Klamath Basin News, Thursday, 9/17 – Gusty Winds Worry Firefighters in Southern Oregon; Two More Covid-19 Cases in Klamath County

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The latest and most comprehensive coverage of local News, Sports, Business, and Community News stories in the Klamath Basin, Southern Oregon and around the state of Oregon from Wynne Broadcasting’s KFLS News/Talk 1450AM / 102.5FM, The Herald & News, and BasinLife.com, and powered by Mick Insurance.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Klamath Basin Weather

Today  Sunny, with a high near 79. Overnight, a 30% chance of light showers, low of 49.

Friday  A 50 percent chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 67. Southwest wind 5 to 7 mph.

Saturday  Sunny, with a high near 71.

Sunday  Sunny, with a high near 78.

Today’s Headlines

Yesterday 32 year old Elliot Donald Parker, of Klamath Falls was lodged at the Klamath County Jail for his involvement related to an assault, robbery, kidnapping, and animal abuse that occurred on or about September 8, 2020. 

Investigation related to other persons involved is continuing at this time. Detectives with the Klamath Falls Police Department, Oregon State Police and Klamath County Sheriff’s Office located Elliot Parker after he attempted to elude them on a stolen motorcycle, before he eventually barricaded himself inside a residence located at 2860 Frontage Road. The Klamath Falls SWAT Team along with members of the Klamath County Special Response Team immediately established a perimeter around the house. A warrant service was executed at the residence and Mr. Elliot was located inside, where he was taken into  custody without incident.

Further investigation of this incident revealed Parker’s co-conspirator to be 32 year old Harland Joseph Wright who is currently lodged at the Klamath County Jail for a non-related crime. Wright was additionally charged for his involvement in this matter with charges consisting of assault, robbery, kidnapping, and animal abuse.  Probable cause was developed for Parker’s arrest and Wright’s arrest, after it was alleged both men had been involved with the kidnapping of an adult victim, and then with the killing and further mutilation of the victim’s dog.

Two new fire starts near the Two Four Two Fire have worried firefighters as gusty winds descended on the area late yesterday. On Tuesday, the Cattle Fire was detected east of the Two Four Two Fire in the Pine Ridge Estates. It burned in grass and grew to five acres. The second start, named the Dam Fire, was off Twin Rivers Road.

That fire grew to 2.25 acres. Multiple engines were pulled from the Two Four Two Fire line to assist Chiloquin Fire Department and local resources with these new fires. Crews will continue mop up operations and patrol both of these fires today. Both fires are under investigation. Highway 97 will have areas of traffic control points so crews can fell hazard trees. The highway will remain open during this work.

Klamath County Public Health officials reported two new cases of COVID-19 in the community on Wednesday, bringing the local count to 260. COVID-19 has claimed two more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 521.

Oregon Health Authority reported 195 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, bringing the state total to 29,850. OHA yesterday announced it had launched a statewide COVID-19 wastewater monitoring project to study the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in more than 40 small- to medium-sized communities around the state. The project, which will include weekly wastewater testing over the next 30 months, will enable epidemiologists to better understand the circulation of COVID-19 in some of Oregon’s communities. It will serve as an “early warning” system to tell if COVID-19 is spreading silently in communities.

Shasta Elementary School this summer opened a Little Free Library near the entrance to the campus so community members could share and read books.

Shasta Vice Principal Jen Witt came up with the idea, and local woodworker George Severson built the little library. In the little wooden house with the Shasta stinger emblem are books ranging from children and adult fiction to “how-to” tomes. The Shasta Boosters purchased a stewardship plaque, making the library an official location on the Little Free Library map. Shasta’s Little Free Library is the second in the 97603 zip code.

Go online to littlefreelibrary.org to learn more and to search an interactive map for all Little Free Libraries in the area. Shasta’s Little Free Library is near the flagpole at the front entrance of the elementary school at 1951 Madison Ave. It is now among more than 75,000 Little Free Libraries in 85 countries around the world.

The Oregon Health Authority issued a recreational use health advisory Wednesday for Moore Park and surrounding areas on Upper Klamath Lake due to the presence of a cyanobacterial bloom and cyanotoxins above recreational use values for human exposure.

People should avoid swimming and high-speed water activities, such as water skiing or power boating, in areas of the lake where blooms are identified. Although toxins are not absorbed through the skin, people who have skin sensitivities may experience a puffy red rash. People are encouraged to visit Upper Klamath Lake and enjoy activities such as fishing, camping, hiking, biking, picnicking and bird watching. Boating is safe as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray, which could lead to inhalation risk. Exposure to cyanotoxins can be serious and result in a range of symptoms, from those similar to food poisoning such as stomach cramping, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, to more serious symptoms like numbness, tingling, dizziness and shortness of breath that may require medical attention. For health information or to report an illness, contact the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) at 971-673-0482.

An astronomy event highlighting use of binoculars for stargazing will be offered Saturday, Sept. 19, by the Klamath County Museum, according to a news release. The free event will be held on Conger Heights. To reach the site, take Oregon Avenue to the southbound entrance to Highway 97, and follow blue “star party” signs. Participants should arrive between 7:30 and 8 p.m. Best viewing conditions will be from 9 p.m. onward.

Targets for stargazing will include earthshine on a new moon, moons around the planet Jupiter, star clusters, colorful stars and little-known asterisms. The museum’s next astronomy event will be a planet-viewing party on Oct. 17. For more information, contact the Klamath County Museum at 541-882-1000.

Around the state of Oregon

President Donald Trump has approved a major disaster declaration for Oregon. Oregon’s Congressional delegation has been urging the declaration’s swift approval since Governor Kate Brown requested it on Monday.

This major disaster declaration follows an earlier, more limited federal emergency declaration issued on September 10, which brought some resources from FEMA into the state. Governor Kate Brown’s office said that the major disaster declaration allows for additional communications resources, search and rescue support, debris management, and shelter and medical assistance. Representative Greg Walden said yesterday that the supply of available housing will be tight in some areas, particularly southern Oregon. In the Phoenix and Talent areas, about 2,700 homes were destroyed, Walden said. Just 400 new housing units were built in all of Jackson County in 2019, he said. Now families need almost seven times that many new homes. The congressman said he’s heard that a rumor is circulating about housing vouchers being necessary to access temporary housing.

Officer-involved shooting in Grants Pass
On 09/16/20 at 9:33am, Grants Pass Police responded to the 1400 Block of Wineteer Lane regarding a male inside a home under construction.  As the male was challenged by a job site worker, a scuffle ensued.  The male fled the home and attempted to steal a nearby truck.

The man was unable to leave in the vehicle and ran from the area.  Within minutes, officers received information the man was inside a nearby backyard and making statements to harm himself while trying to stab himself with gardening tool. 

Officers contacted the man and immediately tried to de-escalate the incident; trying to calm the man and gain compliance.  Within minutes, he rushed toward officers with the tool in his hand.  One of the officers deployed less lethal bean bags rounds and three of the officers fired their duty weapon. 

Officers administered first aid and the man was transported to Three River Medical Center and is currently in critical condition.  No officers were injured during the incident. The weapon held by the man appeared to be a weeder tool, which is similar to a large flat head screwdriver.   

The Josephine County Major Crimes Team was activated, and the Oregon State Police Criminal Division will lead the investigation. 

All additional media requests will be referred to the Josephine County District Attorneys Office and the Oregon State Police.

With dozens of wildfires burning across Oregon, 911 call centers are noticing a concerning trend: a significant uptick in non-emergency calls related to wildfire evacuation.

911 centers taking calls from areas hit hardest by the wildfires are spending a significant amount of time looking up evacuation routes or urging residents to follow evacuation orders. But there’s a better number to call to get that information. Oregon residents who have questions about when or how to evacuate should contact 211info, a free, confidential referral and information service that connects residents to local health and human services. At the request of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, 211 recently set up a special wildfire line just for this purpose. Within 48 hours the team had fielded hundreds of calls pertaining to the wildfires. Residents should call 911 when there’s an immediate threat to life or property. For other non-life threatening issues that require police involvement, residents are asked to call the non-emergency number for their region. 

Victims of Oregon wildfires and straight-line winds that began Sept. 7 now have until Jan. 15, 2021, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments, the Internal Revenue Service announced today.

Following the recent disaster declaration for individual assistance issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the IRS announced today that affected taxpayers in certain areas will receive tax relief. Individuals and households who reside or have a business in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn and Marion counties qualify for tax relief. Taxpayers in localities added later to the disaster area will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief. The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain tax-filing and tax-payment deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. 

Medford, Oregon – As a result of extreme fire activity, the Bureau of Land Management Medford District has temporarily closed all BLM-administered public lands from Township 38S south to the California border and from Range 2E east to the Klamath County border.  

This closure includes the portions of Cascade Siskiyou National Monument in Jackson County and areas near the Grizzly Creek fire.  Members of the public may not enter closed areas, and all uses—including hunting and dispersed camping—are prohibited. All Bureau of Land Management roads and trails in the area are closed, including the Grizzly Peak trailhead, Hobart Bluff Trailhead, Hyatt Lake, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Soda Mountain Wilderness.  

Maps of the closure areas are available on the Bureau of Land Management’s website:  https://www.blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/fire-and-aviation/regional-info/oregon-washington/fire-restrictions  

Public and firefighter safety are the highest priority. The extreme fire danger and fuels conditions have prompted the closure of these public lands to help with initial attack resources available to respond to new starts. The Bureau of Land Management continues to monitor fuels and resource conditions and will consider modifying closures if their impacts are in alignment with sound risk management practices. 

On September 12, the Bureau of Land Management closed all public lands south of Grants Pass, Interstate 5, and U.S. Route 199 to the border of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest as well as near the South Obenchain Fire outside of White City and the Slater Fire along the California state line.  

Multiple new fires started in early September on Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and private lands in the region have prompted Level 3 “Go” evacuations. Moderate to heavy smoke impacts from the fires are expected to continue.  

Personal safety is paramount. Stay informed on air quality ratings and more by visiting the Oregon Smoke Blog at http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/. Learn how to stay safe from wildfire smoke at https://www.cdc.gov/air/wildfire-smoke/default.htm

Weather and fuel conditions remain favorable for continued fire spread. Nearby residents and visitors to the area are encouraged to check with local emergency officials for the latest information on evacuations. 

For the latest road and weather condition updates, visit https://www.tripcheck.com/

Additional fire information is available on Inciweb: 

Please call 911 to report any signs of new fires. 

Please avoid outdoor recreation during these times and observe public use restrictions to help us limit potential new starts during this time:  

  • Campfires or any other type of open fire, including the use of charcoal briquettes, is prohibited on BLM-managed land. 
  • Power-driven machinery is prohibited in forested areas. This restriction includes power saws; equipment used for the cutting, grinding, or welding of metal; mowing of dry, cured grass with power equipment; and the use of any other spark-emitting equipment using an internal combustion engine. 
  • Smoking is only allowed while inside a vehicle or while stopped in an area at least three (3) feet in diameter that is clear of flammable vegetation.   
  • Operating a motor vehicle and parking off road (including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles) is only allowed on roadways clear of flammable vegetation.   
  • Using fireworks, exploding targets, or tracer ammunition is prohibited.   
  • Using a chainsaw or other equipment with internal combustion engines for felling, bucking, skidding, woodcutting, or any other operation is prohibited.   
  • Welding or operating a torch with an open flame is prohibited.   

Visitors to lands managed by the BLM are also required to carry tools with them to ensure small fires can be put out quickly, includinga shovel, axe, and at least one gallon of water or a 2.5-pound fire extinguisher.  

A list of personal use restrictions, as well as closure orders, are available at https://www.blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/fire-and-aviation/regional-info/oregon-washington/fire-restrictions. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter @BLMOregon. 

After seven dangerous and frightening months dealing with the highly infectious coronavirus, Oregon hospitals and healthcare workers are now facing a different hazard — the thick layer of choking smoke blanketing the state.

From Portland to Medford, hospitals and health systems have closed facilities, moved patients and delayed procedures due to the smoke. Despite efforts to preserve air quality, hospital officials admit that some of their sites are visibly smoky. Oregon has suffered some of the worst air quality numbers in the world since last week’s fires burned a million acres. Portland set a new record on Sept. 13 of 477 AQI, more than triple the previous historic high. Bend’s rating hit 500 on Saturday, a number that is literally off the AQI charts. Portland’s AQI typically is at 50 or below; the Environmental Protection Agency classifies any rating above 150 as “unhealthy.”

OHA’s Weekly Report Shows Declining Case Count Trend

Today’s Weekly Report showed that new cases in Oregon have continued to decline as 1,294 cases were recorded from Sept. 7-13 —down 12% from last week’s tally of 1,477. In that same period, the number of Oregonians newly tested declined 35%, to 17,365, and the percentage of tests that were positive rose from 4.3% to 5.6%. This decline in the number of Oregonians tested occurred during the context of numerous active wildfires. OHA is closely monitoring this situation.

Twenty-nine Oregonians were reported to have died last week in association with COVID-19, compared to 23 last week. Eighty-three Oregonians were hospitalized; and with 47 in the previous week, the reported number of Oregonians hospitalized with COVID-19 is the lowest for any two-week period since mid-June.

As in past weeks of declining case counts, OHA reminds Oregonians that it remains very important to continue to wear face coverings, practice physical distancing and avoid gatherings to sustain the progress the state has made.

Alaska Airlines has resumed flights in and out of Portland, Oregon and Spokane, Washington with new wildfire smoke protocols.

Airline officials halted flights in those and some smaller airports in both states because of wildfires in the West that have been creating thick smoke and haze. Alaska said Monday they made the difficult decision to stop their operations to keep employees and guests safe. The airline is currently operating a reduced schedule, canceling at least 20 afternoon and evening flights through PDX, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. The Seattle-based airline is the busiest one serving PDX. The suspension also applied to sister airline Horizon Air. The Port of Portland, which runs the airport, said no other airline has taken a similar step. It said Alaska canceled 74 flights Monday.

Oregon fire officials are expecting that as visibility improves, a large number of helicopters and planes will soon take flight and start engaging on the many wildfires in the state. They are appealing to  drone enthusiasts to not fly their equipment while skies over Oregon are so busy.

“We’re looking to Oregonians statewide to help us make the most of these resources and ensure our people stay safe by keeping their personal drones on the ground. If you fly, we can’t,” said ODF’s Chief of Fire Protection Doug Grafe.

Grafe said two key ways firefighters use aviation assets is to actively fight fires using water and retardant drops and to provide an aerial view of the fires, especially hidden hot spots that need extinguishing.

 “That aerial view informs our operational decisions and helps us provide accurate information about fire perimeters and activities to the public,” Grafe said.

State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple said:, “We appreciate the cooperation from drone hobbyists. By keeping their drones on the ground for the time being, we’ll be able to get our helicopters and planes safely in the air fighting fires.”

Poor visibility over the state from the heavy smoke has prevented firefighting aircraft from fully engaging on wildfires. With forecasts calling for clearer skies in coming days, fire officials say the public should expect to see many more planes and helicopters in and around wildfires, sources of water and airstrips.

Klamath Falls News from partnership with the Herald and News, empowering the community.

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