Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 8/30 – Oregon State Fire Marshal Mobilizes Resources to the Smith River Complex after Conflagration Declared, Pacific Power Prepares for Re-Energization of Gasquet and Patrick Creek

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Rogue Valley Weather

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AIR QUALITY ALERT ISSUED: 8:31 PM AUG. 29, 2023 – NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE

…AIR QUALITY ALERT IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 PM PDT WEDNESDAY…

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued an Air Pollution Advisory…in effect until 6 PM PDT Wednesday.  

Wildfires burning in the region combined with forecast conditions will cause air quality levels to fluctuate and could be at unhealthy levels.

Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on the weather. People at risk include infants and young children, people with heart or lung disease, older adults and pregnant people.

For additional information…please visit the web site at https://oregonsmoke.org

 

Just south of the Oregon border along Hwy 199, the Diamond, Holiday, Kelly, and Prescott fires along with multiple other fires in the area have been grouped together in the “Smith River Complex.” The fires have now spread into Southern Oregon. This is along the route from Grants Pass to the coast.

Oregon State Fire Marshal Mobilizes Resources to the Smith River Complex after Conflagration Declared

Oregon Governor Tina Kotek invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act for the Smith River Complex to allow the Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM) to mobilize structural firefighting resources to protect life and property. The OSFM is mobilizing additional firefighters, equipment, and an incident management team to provide structure protection for homes threatened by the Smith River Complex. The Smith River Complex began in California and has now burned across state lines into Oregon. Level 3 evacuation orders are in place. Last Thursday, OSFM mobilized two structural task forces through immediate response to protect communities near the Smith River Complex ahead of a conflagration declaration. 

In accordance with ORS 476.510-476.610, Governor Kotek determined that the fire poses a threat to life, safety, and property, and the threat exceeds the firefighting capabilities of local firefighting personnel and equipment. The governor’s declaration cleared the way for the state fire marshal to mobilize firefighters and equipment to assist local resources in battling the fire and further support a coordinated response. 
 
The OSFM’s Blue Incident Management Team will be briefed and assume unified command of the Smith River Complex on August 29th at 8 a.m. The additional task forces are coming from other counties around the state through the Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System to protect life and property. 

Pacific Power Prepares for Re-energization of Gasquet and Patrick Creek

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE    — Today Pacific Power received permission from the Joint Incident Management Team on the Smith River Complex fires to access the Gasquet area and begin planning for re-energization of that community.    

Pacific Power crews began the process of bringing a large commercial generator into the area, which is still under a Level 3 evacuation order. Those crews will be completing installation of that generator over the next two days. After the generator is successfully installed, Pacific Power crews will need to patrol all distribution lines serving Gasquet before re-energizing.     

Re-energization will take place in coordination with the Joint Incident Management Team, who will be providing additional communication about when customers can return to their homes.    

Because of damage to the power lines and infrastructure serving Patrick Creek, Pacific Power is unable to re-energize that infrastructure until crews can make the necessary repairs. As an alternative, Pacific Power will be providing each customer in that area with a residential generator to meet their electricity needs until the substation serving them can be safely powered up.    

Due to continued wildfire activity in the transmission corridor serving Crescent City, it remains unsafe to re-energize the transmission line serving the city and surrounding areas. Pacific Power continues to closely monitor all fire activity in the region and will re-energize the transmission lines when it is safe to do so.       

Red Cross Opens Shelter For Smith River Complex Fire

The Red Cross has set up a shelter at Rogue Community College, Redwood Campus in Grants Pass for people evacuated by the Smith River Complex Fire southwest of Obrien in Josephine County.

Anyone who needs shelter from this wildfire should go to the college at 3345 Redwood Hwy, Grants Pass, OR 97527 or call 1-800-Red Cross.

Preparedness info can be found here:  https://redcrossblog.org/disaster/

Air quality is the issue in Josephine County as well.

Residents of Cave Junction, O’Brien and the surrounding areas are dealing with very hazardous air quality.

The air quality index goes from 0 being the healthiest air, to 500 being the unhealthiest air. Portions of Josephine County hit that 500 mark today.

Residents say the smoke has affected their daily life.

The smoke from the Smith River Fire Complex is grounding air operations and the steep terrain is making it hard for ground crews to fight the fire.

Greg Fuhs, the public information officer for the north side of the complex, said residents might see smoke for a while.

Smith River Complex North Community Meeting — Aug. 28 Smith River Complex North Community Meeting Online VIDEO:  https://www.facebook.com/smithrivercomplexnorth/videos/318964590579475
 

Medford Police Arrest Woman Following Unprovoked Stabbing

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On Tuesday, August 29, shortly after 10:00 a.m., Medford Police responded to the report of a stabbing near West 6th Street and Central Avenue in downtown Medford. When officers arrived, they found that a 53-year-old male had been walking with a 6-year-old female family member when they were approached by an adult female that was unknown to them. The adult female, 32-year-old Marjan Ezzati, started making nonsensical statements and then produced a knife and stabbed the male in the hip. 

A local business employee confronted Ezzati, who initially walked away and was located a short distance away by responding officers. Ezzati was arrested and transported to the Medford Police Department where she was interviewed by detectives. She was then lodged at the Jackson County Jail for Assault 2 and Unlawful Use of a Weapon. The victim was transported to a local medical facility to be treated for his non-life threatening injuries. The minor child was not harmed.

Oregon State Fire Marshal mobilizes resources to the Tyee Ridge Complex after conflagration is declared

Here is the August 29th evening update for the #tyeeridgecomplex fires

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Wildfire Prevention | National Interagency Fire Center

 

Oregon Caves National Monument Closed Due to Wildfire Danger  

We are sorry to inform you that due to the increased risk of wildfire, Cave Creek Campground is closed until further notice.  —   In addition to the campground being closed, we have posted safety notices at all of our trailheads. Because of the air quality and wildfire activity, it is highly recommended that visitors do not hike the trails at this time.

 

UPDATED RELEASE- The Douglas County Major Crimes Team continues to seek information from the public regarding the homicide of 78-year-old Terry Lea Deane.

Deane was found deceased in a residence in the 400-block of Coltrin Lane on Saturday, August 12, 2023. Since that time, the Douglas County Major Crimes Team has been actively investigating the case as a homicide. Investigators are making a second appeal to members of the community to come forward with any information which may help them to further the investigation. Specifically, they are interested in information about individuals or vehicles seen in the area between August 11 and August 12. Detectives are also encouraging residents to be aware of suspicious people or vehicles in their neighborhoods and to report anything to law enforcement by calling (541) 440-4471. ### ORIGINAL RELEASE 08/14/2023 5:00 PM OAKLAND, Ore. – The Douglas County Major Crimes Team is investigating the homicide of an Oakland woman. On Saturday, August 12, 2023, around 1:30 p.m., 9-1-1 dispatchers were notified of a suspicious death at a residence in the 400-block of Coltrin Lane in Oakland. Deputies and officers from the Sutherlin Police Department responded to the scene and determined the death to be the result of an apparent homicide. The victim was identified as 78-year-old Terry Lea Deane of Oakland. The Douglas County Major Crimes Team was activated. The Sheriff’s Office assigned as the lead investigating agency. Investigators are urging anyone who may have information to call (541) 440-4458 referencing case #23-3096. “Sometimes community members observe things in their neighborhoods and may not find them significant at the time, but to an investigator those details can make all the difference in solving cases and obtaining justice,” Lt. Kelley Bean said. “I would encourage anyone who has information to contact the detectives and allow them to vet the significance as it relates to the investigation.” Tips can be made by calling 541-440-4458. The Douglas County Major Crimes Team consists of investigators from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Roseburg Police Department and Oregon State Police working in consultation with the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office. The investigation is ongoing and, in an effort to protect the integrity of the investigation, additional details are not expected to be released at this time.

RESHARING TO GENERATE LEADS   —   
May be an image of car and text that says 'MISSING Graham Case PERSON N LAST SEEN DRIVING 2014 MERCEDES GL450 LICENSE PLATE: WC26068 CALL DISPATCH 541-776-7206 JCSO CASE # 23-3573'
 
JCSO detectives are looking for any information on the whereabouts of Graham Case, missing since June 22. He was last seen driving a white 2014 Mercedes SUV (pictured here).
If you see the vehicle, please call Dispatch non-emergency line at (541) 776-7206 and reference case 23-3573.
 

The restoration project for the Butte Creek Mill is entering its last push.

As part of the final fundraising efforts, Jim Belushi, brother of the famous John Belushi and star of the TV show “according to Jim”,, is putting on Comedy on the Rogue at Belushi Farms.

Tickets went on sale today at http://comedyontherogue.com. The night will include Jim Belushi’s Board of Comedy and music from Belushi’s band. Volunteer Jay O’Neil said they need about $300,000 to finish the restoration project. Most of the work that needs done still is repairing the basement that was damaged by water during the fire. Tickets will be on sale until late September, or until they sell out. Belushi owns property in the Rogue Valley and has settled there.

Westbound lanes of Interstate 84 reopened following a several-hour operation to remove the two semitrucks that crashed into the Columbia River hours apart

Crews had to remove two cabs and four trailers from the water near Biggs Junction, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Oregon State Police and Sherman County Sheriff’s deputies responded to reports of a semitruck crash just before 9 p.m. Friday night near milepost 103. The truck driver had crashed into an abandoned Mercedes that was parked on the shoulder of the freeway before going through the guardrail and into the river, police said.

The sheriff’s office said the driver swam to shore.

At 12:25 a.m. Saturday, a second semitruck hauling two empty fuel tanks crashed into an unoccupied Oregon Department of Transportation vehicle that was responding to the first crash. The semitruck left the road and crashed into the river in the same area as the first driver, police said.

A police log from Oregon State Police said the driver of the second truck “likely fell asleep,” but the log did not say what caused the first crash. No one was harmed in either crash.

Arrest Made In Death of Klamath Falls Toddler

On the morning of Sunday, August 27, 2023, at approximately 10:00 AM, detectives with the Klamath Fall Police Department (KFPD) formed probably cause and arrested 26-year-old Sydney Elizabeth Blosch for Murder in the Second Degree.

Eight months earlier, on December 29, 2022, KFPD responded to a report of a three-year-old male who was described to have fallen downstairs and was unresponsive. After arrival and care of first responders, the victim was transported to Sky Lakes Medical Center.

The victim would later be transported to Oregon Health Science University, where he succumbed to his injuries approximately one week later.

Beginning in December, KFPD Detectives investigated the scene. Their investigation would continue through the victim’s death and into the summer. Eight-month later, an in-depth investigation would determine that the injuries suffered by the child were inconsistent with statements provided by Blosch in December.

Therefore, on August 27, with probable cause, detectives arrested Blosch for the crime of Murder in the Second Degree.

“It was a lengthy investigation because it took a great deal of resources and time to establish the probable cause since the initial report was the child had fallen down the stairs, and the suspect denied any wrongdoing,” said KFPD Captain Rob Reynolds.

Upon arrest, Blosch, identified to arresting authorities as a transgender male, is being held at the Klamath County Jail on charges of Murder II.

At the time of this publication, it is unknown if Blosch was related to the victim.

If anyone has any additional information regarding this case, they are encouraged to contact KFPD Detective Joel Loudermilk at 541-883-5336 or call our anonymous tip line at 541-883-5334.

McKenzie Willamette Medical Center Using Online reservation system to Schedule E.R. Patients

Mckenzie Willamette Medical Center is using online scheduling to help reduce E.R. wait times.

The newly integrated system, called “In Quicker,” is found on the hospital’s website and lets the user select a time for an E.R. visit ahead of time to help reduce the amount of people waiting inside the hospital, and allow the patient to wait at home instead.

Emergency Department Manager Jan Montry said the scheduling system will help give staff the support needed to help as many patients as possible.

“Basically, it’s a tool that allows people patients with lower acute symptoms to save their place in line,” Montry said. “For us it improves our efficiency so we can spread out the arrivals and we can kind of know when people are coming.”

In the three months since the hospital started using it, they’re reporting reduced wait times in the waiting rooms and an increase in completed appointments. Montry said that 85% of patients are able to be seen as quick as 15 minutes.

Residents in Springfield feel that this scheduling system will be a massive positive for the community. Many saying that waiting for hours to be seen for something minor was a hassle. T.J. Johnson is a retired nurse who lives in Springfield, she said that getting people out of the waiting room and quickly into the hospitals data base is the best decision McKenzie-Willamette could have made.

“I’m just really thankful that this hospital is using that ability with technology to be able to get people through the system,” Johnson said. “People are sick that come to the emergency room and you don’t want to necessarily be sitting around someone hacking, coughing and sneezing and potentially putting yourself at risk if you don’t have to.”

The system will not be bypassing a patient who is in serious condition, and will only allow patients to schedule a E.R. visit if they are in a stable condition. 

State Offers Help To The 552,000 Oregonians With Student Debt

The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation has released the state’s first analysis of residents’ student loan debt, and recommendations for how the governor and Legislature could help lighten the burden for current and former college students.

The report was conducted following the passage of Senate Bill 485 in 2021. The law called for changes to loan service renewal, declared an emergency and required an annual report.

The first of those annual reports states that the U.S. Department of Education owns $1.48 trillion in debt, which is 84% of the total student loan market, and guarantees an additional $143 billion of Federal Family Education Loan Program and Perkins loans. Since 2007, the federal student loan portfolio has grown more than 300%.

About 44 million Americans currently have student loan balances, compared to 28 million in 2007.

In Oregon, the report found, about 552,000 residents are student loan borrowers, with an average debt of $37,900.

Ombuds offers help, answers – SB 485 required the Department of Consumer and Business Services to appoint a student loan ombuds who could help members of the public with complaints or inquiries about student loans. The department’s first ombuds began working in June 2022.

As of June 1, 2023, the ombuds had received 34 complaints and 104 contacts from the public.

Borrowers most commonly asked the ombuds about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives the remaining balance of student loans for full-time employees of governments or nonprofits who have been making qualifying payments for 10 years.

In March 2020, as part of a COVID-19 response, the U.S. Department of Education paused federal student loan repayment and collections. Interest was not accrued. These paused payments also counted toward PSLF, earning credit as though monthly payments were made. This pause will end Sept. 1.

In addition, there have recently been several announcements and changes to student loans that have caused some confusion.

  • In April 2022, the U.S. Department of Education announced “Fresh Start,” an executive action to pull seven million student loan borrowers out of default.
  • In August 2022, the Biden administration announced a plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for eligible Pell Grant recipients. In November, the Sweet v. Cardona lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education led to a settlement, resulting in the promise that it must approve about $6 billion in debt forgiveness for 200,000 borrowers.
  • The Federal Student Loan Literacy Act, which was introduced in 2022 but did not receive a vote, would have created a federal funding source for community groups to apply toward their work with student loan borrowers.

In 2022, the Oregon ombuds started a PSLF waiver awareness campaign. As of March 31, 8,770 Oregonians had been forgiven more than $557 million in student loan debt. This is up from $216 million for 3,480 Oregonians nine months earlier.

The ombuds expects PSLF will continue to be a common topic for loan borrowers who reach out. For more information on PSLF, visit studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service.

Other common inquiries over the past year to the ombuds were about misinformation from debt loan servicers, collection mistakes and referrals from the Oregon Department of Justice.

Plans for next year – The ombuds’ first goal for the upcoming year is to continue building out the state’s borrower education program, which is intended to offer information and resources to those with student loans.

“The lack of funding sources for coaching leaves many borrowers not knowing where to turn,” the report states. “To further borrower education, the student loan ombuds is hoping to expand the range of available presentations, record short videos, and gather more short-term and long-term policy recommendations.”

The ombuds will also be recommending policy changes to the Legislature. Short-term policy change goals include:

  • More specific regulations for loan servicing.
  • More protections for borrowers.
  • Requiring people to be notified when they are eligible for loan forgiveness.

Long-term policy change goals include:

  • Increasing supports to reduce the cost of college.
  • Holding student loan servicers accountable for misinformation.
  • Push for more student loan advocates at the university level.

For more information about the Student Loan Servicing Program, visit: dfr.oregon.gov/help/student-loan-help. For more information on federal student aid, visit studentaid.gov/. — (SOURCE)

Up to $50,000 Reward for Information About Southside Post Office Armed Robbery

U.S. Postal Inspection Service | Washington D.C. DC

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect who robbed the Southside Post Office, located at 30 E 33rd Ave, Eugene OR 97405.

On August 16, 2023, at approximately 5:00 p.m., an unidentified male entered the Southside Post Office, brandished a firearm, and demanded money.

The subject was described as a white male, around his mid 50s, approximately 5’8″ to 6′ tall, weighing around 250 lbs. with several black painted fingernails. He was described as wearing a dark long sleeve shirt/jacket, dark baggy pants, and a gray baseball hat, with a white/beige bandanna covering his face.

Registration is Live for the Beach & Riverside Cleanup

– Get ready to participate in a time-honored tradition as SOLVE presents the Annual Beach & Riverside Cleanup. This eagerly anticipated event brings families and communities together to engage in beach cleanups, river cleanups, habitat restoration projects, and neighborhood litter pickup events throughout Oregon.

SOLVE is hosting over 60 project sites statewide between September 9th through September 17th – with the main events culminating on Saturday, September 16th. This extensive reach encompasses locations from the Coast to Portland, as well as the Willamette Valley, Central and Eastern Oregon. Volunteer registration is now live. Visit www.solveoregon.org to learn more about the available projects and to register for this impactful event.

From its inception in 1986, the Beach & Riverside Cleanup has evolved into a cherished annual event for countless Oregonian families. “It stands as a testament to our shared dedication to environmental stewardship, offering a safe and efficient way to make a lasting impact,” says Kris Carico, SOLVE’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our journey through the years has fostered a deep connection to Oregon’s waterways, from their origin to the sea. We encourage all fellow Oregonians to sign up for this statewide cleanup event.“

Since its start, the Beach & Riverside Cleanup has accounted for the removal of more than 2.5 million pounds of litter and marine debris. To put this in perspective, that’s equivalent to the weight of six Boeing 747 airplanes. Last year’s impressive effort involved almost 3,000 volunteers across 147 sites in Oregon, resulting in the collection and removal of approximately 50,000 pounds of discarded trash. September 16th is also International Coastal Cleanup Day and SOLVE is proudly joining forces with the Ocean Conservancy Group, contributing to a global endeavor aimed at preserving our coastlines. 

SOLVE’s Beach & Riverside Cleanup is in partnership with Subaru of Portland, with additional support from OnPoint Community Credit Union, Bamboo Sushi, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Metro, BottleDrop, Knife River, Koin, Fred Meyer, Chevron, Clean Water Services, Tillamook County Creamery Association, and Tektronix.

About SOLVE — SOLVE is a statewide non-profit organization that brings Oregonians together to improve our environment and build a legacy of stewardship. Since 1969, the organization has grown from a small, grassroots group to a national model of volunteer action. Today, SOLVE mobilizes and trains tens of thousands of volunteers of all ages across Oregon to clean and restore our neighborhoods and natural areas, and build a legacy of stewardship for our state. Visit solveoregon.org for more information. 

The Oregon Employment Department provided updates on the new Paid Leave Oregon program.

Paid Leave Oregon aims to give workers and employers opportunities to take time for their families and personal needs. Applications opened earlier this month and the meeting, today gave more insight into how it works.

The program recognizes three types of leave: Family, Medical and Safe leave. If you’re eligible, you can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, over a 52-week period.

It works through paying into the program, that’s called your ‘contribution rate’ which is one percent of your gross wages. If you work for a large employer, they are required to help you pay 40 percent of this amount.

At the meeting, staff behind the program say they are making sure each application is thoroughly reviewed.

Paid Leave Oregon director, Karen Humelbaugh said, “We received 4,631 applications and we have approved two thus far, which might seem small but it’s due to ramping up of processing, ID verification behind the scenes and thoroughly making sure we’ve trained our staff with real and complex claims.

Those who are eligible, can take paid leave as soon as September 3rd. You can see specific qualifications and the step-by-step process on their website: https://paidleave.oregon.gov

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