Klamath Basin News, Monday, 7/26 – Bootleg Fire 53% Contained, Now 409,611 Acres, Over 2257 Firefighters On The Blaze

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Monday, July 26, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Patchy smoke and a slight chance of thunderstorms before 11am, then partly sunny and hot, with a high near 98. Overnight, showers and thunderstorms. Widespread haze and smokey skies, low of 64.

Tuesday A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 11am. Widespread haze. Areas of smoke. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 82. Chance of showers overnight with a low around 60.
Wednesday A 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms otherwise sunny, with a high near 92.
Thursday Mostly sunny, with a high near 95.
Friday Sunny and hot, with a high near 97.

Today’s Headlines

Bootleg Update July 26, 2021  

Over the weekend, firefighters held the Bootleg fire- the biggest active fire in the nation has burned 409,611 acres and is 53% contained as of today. There are 2,257 personnel assigned to the fire.

As firefighters successfully patrol and hold the containment line around the southern area of the Bootleg Fire, activity continues on the northern edges. Along the northwest perimeter of the fire, crews have been building indirect line utilizing forest roads from Coyote Creek, north to Round Butte. A burnout operation was conducted overnight to remove fuels ahead of the fire to stop its spread into timber stands.  

“The challenge today,” said Pacific Northwest Team 2 Operations Chief Kyle Cannon, “is to secure the northernmost section of the fire north of Round Butte to the west side of 27 Road.” 

On the northeast side, last night’s efforts focused again on the active fire along the Sycan River. Crews there are working to keep the fire off Winter Rim and from moving toward Summer Lake. Contingency line construction and structure protection continue around Summer Lake and Paisley. Incident managers are optimistic about the effectiveness of these efforts, but threats remain and evacuation levels have not yet changed. They encourage people to remain vigilant and updated on conditions. 

Along the southern border, crews continue to progress deeper into the burned area extinguishing hot spots. This will further secure the fire’s edge. Firefighters have made excellent progress, with 98 miles of completed fire line in this zone. As they continue to patrol, any areas of remaining heat that could pose a future threat to the containment line will be extinguished.  

Over the course of the fire, more than 90 fire departments from across the country have responded to the fire to serve the impacted communities. Today, an additional 120 Oregon National Guardsmen are arriving—six crews of 20—to join the firefighting force.  

Weather and smoke conditions are improving over the next few days. Last night’s light, favorable winds from the north facilitated night operations. Although rainfall is rare this time of year, today thunderstorms are expected to roll in and produce rain tonight and tomorrow. While there is a danger of lightning, the rainfall, higher humidity, and cooler temperatures overall will assist firefighting efforts. Air quality has also eased across the state with most monitoring stations recording good to moderate air quality. 

The Bootleg Fire is the third-largest in Oregon’s history.

Its size has created a problem for the firefighters trying to put it out but has also created this phenomenon where it is creating its own weather. The weather and extreme fire behavior has caused firefighters to have to retreat from attacking the fire in the past. The latest fire-induced event was a tornado, which was confirmed to have occurred on July 18 on the eastern perimeter of the fire.

A spokesperson for the Bootleg Fire said that the tornado was a rare weather event and that data surrounding the event will be saved and studied by meteorologists and fire researchers to help identify future events like this. It was caused by a mix of conditions including dry fuels, an unstable atmosphere and the fire itself.

Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot agreed to a settlement with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission in regards to an ethics complaint filed against the commissioner last year.

The complaint alleged that DeGroot violated state ethics laws when he didn’t declare a conflict of interest when voting to award contracts to Rocky Mountain Construction, where DeGroot’s son worked at the time. Additionally, the complaint alleged that DeGroot improperly accepted a gift when he took a hunting trip to Mexico with Rocky Mountain Construction owner Jamie Jackson and didn’t pay for portions of the trip.

The agreed-upon settlement stipulates that DeGroot acknowledged violating certain ethics laws and will pay $1,000 in civil penalties. In exchange, the commission will cease its investigation and will not bring the case into a contested hearing. DeGroot was not immediately available for comment, according to the Klamath Falls Herald and News.

The employees in Valerie Hedrick’s office, among others in the immediate area, are among downtown office workers who allege they were accidentally exposed to toxic fumes in mid-June, when a city-hired contractor sprayed chemical sealant on Sugarman’s Corner, the downtown pocket park at the intersection of Main and 6th streets.

The unfamiliar odor built slowly, multiple employees said, until the entirety of Hedrick’s law office — which is separated by a wall from Sugarman’s Corner — smelled like nail polish remover.

Employees of Midland Empire Insurance, who occupy the next door down from Hedrick’s law office, did the same. Employees elected to finish the workday at home. Altogether, 10 people across the two businesses told the Herald and News they were exposed to the chemical and felt the effects of the fumes. Eight of those people agreed to speak on the record and said there were others exposed who were not present for the interviews.

No one said they visited a doctor.

After 35 years, Stanley Gilbert has announced that he will retire from Klamath Basin Behavioral Health in October.

The KBBH Board of Directors has retained an executive search firm to lead the recruitment efforts for a new CEO. Three finalists, including one internal candidate, have been selected to participate in the final round of the interview process. The board expects to name a successor in August. Gilbert joined KBBH in 1986.

Under his leadership, KBBH grew from a child and family treatment center serving fewer than 50 consumers, to the largest behavioral health provider in southern Oregon, serving more than 8,000 children, adolescents, and families.

Around the state of Oregon

Out-of-state wildfire fighting crews headed to Montana Saturday to battle a blaze that injured five firefighters as the West struggled with a series of fires that have ravaged rural lands and destroyed homes.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday proclaimed a state of emergency for four northern counties because of wildfires that he said were causing “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.” The proclamation opens the way for more state support. In north-central Washington, firefighters battled two blazes in Okanogan County that threatened hundreds of homes and again caused hazardous air quality conditions Saturday.

More than 85 large wildfires were burning around the country, most of them in Western states, and they had burned over 1.4 million acres (2,135 square miles or more than 553,000 hectares) of land.

On Saturday at approximately 8:15 P.M., Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a single vehicle crash on Highway 238 near North Applegate Road.

A preliminary investigation revealed a Ford Thunderbird, operated by 62-year-old Dona Powers of Central Point, was eastbound when it left the roadway and crashed. Powers sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased. OSP was assisted by Applegate Fire and ODOT.

Coquille Indian Tribe Chief Don Ivy has died after a seven-month battle with cancer.  Tribal Chair Brenda Meade issued a statement saying “Chief Ivy was a consistent source of wisdom and kindness for the Coquille people.”  

The tribe will hold a special election to choose his successor.

Three juveniles have been identified by detectives as being present at the origination point of the Rolling Hills Fire in the Roseburg Green District which broke out Friday evening.

The sheriff’s office said it had made one arrest as of Saturday morning. On Friday, around 4:35 pm, 9-1-1 dispatchers received multiple reports of a fast moving grass fire in the 900-block of Rolling Hills Road. Multiple agencies responded to the blaze.

According to Douglas County law enforcement, the teens were determined to have been walking in the area while one of them, a 13-year-old Roseburg teen, was playing with a lighter. The teen had pulled a clump of dead and dry grass from the ground and lit it. It became too hot causing the teen to drop it to the ground, igniting the approximate 20 acre fire that destroyed two homes, multiple outbuildings and four vehicles. The teens attempted to extinguish the fire and stop its spread, but were unable to do so. At least one of the juveniles went to a nearby residence and alerted the homeowner who called 9-1-1. The teens and their guardians are cooperating with law enforcement.

The investigation is ongoing. 

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