Rogue Valley News, Monday 8/2 – Extraordinary Work by Crews Responding To More Than 35 Lightning Caused Fires Across Jackson and Josephine Counties

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, August 2, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Heat Advisory until August 3, 10:00 PM PDT

Today– Widespread haze before 2pm. Sunny and hot, with a high near 103. Calm wind becoming northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Tuesday– Patchy smoke before 11am. Sunny and hot, with a high near 102. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Wednesday– Sunny and hot, with a high near 99. Light and variable wind becoming west northwest 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon.

Thursday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 87.

Friday– Sunny, with a high near 89.

LOCAL HEADLINES:

Extraordinary Work by Crews – Responding To More Than 35 Lightning Caused Fires Across Jackson and Josephine Counties

No photo description available.

Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest District, crews have responded to more than 35 reports of fires across Jackson and Josephine Counties, due to Lightning Storm

According to the ODF Southwest: An estimated 50 fires have been reported following thunderstorms that passed though the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) Southwest Oregon District on Sunday afternoon.

Firefighters, dispatchers and detection specialists worked through the night to locate and extinguish fires. Approximately 50 fires were reported from Sunday afternoon into Monday morning; of those, 35 fires were confirmed as active. Of those 35, 20 have been put out, and 15 are in various stages of response; the majority are 100% lined and are currently in mop-up operations.

Firefighters anticipate fires will continue to be found as holdover lightning strikes begin to smoke in response to the hot and dry weather. Aerial and ground resources will continue to recon for holdover lightning fires. The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning today for lightning, high fire danger and gusty thunderstorm winds which could contribute to fire spread. This Red Flag Warning covers much of Southern Oregon.

Anderson Butte Fire —- ODF says that the largest fire is the North Fork Anderson Creek Fire located on Anderson Butte outside of Talent. Fire crews estimate that the fire is about 3 acres.

The Granny Fire is now 100% lined and 60% mopped up. The fire is no longer spreading and crews are continuing to make great progress. The cause is under investigation. — Fire burning south of Williams near Granny Lane.

The largest on the Grants Pass unit is the Placer Road Fire near Sunny Valley at an estimated acre.

Thankfully, this storm came with a lot of rain and while there have a lot of fires reported on the landscape, ODF says that they are all remaining small and moving slowly due to the moisture on the ground and vegetation.

ODF and U.S. Forest Service- Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest resources responded to a fire on Bear Camp Road northwest of Galice.

12 fires now burning in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest

  • Chapel Springs Fire: 1/10 acre-Controlled 7/30
  • Deadman Fire: 1/10 acre-Handline completed around the fire-Resources on scene include one engine
  • Donomore Peak Fire: 1/4 acre- Contained
  • Maple Dell Fire: 10 acres-Fully lined and plumbed with hose line
  • Miller Fire: 1/10 acre-Handline completed
  • Mule Fire:1/4 acre-Controlled and out 7/31
  • Obrien Fire (new): 1/10 acre-Controlled 7/31
  • Swan Fire: 1 acre-Handline completed-Resources on scene – 4 Rappellers, 1 Type 2 Crew
  • Whiskey Peak Fire: 1/10 acre-Handline complete-Resources on scene – 2 Rappellers
  • Wrangle Fire:1/10 acre-Contained
  • Chinquapin Fire: 1/10 of an acre-Controlled 7/31/21
  • Sucker Fire: 2/10 of an acre-Handline completed-Resources on scene – 3 Rappellers

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning today for lightning, high fire danger and gusty thunderstorm winds which could contribute to fire spread. This Red Flag Warning covers much of Southern Oregon.

“Responding to the predicted thunderstorms, RRSNF fire managers were able to acquire resources early to be prepared for the fires that occurred,” the department noted. “These prepositioned resources and cooperation with partner agencies including the Oregon Department of Forestry, Bureau of Land Management State Office and the USFS Regional Office has made this aggressive fire fight a success.”

With the exception of the Maple Dell Fire which is holding at 10 acres and the Swan Fire which is holding at one acre, fires have been kept at 1/4 of an acre or less.

The department noted that firefighters will continue to work on firelines and mop up to work towards control of these fires.

“The Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest’s goal is to keep these fires small and to extinguish them early to prevent the negative impacts that can occur from larger fires,” wrote James Courtright, District Ranger, Siskiyou Mountain Ranger District.

The RRSNF will be hosting a Type 2 Incident Management team from the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NICC).

The department noted that the NICC helps to locate firefighting resources to best meet the needs in the region. Frequently these pre-positioned resources come from all over the country, taking a few days to assemble.

“By pre-positioning before the need occurs, they are able to respond to an incident sooner,” the press release notes. “The nation is currently in a Preparedness Level 5 (PL5) meaning that most firefighting resources are deployed and that it may be difficult to find needed resources.”

EXTREME fire danger exists throughout the RRSNF and southern Oregon. Low humidity, excessive heat and stronger than normal winds could quickly cause a fire to spread if left unattended. Campfires and other open flames are not permitted on the RRSNF and many areas in Southern Oregon. Help firefighters, the forest and community by enjoying activities that won’t start fires. If you see smoke, report it by calling 9-1-1.

Cleetwood Trail to Close Temporarily at Crater Lake

The Cleetwood Trail in Crater Lake National Park will temporarily close on Tuesday, August 3rd  and Wednesday, August 4th  so park staff can install a hardening material on a portion of the trail surface. The work is being done mid-week to reduce impacts on visitors and the trail will reopen as soon as the work is completed.

The park attempts to complete maintenance projects that may require closures in the shoulder seasons to limit disruption to our visitors.

However, due to the very short construction season at Crater Lake, it is often necessary to work in the middle of summer.

In this case, this critical project is needed to install a section of test material to determine if it can withstand heavy summer use and severe winter conditions. If the material is effective, it will be incorporated into the larger Cleetwood rehabilitation project that is scheduled to begin in 2023. The larger project will provide much needed
repairs and upgrades to the trail and lakeshore facilities and will provide for a safer and more enjoyable visit for everyone.

The Cleetwood Trail is the only safe and legal access to the lake, but there are lots of other scenic trails in the park to enjoy. If you are visiting on August 3rd  or 4th, consider hiking up Garfield Peak or Watchman Peak for great views of the lake and surrounding areas. Or hike to Plaikni Falls to experience a beautiful waterfall.

For more information on park trails, please call 541-594-3100 or visit the rangers at our outdoor contact station located on the back porch of the Rim Visitor Center in Rim Village from 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM daily.

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning today for lightning, high fire danger and gusty thunderstorm winds which could contribute to fire spread. This Red Flag Warning covers much of Southern Oregon.

WILDFIRE UPDATES

New Fires:

Middle Fork Complex (2 fires), Willamette NF, USFS. IMT 2 (NW Team 9) mobilizing. Nine miles northeast of Oakridge, OR. Timber and close timber litter. No fire behavior received. Structures threatened. Trail closures in effect. 457 acres no containment.

Deep Creek 0685 RN, Prineville District, BLM. Started on private land 21 miles northeast of Warm Springs, OR. Short grass and timber. Active fire behavior with running and single tree torching. Structures and energy infrastructure threatened. Road closures in effect. 2,000 acres no containment.

Rough Patch Complex, Umpqua NF, USFS. IMT 2 (NW Team 13) mobilizing. Eighteen miles southwest of Oakridge, OR. Timber, closed timber litter and brush. Active fire behavior with isolated torching, flanking and smoldering.

Cottonwood Creek, John Day Unit, DOF. Five miles southeast of Fossil, OR. Timber and tall grass. Active fire behavior with spotting, torching and running. Residences threatened. 130 acres no containment.

Officials in Central Oregon are reporting at least 19 fire starts from lightning as of Friday morning, but there could be more overnight. So far, many of those fires have been contained and are fairly small.

A spokesperson with the Central Oregon Agency Dispatch Center says there’s been progress keeping up with these fires while they’re small, but there are still many unknowns as the region heads into the night. Fire officials say they can’t stress it enough — they don’t want to see any human-caused fires this year.

This public lands link is super helpful to check before you head outdoors. The Keep Oregon Green website carries ODF’s public use restrictions. Click the link for up-to-date information:

https://keeporegongreen.org/current-conditions/

BOOTLEG FIRE:

Days of cloud cover and light rain has enabled fire crews to make significant progress battling the Bootleg Fire. As of Sunday evening, containment had jumped to 84 percent. As of Sunday, the entire perimeter has been closed and crews are working to expand the width of the line, extinguish residual heat and flames, cut snags so they don’t roll
downslope taking embers with them, and use bulldozers to straighten the ragged edge on the east side of the fire.

Because there has not been more spot fires or breaches of the line, the Incident Management Team has been able to allocate resources to focus on the active areas of the fire and strengthen fire line. Those efforts may be just in time.

On Monday, some isolated thunderstorms are possible, but they are more likely to bring gusty winds than rain. By Tuesday or Wednesday, warmer temperatures, low humidity, and gusty winds are likely to create conditions for rapid fire spread. This will be a test of the work that has been done so far to contain the fire.

The Fremont-Winema National Forest is now open south of Oregon State Route 140. Closures remain in effect north of the highway to provide for public safety and the safety of firefighters.

MIDDLE FORK COMPLEX:

Twelve individual fires make up the Middle Fork Complex, with five fires at 100% containment.  The strategic suppression objective is to suppress the fires in the most efficient manner while maintaining a high probability of success protecting identified values. Safety of firefighters and public are the highest priorities, followed by protection of private land and community infrastructure, then cultural and natural resources.

Five fires make up the northwest section of the Middle Fork complex. The Gales Creek Fire is located south of County Road 18 near the 1835 Road. The fire is 400 acres with 0% containment. Heavy equipment will be used to brush roads and firefighters continue to scout primary line locations. Gales Creek Fire is moving toward the Elephant Rock Fire, which is approximately two miles to the southeast. Firefighters are developing plans for primary and alternate containment lines on the 50 acre Ninemile Fire to best support fire suppression efforts. Crews will monitor and patrol the Journey and Symbol Rock Fires, both at 100% containment.

The 24-acre Kwis Fire, is the closest fire to Oakridge and is located south of County Road 24 near Salmon Creek.  It is the highest priority fire in the complex, today heavy equipment and hot shot crews will continue building primary and alternative lines. Dozer lines and hand lines will connect roads and to Salmon Creek.  On the Warble Fire, crews will patrol and secure line as needed.

South of County Road 19, firefighters on the 2.25-acre Devils Canyon Fire continue hazard tree removal and have hose lays around the fire. Mop-up will continue in that area.  Southwest of the Hill Creek Reservoir, firefighters on the Packard Fire continue snag removal and mop-up. The 90-acre Windfall Fire now has contained lines around and crews will continue mop-up efforts. Also near the Hills Creek Reservoir, firefighters will patrol and monitor the Way and Larison Cove Fires.

JACK FIRE:

As of Sunday, August 1, the Jack Fire has burned 23,004 acres and is 75 percent contained. It is currently most active south of Hwy 138 in the east, southeast, and south flank of the fire. Crews there are conducting firefighting operations as conditions allow, including at the 4770 road, on the 28 road, along the 530 road to Twin Lakes, and near Calf Creek. As burn operations occur, please be aware smoke may be visible to the public. North of Hwy 138, firefighters are successfully holding control lines and continuing mop-up operations, patrol and monitoring activity on the northeast, north, and west perimeters of the fire.

Multiple small fire starts have recently ignited in a remote location at the Upper Steamboat Creek Drainage, following lightning storms that passed through that vicinity. Management of these new fire starts north of the Jack Fire has been combined and named the Rough Patch Complex. 

There are approximately 22 new starts burning about 240 acres. As of 7:00 a.m. this morning, Northwest Team 13, under the leadership of Brian Gales, has assumed command of the Rough Patch Complex. Today the new resources for the Rough Patch Complex will be working on the 650 and 651 roads and scouting for potential containment lines and opportunities for suppression. Crews will be assisted by firefighters from the Umpqua National Forest and the Douglas Fire Protection Association. The Rough Patch Complex is burning in an area of limited access, narrow roads, steep terrain, and high fuel loads, which will present a challenge for suppression operations.

ELBOW CREEK FIRE:

Reports from the fireline informed that substantial showers occurred throughout the fire. Firefighters used this rainfall to their advantage, continuing mop-up operations and holding the fire in place. The fire remains stable at 22,960 acres and an increase in containment to 78 percent.

Today is the final operational shift for ODF’s Type 1 Incident Management Team 3, before the incoming Type 3 team assumes command tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. Today, the incoming team will shadow to help them better understand the current fire status and operations.

Mop-up will continue across the entire fire, with the Elbow Creek Drainage, Grossman Creek, and Sickfoot Creek being prioritized. Contingency work along the 62 and 6222 Roads will continue. Last night concluded all night operations.

Resources will continue to be “right sized” for the incident, with many crews timing out or being demobilized. To accommodate this down-sizing, the Elgin Camp will be broken down and a spike camp along the 62 Road will be set up instead.

Many hazards remain in the fire area, including fire weakened trees, stump holes, ash pits and many more. Additionally, heavy equipment, trucks and other firefighting apparatus remain active around the fire area. Staying off the roadways and out of the fire area allows these resources to continue to be effective. Thus, the Promise, Wallupa, and Troy Roads remain closed. To mitigate some of the listed hazards, the Umatilla National Forest remains closed as well.

BRULER FIRE:

Sunday, the South Cascade Interagency Type 3 Team will progressively increase mop-up depth. Additionally, they will address concerns related to indirect lines and unburned fuels between containment lines and the burnt edge of the fire perimeter. They will continue to use hose lays with sprinklers, which has led to an increase in mop-up effectiveness, especially in areas with a heavy concentration of fuels. Heavy equipment will be used to prepare indirect lines in preparation for typical seasonal wind events that occur in August and September. Containment has increased to 65%. Our team will continue to decrease in size as more work is accomplished.

COVID UPDATES

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Oregon reports 1,076 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 2,858, the Oregon Health Authority reported at 12:01 a.m. today. 

Oregon Health Authority reported 1,076 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 219,755.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (22), Benton (21), Clackamas (77), Clatsop (13), Columbia (6), Coos (15), Crook (7), Curry (12), Deschutes (40), Douglas (57), Grant (1),  Harney (2), Hood River (9), Jackson (188), Jefferson (6), Josephine (33), Klamath (3), Lane (81), Lincoln (9), Linn (29), Malheur (5), Marion (46), Morrow (7), Multnomah (134), Polk (20), Sherman (1), Tillamook (13), Umatilla (82), Union (22), Wallowa (10), Wasco (15), Washington (76), Wheeler (2) and Yamhill (12). 

Newest COVID-19 modeling report shows sharply higher increases in daily cases and hospitalizations

Friday, OHA released its latest COVID-19 forecast, which projects sharply higher COVID-19 associated hospitalizations and daily cases through Aug. 17.

According to the model, the effective reproduction rate – the expected number of secondary cases that a single case generates – was estimated at 1.58 through July 14, more than double the 0.74 reported through mid-June.

At that same level of transmission, over the next two weeks, daily cases would continue to rapidly increase to 390 cases per 100,000 people, or an estimated 1,170 daily cases and 95 new hospitalizations per day. 

According to the report, “Vaccine immunity is helping prevent further spread of COVID-19.” By removing people with immunity from the model calculations, the rate of average rate of infection projects to 3.18 over the same time period. 

Also, according to the report, even if the Delta variant grew to comprise 95% of new cases, the adoption of protective measures such as wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings, would curb the projected increase in hospitalizations and daily cases. 

“Today’s modeling report, although sobering, confirms the importance of protecting ourselves and others by getting vaccinated against COVID-19,” Sidelinger said. 

“By vaccinating more people, we can more quickly drive down hospitalizations and new cases,” he said.

DELTA VARIANT

State health officials are saying at least 88-percent of all active cases of COVID-19 in Oregon are the Delta variant. Just a few weeks ago, the Delta variant accounted for just 33-percent of cases.  

Now, Dr. Paul Cieslak with the Oregon Health Authority says that unvaccinated Oregonians are at a much greater risk of contracting the descendant of the novel coronavirus strand than when it first surfaced in the state 16 months ago.

The Delta variant, experts say, spreads twice as fast as the original and appears to make infected patients sicker than the novel COVID-19.

OHA working with county, state and Tribal public officials on outbreak linked to recent music festival

OHA is investigating a COVID-19 outbreak associated with the Pendleton Whisky Music Fest held in Pendleton on July 10.  Cases have been identified among residents of Umatilla, Morrow, Union and Wallowa counties, and Washington state. 

OHA is working with local, state and Tribal public health partners to identify other cases in people who may have attended the music festival. As of today, OHA is aware of 58 COVID-19 cases in people who attended the event. 

This outbreak is the first one of its size and scope to be traced to an outdoor entertainment event since the lifting of statewide COVID-19 prevention measures at the end of June. 

The outbreak highlights the importance of protective actions Oregonians can take to limit the spread of and their potential exposure to COVID-19, including wearing masks and getting vaccinated with any of the authorized vaccines that are widely available in every Oregon county.

In Oregon this month, OHA has recorded a large increase in COVID-19 cases. That rise is linked to the spread of the Delta variant, which now accounts for 80% of Oregon’s of new cases.

In response to the resurgence of COVID-19 in Oregon, OHA recommended this week that all persons, regardless of their vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in public spaces. OHA also encourages all Oregonians to consider masking if they plan to attend crowded outdoor events like fairs, sporting events, outdoor theater performances, rodeos or concerts, especially if they are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 or live with individuals who are unvaccinated or at higher risk for complications from COVID-19.

To learn more about the rise of cases throughout Oregon, driven by the prevalence of the Delta variant identified among new infections, see a rebroadcast of OHA’s Facebook Live conversation yesterday with two of our senior health advisors, Drs. Paul Cieslak and Tom Jeanne.

15 Days Remaining To Enroll In Health Coverage For 2021

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 special enrollment period, more than 16,500 Oregonians have enrolled in health coverage through the Marketplace. The COVID-19 special enrollment period ends Aug. 15, 2021, and is open to all people who qualify to shop.

  • More than 78 percent of Oregonians have been determined to be eligible for financial help through the Marketplace.
  • Oregonians are receiving an average of $400 per month in premium tax credits to reduce their monthly premium.
  • Recipients of unemployment insurance benefits in Oregon can get coverage for as low as $1 per month, even if they only got benefits for one week in 2021.
Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace - More than 70 percent of Oregonians  who enroll through the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace can get help  paying for their health insurance. Find out how much you

The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace encourages all people who are uninsured to explore their health coverage options and to see how much in additional savings they can now get. Anyone not currently enrolled in health coverage can apply and enroll before Aug. 15 to get health coverage with these extra savings for the rest of 2021.

Current Marketplace enrollees can log in to their HealthCare.gov account and report that they received unemployment during 2021 to take advantage of these additional savings. These savings are in addition to any additional savings that have been available since April 1, 2021, under the American Rescue Plan.

The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace offers a quick snapshot of the plans and savings to eligible Oregonians. The tool, available at OregonHealthCare.gov/WindowShop, and has been updated to correctly calculate additional savings now available to people shopping through the Marketplace.

Start at OregonHealthCare.gov to get to the right application or to find an insurance agent or community partner organization to help complete the application and enroll. Insurance agents and community partners provide local, one-on-one assistance at no charge. This help is available virtually, on the phone, and in person following safety protocols.

The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, a part of state government, helps people get health insurance when they do not have job-based coverage, and do not qualify for the Oregon Health Plan or another program. The Marketplace is the state-level partner to HealthCare.gov. For more information, go to OregonHealthCare.gov. Oregon Dept. of Consumer & Business Services

Bank Robbery in Merrill

The Umpqua Bank in Merrill was robbed Friday afternoon and as of Saturday morning, the suspect remained at large. The bank, located at 206 East Front St., was robbed of an undisclosed amount of money about 3:15 p.m.

The individual was described as a white male about 5’4″ and roughly 150 pounds. If anyone has information concerning the identity of this individual or his whereabouts please contact the Merrill Police Department at 541-798-5821. You may remain anonymous.

The American Red Cross Warns of Severe Blood Shortage

The American Red Cross has an emergency need for lifesaving blood amid the ongoing severe blood shortage. Blood and platelet donations continue to be critical to meet hospital demand and the public is urged to make an appointment to give now. Donors of all blood types are needed, especially type O, which stands at just a one-day supply right now.

To thank donors who help ensure a strong blood supply in August, all who come to give Aug. 1-15, 2021, will automatically be entered for a chance to win an exclusive, VIP trip for two to the sold-out 2021 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.

Those who come to donate throughout August will also receive a free 4-month subscription offer to Apple Music by email (new subscribers only).The Red Cross has updated its pandemic safety protocols in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Fully vaccinated individuals, including staff and donors, no longer need to wear masks or socially distance. Unvaccinated individuals continue to be required to wear masks and socially distance. In most cases, those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine can donate. However, knowing the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine they received is important in determining donation eligibility.

Nez Perce Tribe Celebrate Reclaimed Land Near Joseph Oregon

On Thursday, more than 150 Nez Perce people returned and blessed part of their homeland, a hundred years after the U.S Army drove them from the Wallowa Valley in eastern Oregon.

For years, the tribe has worked to keep a connection to the ancestral land they were driven from. Last year, they successfully reclaimed part of that land.

The Nez Perce tribe purchased a 148-acre property in Joseph, known as Am’sáaxpa, or Place of Boulders, in December but could not formally perform a blessing ceremony until Thursday due to COVID-19 concerns.

The property had been privately owned and operated as a ranch for more than a hundred years. It is located at the edge of the city’s rodeo grounds.

Surrounded by the Wallowa Mountains, the property rights include the house near Airport Road built in 1884, barns, grassland and Wallowa River frontage where the Nez Perce would camp and catch sockeye salmon.

It also includes the ridge where Chief Joseph once held council. Chief Joseph was among the Nez Perce who refused to abide by the 1863 treaty that had stripped the tribe from 90% of its land and required the move to the Idaho reservation.

While the Nez Perce people have continued to fish and gather in the Wallowa Valley and near the property — a practice that the Nez Perce also fought to protect and preserve following years of struggles in asserting fishing rights guaranteed to them in U.S treaties — the purchase represents the opportunity to officially call the land their own again. It also reclaims an ancient and sacred camping ground.

Now, the Nez Perce were returning to the land on horseback.

Tribal leaders spoke before the blessing ceremony about what the day represented, reflecting on the history of the Nez Perce tribe and sharing joy about the day’s historic event.

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