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, May 12, 2022
Rogue Valley Weather
Fire Crews Knock Down Fire on Upper Floor of Historic Ashland Plaza Building
Two apartments and three offices were destroyed in a fire Wednesday afternoon in the Ashland Plaza just above Little Tokyo and Mountain Provisions.
Wednesday afternoon, May 11, firefighters put out a structure fire that broke out on the top floor of a building in Ashland’s historic downtown plaza.
Ashland Fire and Rescue’s Division Chief Chris Chambers said the fire at 27 N Main Street at the Ashland Plaza has been extinguished, and firefighters removed burned material from the building.
“All of the tenants and owners of businesses on the plaza evacuated safely. Nobody’s been hurt,” Chambers said.
The Oregon State Fire Marshall arrived to the scene Wednesday evening to begin their investigation into the cause of the fire. Ashland Fire and Rescue said that although the cause of the fire is still under investigation, the 911 caller described that the fire may have started in one the walls before moving up to the ceiling.
“It sounded like there was fire moving through the wall and ultimately ended up in the ceiling of the building and then spread through the ceiling,” said Chris Chambers, division chief of Ashland Fire and Rescue.
Chambers said the two apartments and three offices involved in the fire are a complete loss and the surrounding businesses have water damage.
Wednesday evening, fire crews were focused on removing the ceiling of the top floor of the building to extinguish any hot spots. Air ventilation of the building will continue through Wednesday night.
“They’re having to pull all the ceiling down,” Chambers said. “And there’s two layers of the ceiling in this building, so that’s going to be a lot of material that’s been charred… so it’s going to be a pretty big mess.”
The 911 call came in at about 1:40 p.m. and first responders were able to get to the scene of the fire within 10 minutes, which helped them stop the fire from spreading to neighboring buildings. Chambers said business owners along the west side of the Plaza did a great job getting each other out and keeping everyone safe.
Ashland Fire and Rescue, Jackson County Fire Districts 3 and 5, Medford Fire and Rescue, Ashland Police Department, Mercy Flights, Ashland electric and Avista Utilities all responded to the scene of the fire.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Expect delays today on Interstate 5 between Gold Hill and Rogue River
ROGUE RIVER – Expect delays and traffic congestion on Interstate 5 Thursday between between Gold Hill and Rogue River (MP 43 to 48). An ODOT contractor continues preserving the asphalt paving by sealing cracks in the roadway.
Expect northbound work tomorrow (Thursday) between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., then switching to southbound 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ODOT: SW Oregon
Worker Layoffs Loom As String Of PNW Gas Stations Could Close
Sixteen gas stations and convenience stores across Oregon, Wyoming and Washington could close if retail lease extensions are not forged by May 31.
Carlsbad-based Porter’s of American Retail Services (ARS) — which operates Speedway branded gas stations in the Pacific Northwest — has notified the state of Oregon of the potential closures which could result in the loss of 163 jobs, according to a company notification to the Oregon Office of Workforce Investments.
The impacted stores include Porter’s operated Speedway locations in Klamath Falls, Medford, Grants Pass, Eugene, Portland and Roseburg in Oregon as well as three Wyoming locations and one in Vancouver, Washington. ARS operates the Wyoming stations under the USA Gasoline banner.
The closures could result in 163 layoffs in the three states, according to the California company who operates the locations
The looming layoffs were reported to the state of Oregon via the federal Workforce Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires employers to report large layoffs to impacted states.
“We are currently in negotiations to extend our leases. However, because discussions are taking longer than expected, it falls within the 60-day notice period of the WARN Act. While we remain optimistic that the leases will renew, the outcome is uncertain. The lease for all sites expires on May 31, 2022 which would be our last day of operation at each site. It is currently expected that most, if not all employees would remain on site until the final week,” said Jan Sucha, CFO for ARS in a pending layoff notification letter to Oregon officials.
The parent company, which operates a ARS/Fresno LLC, did not disclose the landlord entities involved in the lease negotiations.
Brenda McDaniel, a human resources representative with Porter’s/ARS, said May 11 the company continues to work on lease renewals at the 16 locations. “They may not close,” said McDaniel.
The potential closures of the stations come as gas prices hit record highs nationally and in the region.
AAA reports the average price in Oregon was $4.86 per gallon as of May 11 and all-time record. Nationally, gas prices average $4.40 per gallon on Wednesday, a fresh record high.
Gasoline prices are up 43.6% nationally since last April, according to new inflation numbers released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
We want to keep you informed about COVID-19 in Oregon. Data are provisional and change frequently. For more information, including COVID-19 data by county, visit our dashboard: http://ow.ly/B3Im50J5yI5
Oregon Adopts Public Safety Power Shutoff Rules For Utilities As Wildfire Season Approaches — PUC reminds Oregonians to be ready for 2022 wildfire season
The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) recently approved permanent rules for investor-owned electric utilities, including Portland General Electric, PacifiCorp, and Idaho Power, regarding public safety power shutoffs (PSPSs). Temporary rules were implemented for the 2021 wildfire season while the PUC, utilities, public safety partners, and communities worked to finalize permanent rules. This is a timely decision as May is National Wildfire Awareness Month and wildfire season quickly approaches.
A PSPS is an important safety measure designed to help protect people and communities in high fire-risk areas by proactively shutting off electricity during extreme and dangerous weather conditions. De-energizing power lines through a PSPS is a wildfire risk mitigation strategy of last resort because of the significant impacts the loss of power can have on communities and the extensive planning and communication that are needed to effectively implement them. These new rules lay out specific communication requirements for the utilities to inform public safety partners, state agencies, local jurisdictions, and the public of the need to implement a PSPS to mitigate wildfire risk, as well as updates at least every 24 hours until service is restored.
“Extreme fire weather can clearly happen throughout Oregon,” said Letha Tawney, PUC Commissioner. “Implementing a PSPS is a complex decision that impacts communities including use of home medical devices, access to 911 services, and the ability to pump water. However, it’s a tool in the utility’s tool kit to help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, if they determine necessary.”
View the order detailing the PSPS rules at https://apps.puc.state.or.us/orders/2022ords/22-159.pdf
The PUC is reminding Oregonians to get ready for the 2022 wildfire season and potential power outages. While the utilities have identified high risk zones, under extreme conditions PSPS could be utilized more widely.
How to Prepare for Wildfires Before They Happen
- Register to receive alerts from official sources. Download the FEMA app and receive real-time alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations nationwide. Also, sign up for emergency notifications with your local city and/or county, as well as outage alerts from your electric utility service provider.
- Develop an emergency plan and make sure everyone in your household knows and understands what to do in the event of an evacuation.
- Create a circle of safety around your home, which is a fuel-free defensible space that can help reduce fire danger. Visit Keep Oregon Green for more information.
How to Prepare for a Potential Power Outage
- Be two weeks ready – Gather food, medical supplies, batteries, pet supplies, among other things, needed by family members during an outage or evacuation for up to two weeks. Learn more about what supplies to consider.
- For individuals with a medical condition that requires power, please contact your service provider in advance of an outage to register a Medical Certificate. This certification provides added benefits and helps the utility ensure they meet your needs in the event of an outage. Also, consider a backup generator or alternative location for power needs.
- Keep cell phones fully charged in anticipation of an outage. Consider a car-charger for cell phones and other electronic devices.
- Make sure your utility service provider has current contact information for notifications by updating your account online.
- Access outage and PSPS information online for Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, and Idaho Power
What to do During a Power Outage
- Contact your electric utility service provider to inform them of an outage. Below is the contact information for the investor-owned utilities regulated by the PUC. If uncertain which utility serves your area, visit https://www.oregon.gov/energy/energy-oregon/pages/find-your-utility.aspx.
- Portland General Electric – 800-544-1795
- Pacific Power – 877-508-5088
- Idaho Power – 800-488-6151
- Avoid downed power lines at all costs.
- Stay clear of utility crews working to restore service in your community.
- Use flashlights or battery operated lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles or other potential fire hazards.
- Turn off lights and unplug electric appliances except for the refrigerator and freezer to help avoid a surge to the system when service is restored. After turning off all the lights, turn one light on to know when power has been restored.
- Use generators safely – Do not run the generator inside the home or garage or anywhere near a window or vent, as these spaces can capture deadly levels of carbon monoxide. Learn more about proper use of a generator✎ EditSign to avoid hazardous conditions.
- Check on elderly neighbors or community members with special needs who might need additional assistance.
Natural Gas Tips
- If required to evacuate, no need to shut off natural gas.
- If natural gas appliances do not operate properly once electricity is restored, call your natural gas service provider.
- If natural gas service is shut off, do not turn on yourself. Call your natural gas service provider to restore service.
- If you smell natural gas, evacuate immediately and call 911.
For additional information on fire prevention and preparedness, visit https://www.oregon.gov/puc/safety/Pages/Power-Outage-Prep.aspx
Authorities Warn Armed And Dangerous Oregon Fugitive Wanted For Rape And Assault After Prison Escape
The U.S. Marshals Service is searching for fugitive Andrew Kristovich, who escaped from an Oregon prison and is wanted on new charges of rape, assault and strangulation.
Kristovich, 38, was initially arrested in connection to 2018 cartel-linked gun and drug charges, along with 30 other defendants. Last year, he was sentenced to 60 months, or five years, in prison with credit for time served, as well as four years of supervised release, federal records show.
Oregon authorities say the fugitive escaped a correction facility in Yamhill County on April 25 before traveling to an apparent ex-girlfriend’s residence in Clark County, where she says he assaulted and raped her before fleeing with her debit card, cellphone and car. Kristovich was reportedly able to contact Shauna via a smuggled cell phone before his escape.
The fugitive is considered armed and dangerous. He is described as a Kristovich’s 5 ft. 8 in., 200-pound White male with brown hair and hazel eyes. Authorities are asking with information about Kristovich’s whereabouts to contact the United States Marshals Service at (206) 370-8550.
Portland Gang Member Sentenced to Federal Prison for Armed Robbery of Eugene Marijuana Dispensary
A Portland man affiliated with the Hoover Criminal Gang and Unthank Park Hustlers, two allied Portland street gangs, was sentenced to federal prison today for robbing a Eugene marijuana dispensary.
Timothy Christopher Gaines, 30, was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison and five years’ supervised release.
According to court documents, on December 20, 2019, Gaines and an accomplice robbed Green Therapy, a marijuana dispensary in Eugene, of several jars of marijuana and $912 in cash. Gaines brandished a firearm during the robbery and pointed it at a store employee cowering on the floor.
On June 25, 2020, Gaines was charged by criminal complaint with Hobbs Act robbery. Later, on July 23, 2020, a federal grand jury in Portland returned an indictment charging Gaines with the same. A superseding indictment returned on October 20, 2020 added a charge of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
On February 14, 2022, Gaines pleaded guilty to using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug of the District of Oregon made the announcement. This case was investigated by the FBI with assistance from the Eugene Police Department and Portland Police Bureau. Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah K. Bolstad prosecuted the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). PSN is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime. U.S. Attorney’s Office – District of Oregon
National Weather Service Confirms Two tornados in One Day Cause Damage in Eastern Oregon
The National Weather Service confirmed that two tornadoes occurred in Umatilla County last Friday.
In a damage survey, meteorologists say two EF-1 tornadoes were produced from a severe thunderstorm between the small cities of Weston and Tollgate, in the northern Blue Mountains. The tornadoes moved east along the Weston-Elgin Highway. NWS said they occurred roughly between 1:40 p.m. and 1:55 p.m.
The first tornado was about 8 miles east of Weston and traveled between 1.25 and 1.5 miles.
The second tornado occurred a mile east of the first tornado and traveled less than a mile.
Meteorologists determined the tornadoes were both EF1 based on estimated wind speeds and the corresponding damage they caused. NWS said the winds from the first tornado peaked at 97 mph and the second tornado’s winds peaked at 104 mph. Both were about 175 yards wide.
The first tornado reportedly uprooted trees, snapped off large branches and tore the roof off a manufactured home. It also collapsed the walls and roof of a farm outbuilding.
The second tornado snapped tree trunks and large branches, and uprooted trees. It did not cause any damage to structures.
Klamath County Sheriff’s Office Asks for Public’s Help in Search For Trucker Suspect
The first real clue to come in on all the missing person cases in the area. Help Klamath Falls Oregon Sheriff Office ID this trucker. He was the last to see this woman alive and could be the key to not only solving this woman’s disappearance but a number of the hundred other women missing in PNW. IF you have any information, please call (541) 883-5130