and suppress any spot fires in the area. Work by firefighters is now transitioning to mop up and patrol along all Divisions, while ongoing work continues on known, scattered hot areas such as those discovered in dozer berms along fire lines. Aiding in this work is use of handheld infrared heat detection cameras to locate hot spots not readily visible.Besides risks normally thought of with regard to firefighting, other environmental risks are showing up with more frequency now, specifically stinging insects and poisonous snakes.

Strict Covid precautions are being observed within the Incident Command Center and the Fire Camp, not only to reduce risk to firefighters, but also to the community. Very light rain occurred over portions of the fire area last night with no significant, long term effect to burning conditions.

Lightning did occur broadly over the region last night with none observed in the fire vicinity. Today’s weather is expected to be mostly cloudy with some smoke and haze, and a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Temperatures will be slightly warmer with highs between 87 and 93 degrees, and relative humidity from 15 to 25 percent. Afternoon winds will be from the southwest at 3 to 7 mph with gusts to 15. Evacuation levels within Wallowa County remain unchanged for now. 

BRULER FIRE:

On July 28th, Northwest Incident Interagency Management Team 13 transitioned command to South Cascade Interagency Type 3 team. Northwest Incident Interagency Management Team 13 worked hard to set up the Type 3 team up for success, and the Type 3 team will work to finish and improve the contingency lines and continue to mop-up. Containment is 53%.  

As summer progresses, it is important to be ready for fire season. With the drought and record heat wave in June, this fire season will require vigilance and caution from everyone. Before a wildfire occurs in your area, create defensible space near your house. Remove flammable vegetation and other combustible material near your home. This includes cleaning gutters,  roofs, and removing material under decks. Develop an evacuation plan for your family and assemble an emergency supply kit. 

On July 28th, the adjective class will be raised to “very high”. Campfires within the Willamette National Forest will continue to be banned, including within established campground fire pits. Vehicles will also continue to be restricted to established forest roads, except for Huckleberry Flats and the Santiam OHV areas.

Oregon Jamboree Music Festival Starts Friday

The Oregon Jamboree is the Northwest’s premier country music festival and is back in full swing this year!

Nestled in the foothills of the scenic Cascade Mountains, the Oregon Jamboree is held on 20+ acre park-like setting that includes the historic Weddle Covered Bridge.

The Jamboree offers a full festival atmosphere in the main venue and a more intimate concert experience on the second stage.  In addition to featured headline entertainment, this event hosts RV and tent camping, merchandise vendors, food booths, beer & wine gardens, and a variety of other attractions.

The festival draws attendees from all over the United States, and has hosted many international visitors as well. Over 900 festival volunteers contribute their efforts to ensure a safe and fun experience for all.

FOR MORE INFO: https://oregonjamboree.com/

COVID UPDATE:

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Oregon reports 804 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 6 new deaths

There are six new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,849.

Oregon Health Authority reported 804 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 217,690.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (19), Benton (13), Clackamas (44), Clatsop (8), Columbia (10), Coos (8), Crook (6), Curry (5), Deschutes (43), Douglas (50), Grant (1),  Harney (2), Hood River (2), Jackson (91), Jefferson (7), Josephine (54), Lane (67), Lincoln (5), Linn (38), Malheur (7), Marion (59), Morrow (4), Multnomah (80), Polk (12), Sherman (4), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (55), Union (19), Wallowa (7), Wasco (5), Washington (59), Wheeler (1), Yamhill (16).

Weekly COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise, deaths fall

The Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 Weekly Report, released today, shows an increase in daily cases and hospitalizations and a decline in COVID-19 related deaths. 

OHA reported 3,098 new daily cases of COVID-19 during the week of Monday, July 19, through Sunday, July 25. That represents a 53% rise over the previous week.

New COVID-19 related hospitalizations rose to 146, up from 123 the previous week. There were 12 reported COVID-19 related deaths, down from 29 reported the previous week.

There were 54,566 tests for COVID-19 for the week of July 18 through July 24. Reported cases increased despite a 12% decrease in testing, while test positivity rose from 4.2% to 5.0%.

As of July 27, 2,477,608 Oregonians — 58.1% of the state’s total population — had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Case rates have generally been higher in counties with lower COVID-19 vaccination rates. During the week of July 18–25, the 10 counties with case rates in excess of 100 per 100,000 had population vaccination rates below 50%.

Today’s COVID-19 Weekly Outbreak Report shows 28 active COVID-19 outbreaks in senior living communities and congregate living settings, with three or more confirmed cases and one or more COVID-19 related deaths. Oregon Health Authority

In response to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Oregon and updated national guidance calling for masking measures to
prevent the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant, state health officials announced Tuesday they are recommending that people wear a mask in public indoor settings — including those who are fully vaccinated.

The announcement occurred the same day that the Oregon Health Authority reported 1,032 new and presumed COVID-19 cases, the state’s highest daily case count since January based on recent data.

As cases continue to rise across the country, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course Tuesday on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling infection surges.

Citing new information about the variant’s ability to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status.

Unemployed Oregonians Pandemic Benefits End September 4th

State of Oregon: Employment Department - Home

Oregonians could lose more than $70 million in weekly employment benefits after Labor Day, when some federal pandemic aid programs expire and the state stops paying a $300 weekly unemployment bonus.

David Gerstenfeld, acting director of the Oregon Employment Department, called it a “sobering” moment Wednesday, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. He warned that more than 115,000 Oregonians are receiving assistance under temporary programs that date to the first COVID-19 relief act from March 2020.

Oregon has paid more than $10 billion in jobless aid since the start of the pandemic, most of it federal money provided through a succession of pandemic relief bills. The major programs include the $300 weekly bonus, a benefits extension program called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, and a new program for self-employed workers called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Those programs expire the week ending Sept. 4.

The number of Oregonians collecting benefits each week has been declining for several months and beginning this week, workers must demonstrate they are searching for new jobs to continue receiving aid.

But Oregon’s jobless rate remains elevated at 5.6%.

The state has now reopened nearly all of its WorkSource job search assistance offices. Gerstenfeld also noted that employers are hiring at a nearly unprecedented rate.

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