Klamath Basin News, Wednesday, 7/21 – The Struggle For Water Grows; Bootleg Fire Nears 400,000 Acres, 2268 Firefighters, 32% Contained

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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 Insuranceyour local health and Medicare agents.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Air Quality Alert
Red Flag Warning in effect from July 21, 02:00 PM PDT until July 21, 08:00 PM PDT

Today Patchy smoke before 2pm. Sunny, with a high near 86. Light west northwest winds to 11 mph. Overnight low of 52.

Thursday Sunny, with a high near 932
Friday Sunny, with a high near 95.
Saturday Sunny and hot, with a high near 96.
Sunday Sunny, with a high near 95.

Today’s Headlines

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Bootleg fire expands to nearly 400,00 acres across Southern Oregon.

Location: 28 miles northeast of Klamath Falls                                                                                
Size: 394,407 acres 
Personnel: 2,268                                                                                                                                   Containment: 32% 

As hot, dry weather conditions continue to fuel wildfires across much of the United States, the Bootleg Fire has become so intense that it’s creating its own weather.

The fire has scorched more than 606 square miles — an area larger than Los Angeles and about half the size of Rhode Island. It grew to more than 388,350 acres overnight from Monday to Tuesday and is 30% contained, according to data from the InciWeb interagency website.

The fire was only 30% contained Tuesday and continued to advance toward mountain towns, even as 2,250 firefighters and others fought it. The blaze absorbed the Log Fire this week to become the largest wildfire now burning in the U.S., and 3rd-largest in state history — so big that it has created its own lightning.

Firefighters came to help from as far away as Florida and Kentucky, along with many from California. At a fire base in the tiny town of Bly, firetrucks had arrived from Fremont, Rancho Cucamonga and San Bruno, California. Firefighters who emerged were sooty and exhausted after days of being forced to retreat as the blaze leapt fire lines.

On Tuesday, temperatures dipped, with clouds and even some spotty rain that helped firefighters tamp down lingering fires on the southern flank.

The weather moderated yesterday with reduced wind speeds, lower temperatures, and slightly higher humidity, which allowed firefighters to continue constructing and improving firelines. Weather conditions are favorable again today for the efforts to secure existing fireline. 

On the northern edge of the fire, line was constructed to Long Creek and firefighters scouted a line to tie into the anchor point near the Sycan Marsh Nature Conservancy. The reduced fire activity yesterday allowed firefighters to construct dozer line directly against the fire edge along the north and east boundary of the Log Fire. There is expected northeast movement of the fire toward Winter Ridge and Summer Lake.  Crews and equipment are going direct while also working to improve contingency lines between the fire and those communities and provide structure protection for those homes.  

Firefighters are continuing to work around the southeastern corner of the fire where the majority of recent growth has occurred. As the fire pushes up into the old Watson Fire burn area, fuels become less continuous and fire behavior is decreased. Crews are challenged by working around many snags in this area but are making good progress. Any fire that spots over or pushes the fire line has the potential for additional rapid growth. 

Firefighters continue to patrol the fireline along the southern to northwestern flanks of the fire. As crews patrol, they look for places to mitigate risks to the controlled line of the fire. Returning residents to these areas may see unburned fuels within the fire perimeter that will continue to burn and produce smoke for weeks.  

The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office’s (OSFM) Green Team is demobilizing today after working at the fire for two weeks. Yesterday, they worked to support the transition of the incoming Red Team which will continue the OSFM’s mission of protecting lives and homes. The OSFM’s team is working in Unified Command with the two other incident management teams on the Bootleg Fire. 

“While our Incident Management Team may be transitioning, our dedication to protecting the community remains. Our firefighters are up to the task, their work the last two weeks has undoubtedly protected hundreds of homes and we remain vigilant to the task at hand.” Ian Yocum, Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Red Team Incident Commander. 

Community Meeting – Members of the team will meet with the community tonight, July 21, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. at the Alger Community Theatre (24 South F Street, Lakeview, OR 97630). 

Evacuations: Evacuations are rapidly changing due to the nature of this wildfire.   Interactive map of evacuation levels in Lake and Klamath Counties at  tinyurl.com/bootlegevac 

Red Cross Evacuation Shelters:  Open 24/7 New Site:  Thrive Church – 235 South Laguna St. Klamath Falls, Oregon and Daly Middle School 906 S 3rd St. Lakeview, Oregon for information or assistance: 1-800-Red-Cross, FB @RedCrossCascades, (www.redcrossblog.org/disaster)  

Closures: The Fremont-Winema National Forest is closed to the public in the fire area. Map and full order available atinciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7609/.    

The Scramble For Water in Southern Oregon

The Klamath County Watermaster’s office has received 82 complaints In the last two weeks from people in the Klamath Basin experiencing water shortages in their personal wells. Since the Klamath Project received no water from Upper Klamath Lake this year, farmers have not been able to irrigate as much of their land from surface water, forcing those who want to irrigate to drill deep and pump water.

Many rural households in the Klamath Basin use domestic wells both for in-home, running water and to care for pets or a herd of livestock. In times of drought when surface water is unavailable, some even use their domestic wells to irrigate small amounts of farmland.

Dani Watson, watermaster of District 17 in Klamath Falls, knows there are many more empty wells that have yet to be reported.

Some were able to find water tanks and fill them from their neighbor’s pumps, or from other wells that haven’t yet dried up.

Water storage tanks are wide-based, plastic cylinders with a hole in the top to put water, and a few holes on the side to hook pumps into. They are bulky and not easy to transport — you have to bring water to them.

Many who are experiencing well water shortages live near irrigation canals. In past summers, wells 80-200 feet deep can draw from a shallow aquifer that is recharged by water pumped through canals and over fields.

Paul Simmons, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, is not surprised to see these water shortages in such areas. He has been hearing about the shortages for at least a month now.

“The areas where it is happening are all along major canals that have been left dry this season,” Simmons said.

Since the Klamath Project received no water from Upper Klamath Lake this year, farmers have not been able to irrigate as much of their land from surface water, forcing those who want to irrigate to drill deep and pump water to the surface.

Without extensive and time-consuming research, there is no way to tell where the groundwater level is in the Klamath Basin and how far it has dropped during the current drought.

The United States Geological Survey monitors water in the Klamath Basin and other areas with various sensors that can detect water levels. They monitor about 40 wells, including household and commercial wells with landowner permission, as well as USGS wells installed specifically to measure aquifer levels.

The recent measurements “are some of the lowest levels we’ve seen and it looks like a long-term trend,” said Terrence Conlon, a regional science coordinator for the USGS.

Klamath County Commissioners are working with Oregon Emergency Management and the Oregon Department of Human Services to secure portable water in places where wells went dry. There is no cost.

“This is considered emergency water,” said Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris. “People need to conserve as much as they can.”

The county has ordered 320 water storage tanks. Due to supply shortages, the county will receive shipments in increments, with the first one is expected to arrive late next week.

They are currently working to establish a distribution area where people can pick up tanks and fill them with fresh water, as well as a plan to refill tanks as people need them.

To ensure eligibility for a water tank, Minty Morris encourages people experiencing well issues to contact the watermaster’s office, where they will be added to the queue.

Brad Kirby, the manager of Tule Lake Irrigation District, received a shipment of tanks ranging from 550-2,600 gallons on Friday for people experiencing well issues in the Tulelake area. Kirby encourages people to call the Tule Lake irrigation district and they will work to get a water tank delivered.

Around the state of Oregon

Asante Three Rivers Medical Center Locked Down after Threats

Threats made against a patient at the Grants Pass hospital prompted a lockdown Tuesday morning at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center.

While not many details are being made public at this time, the hospital released the following statement after the lockdown was lifted:

On Tuesday, July 20, a Code Silver was called at 8:30 a.m. at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center.

A Code Silver is called when there is a threat, attempt or active use of a weapon to cause harm. In this case, a man called the Asante Three Rivers Medical Center Emergency Department three times threatening to harm a patient.

The medical center was immediately locked down and no one was allowed entrance into the facility, other than those seeking emergency medical care.

After receiving medical treatment, the patient who was threatened was moved to a secure location by law enforcement officers.

Asante Three Rivers Emergency Department remains on lockdown, and access to the hospital is restricted to one entrance.

Additional security is monitoring entrances as well as the external campus for the person who made the threats. His photo and a description of a possible vehicle has been distributed among staff.

The Code Silver was cleared at 10:20 a.m.

Questions concerning the suspect and the circumstances of events that led up to the threats are to be directed to the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office.

The lockdown was lifted at 3 pm. The hospital will have increased security for a limited time. There’s no word on whether an arrest has been made.

Police Asking For Help in Search For Missing 74-Year-Old Man From Grants Pass

Police are looking for a 74-year-old man last seen driving a vehicle on Tuesday morning in Grants Pass.

Hayden “Jay” Collins was last seen around 7 a.m. on Ramsey Avenue, driving a silver Honda CRV with Oregon plate number ZBK837.

Collins is described as a white male adult, 5-foot, 7-inches tall, with receding dark brown and gray hair, and wearing bifocals.

He was last seen wearing a blue shirt with multi-colored handprints, blue athletic pants, and red Nike shoes.

Anyone who has seen Collins should call Grants Pass Police at 541-450-6260.

Gov. Brown Press Conference On The State’s Wildfire Response

Wildfires in Oregon and Washington have already burned more than 500,00 acres this year. This time last year, about 24,000 acres had burned. ‘We’re facing a long, difficult fire season’: Gov. Brown, state leaders urge Oregonians to be prepared.

Oregon reports 595 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 6 new deaths

There are six new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state�s death toll to 2,832.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (1), Benton (5), Clackamas (35), Clatsop (4), Columbia (13), Coos (12), Crook (7), Curry (1), Deschutes (14), Douglas (14), Harney (2), Hood River (3), Jackson (63), Jefferson (4), Josephine (19), Klamath (8), Lane (42), Lincoln (6), Linn (19), Malheur (7), Marion (87), Morrow (3), Multnomah (36), Polk (32), Sherman (1), Umatilla (72), Union (6), Wallowa (1), Wasco (4), Washington (64) and Yamhill (10).   

Bill Proposal in Oregon Causing Concerns it Would Outlaw Hunting, Fishing, Harvesting Livestock, Rodeos & More

Certified Ballot Title

Hunting, fishing, fur trapping, eating beef, and riding broncs and bulls may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but those activities are deeply woven into the cultural fabric of rural America and a big part of parts of Oregon.

Petition 13 would make the killing of any animal legal only under the circumstances of self-defense. That would legally prohibit hunting and fishing for food, fur trapping, harvesting livestock, and even pest control. The petition would also classify catch and release fishing and activities like rodeos as animal abuse.

Given the scientific and economic data that supports those activities, an attempt to make them all illegal would seem crazy if it didn’t have a legitimate chance at potentially happening.

In the case of hunting, fishing and fur trapping, they’re also critical components of managing modern ecosystems and funding fish and wildlife conservation efforts.

In 2020 alone, the state sold more than $28 million worth of hunting licenses and $26 million worth of fishing licenses. Excise taxes on the sale of firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, and fishing gear also raised more than $22 million for fish and wildlife conservation efforts in the state in 2020.

Historically, those funding mechanisms have raised more than $2 billion for the same cause in the state. Without those activities the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would go bankrupt and be unable to manage the state’s resources.

According to Oregon Fresh, cattle ranching alone in Oregon is a $900 million industry which makes beef the state’s top agricultural commodity. Defining cattle ranching as animal abuse would absolutely cripple the state’s economy and leave untold numbers of people hungry.

Rodeo culture goes hand in hand with cattle ranching, and events in Oregon like the St. Paul Rodeo frequently draw more than 50,000 attendees which proves the entertainment and cultural value of cowboy sports in the state.

Under state law, ballot initiatives like Petition 13 need only 112,000 valid signatures by July of 2022 to be eligible for the November 2022 election cycle. The city of Portland is a hub for animal rights extremists, and with a population of about 650,000 there is a fairly decent chance enough of them sign the petition to ensure that the measure winds up on the ballot.

If it weren’t for Portland, such an absurd idea would never be realistic.

Outside of Portland, the state of Oregon is mostly rural and filled with people who have a close connection to agriculture, logging, ranching, hunting, and fishing. It will be up to them to stop the attempt at banning the very activities that entire rural communities and ways of life throughout the state are founded on.

Almost 950,000 people bought a hunting or fishing license in Oregon in 2020 according to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Millions of people in the state presumably ate farm raised meat last year too, so for their ability to go hunting or fishing to be threatened by just over 100,000 people in Portland is absolutely nuts.

If Petition 13 does wind up on the ballot, it will be up to the states more than 4.2 million residents at large to push back on these issues.

Petition 13 has deceptively been titled Abuse, Neglect, and Assault Exemption Modification and Improvement Act. The name alone though, is enough to fool people into signing onto the petition in good faith without realizing the lunacy they’re signing up to support. That’s a major reason why highlighting the absurd facts about Petition 13 is so important.

Amy Patrick, outreach coordinator for the Oregon Hunters Association sees the hypocrisy of what the petition is attempting to do. “Under this initiative, it would be illegal to put a deer in the freezer, catch fish, or raise animals to offset a family’s grocery bill. While it prevents Oregonians from securing their own naturally raised or harvested food, it does not prohibit grocery stores from carrying animal proteins, meaning those items would be imported from states that do not have such outrageous regulations, effectively creating even more distance between Oregon families and their food.”

READ MORE About PETITION 13: https://www.yesonip13.org/about

Rare Sumatran Tiger Cubs Born At Wildlife Safari

Wildlife Safari has welcomed two critically endangered Sumatran tiger cubs. Riya, who is 9 years old, became a first-time mother to the cubs — one boy and one girl — who were named Phoebe and Luhahn.

Wildlife Safari says Riya cleaned the cubs off immediately and has been nursing since.

This is also big news for tiger conservation. The safari hasn’t had tiger cubs born there since the early 80s and these are only the second litter of cubs born into the Sumatran Tiger Species Survival Program since 2018.

There’s been a lack of tiger cubs born due to shutdowns and restrictions at zoological facilities. There are only an estimated 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.

The cubs will spend time with Riya off display for some time before being visible to the public.

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