Oregon News

Friday, September 18, 2020

Almeda Fire likely human-caused, Ashland Police say

“This is it. Is our house going to burn down? Is our whole town going to burn down,” said Esther Platt, an Ashland resident. That’s what Platt was thinking last Tuesday as the Almeda Fire began just feet away from her Ashland home. Emergency responders rushed to the fire’s origin a little after 11 o’clock by the BMX park near Almeda Drive and Michelle Avenue. The fast-moving fire would go on to burn over 2,000 homes and kill three people tearing through the neighboring cities of Talent and Phoenix, devastating entire blocks. “Just an incredible, intense scene. Something I’ve never experienced before and I never hope to experience again,” said Chief Tighe O’Meara, Ashland Police Dept. A week later, Chief O’meara says the investigation into what sparked the deadly fire is far from cold.
KOBI-TV NBC 5 Medford

Storms could bring needed rain and new hazards to Archie Creek firefighters

Change is in the air as firefighters continue to attack the Archie Creek Fire. A weather system from the coast is moving in, bringing higher humidity. Officials reported the Archie Creek fire is still burning over just over 128,000 acres and is 20% contained. Kyle Reed with the Douglas Forest Protection Association said fire activity picked up Wednesday in the east and south east part of the fire. However, he said all other areas are looking good with strong containment lines in place. With rain and possible thunderstorms expected tonight, Reed said they’re hopeful the moisture will help clear some of the smoke. They’re also concerned the storms may cause problems for the firefighters. “Depending on how much moisture we get, especially when we get those heavy downpours over the highly burned areas of the Archie Creek Fire, it could pose some challenges with debris flows and stuff rolling down the hillside,” said Reed.
KEZI-TV ABC 9 Eugene

FBI offers $10K reward in deadly Warm Springs arson case; home set on fire in May

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information that solves a deadly arson investigation in Warm Springs. Emergency crews responded to the 1700 block of Foster Street at 11:05 p.m. May 17. Officers arriving at the scene said flames were shooting 15 feet out of the front living room window. Officers pulled two victims from the home. One of them, 77-year-old Lamont Brown, died from his injuries. The second person sustained critical injuries. A third person was able to get out on her own, but she also suffered serious burn injuries. A fourth person in the home escaped without injury. Investigators determined the fire was arson. No other details were released about a possible motive or suspect information.
KPTV-TV Fox 12 Beaverton

Kingsley Field Airmen deploy to Oregon fire areas, including in the Rogue Valley

As members of the Oregon National Guard deploy to help with firefighting efforts across the state, Airmen from the 173rd Fighter Wing based at Kingsley Field are deploying to Central Oregon and the Rogue Valley to help. The Fighter Wing syas that 120 Airmen have already deployed, with more scheduled to head out in the coming days. 12 left on Saturday to aid with traffic control in Central Oregon, and 50 more are headed to the Rogue Valley. “These are historic wildfires, and our Airmen have stepped up beyond all expectations to support their fellow Oregonians,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. William Wilkinson, 173rd FW Emergency Operations Center director. “These are real citizens leaving their homes and their families to protect their state.” Several members of the Fighter Wing have had to evacuate their own homes — and three have had their homes burn down. Other members of the base have teamed up to donate and support their comrade displaced by fire.
KDRV-TV ABC 12 Medford

Riverside Fire reaches 6% containment in Clackamas County

The Riverside Fire reached 6% containment Thursday. Incident commanders provided their daily update on the efforts to fight the fire Thursday. The first containment levels were reported Wednesday, when the fire was 3% contained. That number doubled Thursday. Engines, dozers, and crews are continuing to ‘stitch together’ sections of constructed fireline and existing roads on the western edge of the fire to bring together a continuous holding line from the Le Dee Flat area in the north to the Dickie Prairie area in the south. Firefighters are creating firelines by digging down to bare mineral soil through ‘duff layers’ of twigs, needles, and leaves on the forest floor, up to two feet deep. “Day after day, hour after hour the folks on the line are making progress to connect all the pieces of fireline,” said Deputy Incident Commander, Dave Bales.
KPTV-TV Fox 12 Beaverton

Oregon authorities battle conspiracy theories as firefighters fight the flames

Wildfires are raging along the West Coast, and with them authorities in Oregon said they are fighting rumors of political origins. Multiple fires in Washington, Oregon and California have destroyed more than 4.7 million acres and killed at least 34 people. Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have been batting down conspiracy theories that Antifa extremists are setting fires and cutting down power lines, Clackamas County, Oregon, Sheriff Craig Roberts said Wednesday. “Each and every tip that comes in, we’re following that to the end,” Roberts said, but investigators typically find that the tipsters’ information came “from a friend of a friend” who has no evidence. In one case, Roberts said a group reported to be stashing gasoline cans in the forest to start fires was actually “Good Samaritans” helping move fuel for emergency workers.
WHDH-TV News 7 Boston

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Exhausted firefighters sing together after a 14-hour shift battling wildfires in Oregon

VIDEO: Sprawled on a smoky street, a crew of Oregon firefighters belted out a song after a long day fighting fires. Take me out to the fire. Take me out to the line. Bring me some sawyers and hazel hoes. I don't care if I ever get home. The Grizzly Firefighters from The Dalles, Oregon, had just wrapped a 14-hour day of battling the Lionshead Fire on Monday near the community of Detroit, said crew boss Theodore Hiner. Even after a grueling day, Hiner said his crew still made him laugh, he wrote on Facebook. They spent the day "cutting line," or building a perimeter of mineral soil to keep the fire from spreading, he said. Yet they still had enough spirit to come up with a parody of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" using firefighting terms for lyrics. For those not in the know, a hazel hoe is used to trench and clear the area, while a sawyer is a person trained to down limbs and trees during wildfires.

Wildfire near Eugene destroys at least 500 homes, structures; 8% contained

State officials on Wednesday said more than 500 homes and other buildings have been destroyed by a wildfire that swept through rural communities along the McKenzie River east of Eugene and Springfield. Crews have so far assessed 770 structures in the burn area of the Holiday Farm fire, which grew to over 170,000 acres. Its 260-mile perimeter, roughly the length of Portland to Medford, stretches into Lane and Linn counties. Firefighters have contained about 8 percent of the blaze, which began Sept. 6 along Oregon 126 near the town Blue River, nestled in the foothills of the Cascade mountains, officials said. Thrashing winds rolling off the mountain range quickly spread the fire down the McKenzie River valley, a mecca for fishing, hiking and whitewater rafting. Thousands were forced to flee.
Portland Oregonian, Hillsboro Argus, Oregon Live.com

Leaburg, Rock Creek fish hatcheries hit hard by wildfires

Millions of fish have been saved at fish hatcheries in Oregon despite unprecedented wildfires and evacuations, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday. Six ODFW-managed facilities were affected, including two locally – Rock Creek and Leaburg. Leaburg Hatchery No lives were lost, and officials said staff are returning to some facilities to help spawn spring Chinook during a critical time in their life cycle. Some critical infrastructure has been destroyed and some fish were lost, with Rock Creek Hatchery on the North Umpqua River sustaining the most severe damage. All buildings at Rock Creek except for the Rock Ed Education Center were destroyed or severely damaged by the Archie Creek Fire. This includes employee housing as well. Staff access has been limited due to a number of hazards around the site such as downed trees and power lines.
KEZI-TV ABC 9 Eugene

Jackson County plans to ’debrief’ on emergency alerts after Almeda Fire, but not right away

As firefighters, search and rescue teams, and utility crews continue to pick through the rubble of destroyed neighborhoods in Phoenix in Talent, some residents are asking why they did not receive notice to evacuate before the Almeda Fire was already on their doorsteps. John Vial usually heads Jackson County's Roads and Parks departments. At a press conference on Wednesday, Vial said that he'd been tapped as director of Jackson County Emergency Operations on Tuesday afternoon. "This is a new role for me," Vial said. Vial described the County's emergency notification system as one that may have been ill-equipped to handle the pace at which the Almeda Fire progressed, as it moved at "lightspeed" north from Ashland, and through multiple jurisdictions — but did not seem sure that there were better alternatives available. Under Oregon law, only law enforcement officials have the authority to implement an evacuation, Vial said, but they depend on information from the field.
KDRV-TV ABC 12 Medford

Portland man faces federal arson charges in dumpster fire at Portland police North Precinct building

A 22-year-old man faces federal arson and attempted arson charges, accusing him of igniting a fire in a dumpster that was pushed against a city-owned building housing the Portland Police Bureau’s North Precinct and other businesses during a demonstration against racial injustice and police brutality in late June. Gavaughn Gaquez Streeter-Hillerich made his first appearance Wednesday before a magistrate judge in U.S. District Court in Portland after his arrest in Vancouver, Washington, on Tuesday. He was caught on video setting a fire inside a tire placed on top of an overturned dumpster that was pushed up against the wall of the building at Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, between Killingsworth and Emerson streets, at 2:16 a.m. on June 26, according to Cynthia M. Chang, a fire investigator with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Portland Oregonian, Hillsboro Argus, Oregon Live.com

Douglas County company’s employees turn into firefighters during wildfires

The need for firefighters in Oregon goes beyond only those who fight fires year round. We talked with a Douglas County company Wednesday about their employees turning into firefighters when they're needed - essentially becoming part-time heroes.When people think of firefighting, they think of red engines, sliding down poles, and water hoses. But there's more to it than that, especially with wild fires. It's not unusual for contractors to train their employees in firefighting. Firefighters aren't the only ones on the front lines of the Archie Creek Fire. Logging crews are right there with them. "The guys have been working tirelessly out there," said Lone Rock Resources CEO Toby Luther. "In fact, I'm amazed everyday about how much work they're putting in and how positive they are and how much energy they put in every day to go out there and defend against the fires."
KPIC-TV CBS 4 Roseburg

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