Klamath Basin News, Friday, Sept 18 – More Fighting Over Upper Klamath Lake Water Flows; Wildfire Updates Around Southern Oregon, 8 New Klamath County Covid-19 Cases

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Friday, September 18, 2020

Klamath Basin Weather

Friday  A 50% 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

More Fighting over Upper Klamath Lake Water Flows

Last Wednesday, Ed Combs illegally turned on a pump that diverted water from the Williamson River to the ditches of Modoc Point Irrigation District. By Sunday morning, the Oregon Water Resources Department stopped the flow.

The Klamath Tribes, who hold the most senior water rights in the Upper Klamath Basin, released a statement calling Combs’ move “precisely the sort of pointless act that stokes needless animosity in the Upper Klamath Basin.” Combs said he started the pump to provide water for firefighting in the event of the Two Four Two Fire traveling south and threatening the district’s land. But the fire continued its spread in the opposite direction.

Tribal chairman Don Gentry said the tribes worked with OWRD to meet with Combs and turn the pump off without the need for a court order. In their statement, the tribes condemned Combs’ use of the fire to take the water and said that “ample mechanisms” exist to provide water to firefighters without filling irrigation ditches.

Klamath County Public Health officials reported eight new cases of COVID-19 in the community on Thursday, bringing the local count to 268. KCPH Director Jennifer Little encourages everyone to get a flu shot this fall. It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter.

Healthcare systems could be overwhelmed treating both patients with flu and patients with COVID-19. This means getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever. Little is also promoting following CDC guidelines in keeping yourself and the community safe and healthy, including washing hands, social distancing and wearing masks.

The state’s death toll from COVID-19 is unchanged from yesterday and remains at 521, the Oregon Health Authority reported at 12:01 a.m. today.

Oregon Health Authority reported 215 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of. yesterday bringing the state total to 30,060. The Oregon State Public Health Laboratory resumed normal operations yesterday after a three-day closure caused by HVAC problems and related poor indoor air quality. The lab is once again accepting and testing specimens.

The new cases are in the following counties: Benton (2), Clackamas (11), Clatsop (1), Columbia (3), Deschutes (7), Douglas (1), Grant (2), Hood River (1), Jackson (14), Jefferson (7), Klamath (7), Lane (23), Linn (11), Malheur (11), Marion (28), Morrow (1), Multnomah (43), Polk (2), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (7), Washington (29) and Yamhill (3).

A Klamath Falls man was charged following the Alameda Fire after allegedly trying to break into a safe in a burned Phoenix home last Wednesday.

A bystander reported 28 year old Kyle Mahan of Klamath Falls to the police when he didn’t believe Mahan when he said he lived in the N. Rose Street house, according to the probable cause statement. At the jail, police found Mahan had checks addressed to someone living on N Rose Street, according to court documents. Mahan told police the checks were for an employee and that he didn’t intend to steal anything from the safe he was messing with. Mahan was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder 10 years ago in Klamath County. He was sentenced to over 8 years in prison after pleading guilty.

Mahan pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two counts of burglary, two counts of theft and criminal trespass in Jackson County

The 173rd Fighter Wing out of Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon has deployed nearly 120 Airmen to assist with containment of the devastating wildfires that have spread across the state, and additional personnel from the Wing are preparing to head out in the next few days.

Twelve Airmen left Saturday to support management of traffic control points in Central Oregon.  Fifty additional Airmen were deployed on Tuesday for traffic control point management in the Rogue Valley.  Fifty Airmen were deployed on Sunday to the Echo Mountain Fire in Lincoln City, Oregon.  These Oregon Air Guardsmen deployed in support of OPLAN (Operation Plan) Smokey, an interagency agreement between the Oregon Military Department and the Oregon Department of Forestry which tasks the Oregon National Guard with assisting in the control and containment of wildfires, when called on by the governor.

The Airmen come from a variety of career backgrounds, spanning the entirety of Air Force career fields. Outside of their AF careers, these Airmen have volunteered and trained in order to serve in support of OPLAN Smokey in the event that they’re called on to do so. These teams will be assisting in several capacities: by aiding fire teams, checking for hot spots, traffic management, as well as evacuation assistance. The goal is to better enable civilian entities; be it police, fire fighters, or mortuary affairs, to manage the current crisis.

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.

Fire officials say that evacuation levels have lowered for the town of Paisley, though firefighting efforts on the Brattain Fire continue. There are still Level 3 evacuations in place for certain areas. The Brattain Fire was last estimated at 44,800 acres with 20 percent containment. It is listed as a human-caused fire.

Yesterday:

Another very active day for Brattain firefighting resources yesterday battling the elevated fire conditions but seizing opportunities to increase fireline construction and containment. Crews constructed fireline in the southwest corner of the fire and in the northwest quadrant of the fire.  They were supported by numerous helicopters.  Containment lines in the northeast and east flanks of the fire held as crews patrolled for hotspots.  Fire behavior and accessibility allowed crews to continue the direct attack in the southern area of the fire with handcrews, engines and dozers. Logging equipment and masticators or “brushcutters” continue to improve Forest Roads 3360 and 3510 as a contingency line along the south flank of the fire.      

Today:

After five consecutive days of Red Flag conditions, a much-needed reprieve in the weather is expected late this afternoon after a frontal passage at the Brattain fire.  This will bring erratic winds but cooler temperatures and a chance of precipitation. Crews will continue mop-up and patrol along the north and east side of the fire along Hwy 31. Crews and heavy equipment will continue to widen and strengthen lines and conduct hoselay operations in the south and look for any spot fires near Clover Flat Road.  Dozers will continue line construction in the northwest quadrant of the fire to increase containment. Improved weather conditions and possible precipitation will greatly improve the ability for crews and equipment to go direct and construct fireline.  

Paisley area Evacuations:

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has updated the following evacuation notices:

Level 3 (Go) – Highway 31 from Summer Lake Store south to Red House Lane (north of Paisley). Clover Flat Road from Valley Falls east to Moon Ranch.

Level 2 (Set) – All of Paisley – from Red House Lane, continuing south on Highway 31 to Valley Falls/the junction with U.S. Hwy 395. Clover Flat Road from the intersection with Hwy 31 (Beachler’s Corner) south to Murphy Ranch. From Summer Lake Store north along Highway 31 to the top of Picture Rock Pass.

Level 1 (Ready) – Valley Falls approximately 5 miles south on Hwy 395 to Chandler State Park.

Forest Closure:

From Forest Road 29 southeast to Forest Road 3510 and the 28 Road east, all National Forest System lands and facilities are closed per Forest Closure Order 06-02-03-20-03. Forest Road 3315 is closed; the 28 Road is open.

Summary:

The Brattain fire started on September 7th, 2020 and is currently burning on the Paisley Ranger District of the Fremont-Winema National Forest.  The Eastern Area Incident Management Team is currently managing the fire.  Firefighting crews continue to operate on a 24-hour schedule and are battling winds, extremely dry conditions and shortages of firefighting resources.

Saturday, an astronomy event highlighting use of binoculars for stargazing will be offered 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. on. 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. 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 stated 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.

Regional Wildfire Information Center Established

MEDFORD, ORE Southwest Oregon is currently experiencing high fire danger along with large fires and a high number of displaced residents. To address the information needs of the community, the Bureau of Land Management Medford District, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and the Oregon Department of Forestry have activated a Wildfire Information Center.  The center’s mission is to answer questions and provide information about fire conditions, public lands closures and public use fire restrictions. 

The Wildfire Information Center is publishing an information blog that aggregates fire information being produced by the various Incident Management Teams and makes it available in one location creating a one-stop-shop. A call center is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. seven-days a week. 

Firefighting resources across the region are stretched thin due to the outbreak of numerous large fires across the Pacific Northwest that are threatening countless communities. In an effort to reduce the risk of wildfire on public lands and reduce the burden on initial attack resources, the Bureau of Land Management and USDA Forest Service have closed large amounts of public lands across the region. All federal roads and trails located within the closure areas are closed to public access. More information on the closures, including maps, can be found on the Bureau of Land Management’s website at: https://www.blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/fire-and-aviation/regional-info/oregon-washington/fire-restrictions and on the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest’s website at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/rogue-siskiyou/  

Over the weekend,the area is expecting a cooling trend potentially bringing lightening and some rain.  However, by Monday temperatures are expected to become warm and dry again.  We’re asking residents and visitors to the area to continue to be vigilant and take care not to accidently start a wildfire.  Working together, we can protect lives and property from wildfires. 

Before venturing out to enjoy southwest Oregon’s public lands, plan ahead and Know Before You Go.  Find more information on the Southwest Oregon Wildfire Information Center blog or contact the Wildfire Information Center (458) 206-3043. 

On Wednesday, Sept. 16th at around 6:45 am, Grants Pass RADE detectives with the assistance of GPDPS patrol units and narcotics detection K9 Match, arrested 73 year old William G. Van Tassell. RADE detectives obtained information Van Tassell was in possession of a large quantity of methamphetamine and located him driving his vehicle southbound on Interstate 5 in Josephine County.

A traffic stop was attempted on Van Tassell as he neared exit 58. Van Tassell chose to not pull over and drove several miles before spike strips were deployed by a patrol unit, deflating 3 of Van Tassell’s tires. He eventually was stopped and after K9 Match alerted to narcotics in his vehicle, 228.4 grams (approximately 1/2 pound) of methamphetamine was located, hidden in his vehicle. Van Tassell was arrested and lodged in the jail for Unlawful Delivery and Possession of Methamphetamine. More charges are expected to be added by the DA’s Office. Anyone with questions can contact Det. Sgt. Doni Hamilton 541-450-6370 or email at dhamilton@grantspassoregon.gov.

Oregon Department of Human Services Offices Update for Friday:
The following ODHS offices are closed:
– Estacada: 320 SW Zobrist St
– Eugene: 1015 Willamette St
– Keizer: 3420 Cherry Ave
– McMinnville: 368 NE Norton Ln
– Portland: 8129 SE Malden St
– Salem: 4074 Winema Pl NE
– Sublimity: 11656 Sublimity Rd SE
Please call your local ODHS office before attempting to visit in person, or connect with us through 211info or the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC). Follow ODHS on Twitter and Facebook for the most up-to-date info.

 The Justice Department explored whether it could pursue either criminal or civil rights charges against city officials in Portland, Oregon after clashes erupted there night after night between law enforcement and demonstrators, a department spokesperson said Thursday.

The revelation that federal officials researched whether they could levy criminal or civil charges against the officials — exploring whether their rhetoric and actions may have helped spur the violence in Portland — underscores the larger Trump administration’s effort to spotlight and crack down on protest-related violence. The majority of the mass police reform demonstrations nationwide have been peaceful. For many nights, federal officials were told that Portland police officers were explicitly told not to respond to the federal courthouse as hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside, some throwing bricks, rocks and other projectiles at officers, and not to assist federal officers who were sent to try to quell the unrest.

Anticipated rainfall may be good news for air quality and ongoing fires, but Oregon officials warn that it could bring its own hazards. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for parts of the Cascade foothills within a list of counties — Hood River, Multnomah, Clackamas, Marion, Linn, Lane, Douglas, Coos, Jackson, and Klamath. The watch and lasts until noon today. The agency says that debris flows can be fast-moving, particularly destructive landslides — often carrying boulders and logs downhill with a surge of soil and water slurry down steep hillsides and through narrow canyons.

The federal government is declaring a Public Health Emergency in Oregon due to wildfire smoke.  The declaration brings an Incident Management Team and regional emergency coordinators to work with state and local health authorities.  It also activates the National Disaster Medical System to provide technical assistance to state officials and provides tools to support counties’ emergency response.  Oregon has been suffocating under hazardous air quality conditions for about a week due to the ongoing wildfires.

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. 

Thousands of Oregonians have evacuated to escape wildfires that have damaged and destroyed homes throughout the state. Many who evacuated did not have time to take important documents with them, including ownership documents for their manufactured home, and those documents may now be destroyed.

The Oregon Building Codes Division’s online system can provide manufactured home owners with that information, including the record of ownership. Having these documents is important when navigating the insurance process.

The Oregon Manufactured Home Ownership Document (MHOD) system is available at https://aca-oregon.accela.com/OR_MHODS/. The system allows people to search for their documents and, once they find them, print or email them.

“These times are stressful enough without having to locate ownership documents in a damaged or destroyed manufactured home,” said Lori Graham, interim administrator of the Building Codes Division, which is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services. “Using the MHOD system is the easiest and quickest way for people to get their documents. Yet, if they need help, we can send them a printed copy.”

If customers need an existing ownership document mailed to them, but are displaced from their home, they can email or call, and the division can send it to any address customers want. Call 503-378-4530 or 800-442-7457 (toll-free) or email mhods.bcd@oregon.gov for help.

The MHOD system also has forms and applications, as well as other resources. People can access the records without needing to log in.

Areas around Weed, Calif., which is considered a high fire risk area, remain under a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) watch today. Peak gusts are expected in an area north of Weed. If a PSPS is required, the company may reduce the potentially impacted customers from 2,500 to 600 and issue a PSPS to a sectionalized area. This area encompasses north east of Weed, north of Alamo Avenue, out to the Carrick area, a section just west of Old Stage Road and Old Hwy 99 South. This includes an area north of Edgewood. It does not include areas in Hammond Ranch and the community of Lake Shastina. The measure is a proactive effort to mitigate wildfire risk in the face of hazardous fire weather conditions including extremely low humidity, dry vegetation, elevated levels on key weather indexes and sustained winds and gusts.    Customers have been notified of the watch through phone calls, email and text messages. Affected customers will continue to receive updates through ongoing communications. Customers can use the interactive map at www.pacificpower.net/psps to see if they are located in a PSPS area. Customers are encouraged to be prepared and have an outage kit ready.

OHA’s Weekly Report Shows Declining Case Count Trend

This week the 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.

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