Klamath Basin News, Monday, 8/16 – Bootleg Fire 100% Contained; Good Progress Made on the Patton Meadow Fire Near Lakeview

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Monday, August 16, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Air Quality Alert

Fire Weather Watch in effect from August 17, 02:00PM until August 17, 10:00PM

Today Widespread haze after 2pm. Patchy smoke before 2pm. Sunny, with a high near 92. Northwest wind 7 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Overnight mostly clear with a low around 53.


Tuesday Sunny, with a high near 78. Northwest wind 7 to 12 mph increasing to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph.
Wednesday Patchy smoke. Sunny, with a high near 81.
Thursday Sunny, with a high near 87.
Friday Sunny, with a high near 90.
Saturday Sunny, with a high near 89.

Today’s Headlines

Oregon’s third largest wildfire in the state’s modern history, the Bootleg Fire, is now 100% contained. The fire which started a little more than six weeks ago, put firefighters through the ringer through most of the it’s life. The lightning fire took off in Klamath County after embers attached to extremely dry fuels in the area, that had not been burned in more than 30 years. From there, the fire exploded onto the scene forcing thousands of people to flee from their homes and presenting a challenge for fire crews as the intense fire activity forced firefighters to pull back several times. In total the Bootleg Fire destroyed 413,717 acres, or 646 square miles, and destroyed more than 150 homes and more than 200 outbuildings. 

KCSD waives activity fees for junior high, high school students


This year, extracurricular activity fees will be waived for all students in grades 7-12 in the Klamath
County School District.

The district is investing about $145,000 to help families during this difficult time.
Earlier this month, the district was able to help families of elementary students by waiving the school supply and field trip activity fees.

Two new wildfires started by lightning late over the weekend grew rapidly Friday on the edge of Klamath and Lake counties, not too far from the site of the Bootleg Fire, which until recently was the nation’s largest blaze.

The Patton Meadow fire about 14 miles west of Lakeview, exploded to 11 square miles in less than 24 hours in a landscape sucked dry by extreme drought. An RV park was evacuated overnight. Another nearby fire was smaller but also growing and was just over one square mile Friday afternoon.

Gov. Kate Brown declared an emergency to help get firefighting crews and resources to the Patton Meadow Fire, which is also threatening communication infrastructure, authorities said.

Tamara Schmidt, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman with the fire incident command team, said fire growth was extremely rapid due to the weather conditions.

Crews made good progress overnight addressing critical areas on the Patton Meadow Fire.

Patton Meadow Road continues to be a strategic focus, with crews fortifying the road with dozer and handlines and the support of three engine crews to prevent the fire from spreading to the west into the Fish Creek drainage.  Some growth on the south side of the fire across Hwy 140 was controlled and dozer lines continue to hold the fire from spreading further south.  On the east side of the fire, crews continued conducting small burnouts to eliminate fuels between containment lines and the fire’s interior. 

Today, crews will continue to focus on the southwest corner of the fire and reinforce containment efforts north up Patton Meadow Road.  Winds are predicted to increase to 18-23mph out of the west and southwest which could push the fire to the north and east.  The north end of the fire is in steep and rocky terrain, making direct attack difficult. Contingency lines are being strengthened further north near Cottonwood Road in preparation for fire growth, while crews are working to identify areas where a more direct line can be constructed. 

Five OSFM structural Task Forces will be out today supporting the efforts to hold the line at Patton Meadow Road. Task forces will also continue to monitor the structures around Highway 140 and the 383 road. Task forces have been assisting wildland crews by filling porta-tanks that are used for firefighting operations.

The Willow Valley Fire, 16 miles south of Bonanza, is fully lined with both dozer line and road. Crews are continuing to mop up and secure fire lines.

The overnight infrared flight showed more accurate acreage for the fires. The updated acres for the fires are; Patton Meadow with 6,025 acres with 18% containment, and Willow Valley is 826 acres with 35% containment.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office evacuation details can be found by visiting https://www.facebook.com/Lake-County-Oregon-104435824529906.

To the south in Northern California, Firefighters faced “another critical day” as thunderstorms pushed flames closer to two towns not far from where the Dixie Fire destroyed much of Greenville last week.

The thunderstorms, which began Friday, didn’t produce much rain but whipped up wind and created lightning strikes, forcing crews to focus on using bulldozers to build lines and keep the blaze from reaching Westwood, a town of about 1,700 people. Westwood was placed under evacuation orders Aug. 5.

Wind gusts of up to 50 mph (80 kph) also pushed the fire closer to Janesville, a town of about 1,500 people, east of Greenville, said Jake Cagle, the operations chief at the east zone of the fire.

Because of the Bootleg Fire’s burn through eastern Klamath County and western Lake County, much of the eastern portion of the Fremont-Winema National Forest is closed.

The closure area includes the Gearhart Wilderness and portions of the Sprague and Sycan rivers. A recent adjustment to the closure order means that the previously closed Williamson River Campground has reopened to public use, a USFS release last week noted.

Violations of the closure order are punishable by up to a $5,000 fine for an individual or up to six-month imprisonment or both. In all, about 300,000 acres of the 2.3 million-acre national forest are closed to public use, Schmidt said. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Recreation Report, 16 different water bodies in the southeast zone — which includes Klamath and Lake counties — were ruled inaccessible because of fire.

Access to many private logging lands, many of which are generally open to the public, have been closed because of the Bootleg Fire or the risk of fire.

Thousands of acres owned by Green Diamond Resource Company were burned in the blaze and other timber companies, like Collins Pine, closed their lands in June because of concerns over fire.

Left to right: Captain Mike Parsons, Sheriff Chris Kaber, Breana Erickson, Captain Judi Dunn, Henry Lucht, Betty
Lucht, and Mike Britton. Pictured in the background, a mural with former Sheriff James Murray “Red” Britton.

Each year the members of the Klamath County Mounted Sheriff’s Posse and the Family of the late Klamath County Sheriff, James Murray “Red” Britton award a scholarship.

This year two scholarship awardees were selected. Bianca Parsons, who is planning to attend the Oregon State University, was awarded a $500.00 scholarship. Accepting this award on her behalf was her grandfather, Captain Mike Parsons, from the Sheriff’s Office Dive Rescue Unit.  

Breana Erickson, who will be attending the University of Oregon, was awarded a $250.00 scholarship. She was accompanied by her grandparents Henry and Betty Lucht who are lifetime members of the Klamath County Mounted Sheriff’s Posse.

On Wednesday, August 4, 2021 Klamath County Sheriff Chris Kaber, along with Mounted Sheriff Posse Captain Judi Dunn, Britton Family member Mike Britton, and members of the recipient’s families presented the scholarship awards.

To be eligible for the James Murray “RED” Britton Memorial Scholarship applicants must:

• Be a relative, child or child in guardianship, of a Klamath County Sheriff’s Office employee (active or retired) or an active Klamath County Sheriff’s Office Volunteer.

• Be a current graduating year high school senior with a 3.0 GPA or higher.

• Be attending college, community college, or vocational technology program of an accredited institution.

• Should be an active volunteer in the community, school, or other civic organizations.

Last year, botulism infected roughly 30,000 birds that migrated through Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

January Bill, a wildlife rehabilitator who runs a duck hospital located on the Lower Klamath Refuge, helped many of them survive. But the sheer number of infected waterfowl — added to the vagaries of the pandemic and nearby wildfires — tested her operation, and pushed her to be more prepared for 2021.

Roughly 15 percent of all birds that landed at the refuge are believed to have perished in 2020. Bill works out of a barn adapted into a field hospital on the Lower Klamath Refuge off Stateline road.

Rehabilitation equipment and a small staff kitchen fills the space. Light in the building is muted as it filters through green paneling on the walls.

There are two signs on either side of the entrance that read “Bird Ally X Botulism Response” and “Duck Hospital.” The hospital has to be torn down and set up every year, and it is expandable based on the size of the outbreak.

Avian botulism is the top worldwide cause of waterfowl mortality, Bill said, but intervention can save lives.

The annual 4H/FFA Rotary Livestock Auction smashed another record in 2021, reeling in $1,286,000 and surpassing last year’s $967,000 mark.

But the auction record wasn’t the only good news coming from last weekend’s Klamath County Fair, which aside from a virtual auction, took a pandemic-caused year off in 2020. According to fairgrounds manager DJ Rowley, the event far surpassed organizers’ expectations. 

The official attendance numbers aren’t in yet, as the fair opted to use an outside company to run the ticket booths and they’re waiting for the full report, Rowley said. However, the long lines and large crowds were more than an encouraging sign.  For the past several years, Rowley said there’s been a push among staff to change the fair’s perception in the community. They’ve tried to get a little better every year and after this past weekend, “we feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”

Join the Klamath Freedom Foundation and Dutch Bros. Coffee on Sun., Aug. 22 as they rally to fight cancer here in Klamath in the name of Chris Brown, who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2016.

All Dutch Bros. locations in the Basin will donate $1 of every drink sold that day to the foundation.

Total proceeds will be given to our local Sky Lakes Cancer Center in Chris’s memory. Over the years, more than $31,000 has been raised by this event to assist local cancer victims. In addition, on Sat., Aug. 21, the 5th Annual Chris Brown Memorial Ride, Walk, and Run kicks off at Steen Sports Park, 4500 Foothills Blvd., consisting of a motorcycle poker run and a 5k walk/run, and on Sun., Aug. 22, will be the Show and Shine car show.

Net proceeds will also be donated to Sky Lakes Cancer Center. All events take place at Steen Sports Park.

EagleRidge High School, in conjunction with multiple community partners, launched a new, first-in-Oregon pre-apprenticeship program that aims to propel more local high schoolers into skilled trade professions.

Students who complete the pre-apprenticeship program, called Southern Oregon Apprenticeship Readiness or SOAR, will graduate with over 280 hours of local job-site experience, two years of trade-related coursework that would include construction math and soft skills as well as certifications in forklift driving, OSHA standards and others.

The SOAR program is a joint effort from the high school, Klamath Community College and the Southern Oregon Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee. According to Cappel, the program is unique in the state because of its community partners. 

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries approved the SOAR pre-apprenticeship program in June, setting up the program’s official launch this fall.

The upper loop in Moore Park and trail entry area will be closed to public access on Aug. 17-18.

This includes walking, biking, and jogging, as there will be heavy equipment in the area and congestion. Visitors may use other areas of the park such as the lawn areas. However, users may experience heavy truck and equipment traffic. Work may be delayed or cancelled due to weather, equipment break-down or unexpected emergencies.

Around the state of Oregon

Grants Pass Woman Dies 1 Day After COVID Diagnosis Even Though Fully Vaccinated

A Grants Pass woman has died of COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated against the disease, county officials have announced. 

The 47-year-old woman, whose identity was not disclosed by authorities, was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Aug. 9. She died the next day while admitted at the Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass. 

Officials for Josephine County Public Health said Saturday that the woman had pre-existing medical conditions prior to her diagnosis. However, they refused to specify what her underlying conditions were.

Across the state of Oregon, 55 people died of COVID-19 in July. At least 10 of those deaths involved people who were fully vaccinated against the virus. 

Dr. Melissa Sutton, medical director for respiratory viral pathogens at Oregon Health Authority, said data from July showed that a higher percentage of vaccinated people died that month compared to previous months. However, she said it is too early to say whether it represents a new trend. 

“The overall numbers still show that people who are unvaccinated remain at far greater risk from COVID-19 illness, especially from the Delta variant that is now being found in most new cases in Oregon,” Sutton said in a news release.

In July alone, 19% of Oregon’s 12,514 COVID-19 cases were breakthrough infections. Among the breakthrough cases, 27% were older than 65.

Across the United States, health officials recorded 2,232 new breakthrough cases last week. At least 445 fully vaccinated people were hospitalized with COVID-19, while six died after contracting the virus. Since the start of the pandemic, 9,969 breakthrough infections and 106 breakthrough deaths have been reported.

As of the week ending on Aug. 7, the highly contagious Delta variant accounted for 97.4% of all new COVID-19 cases sequenced throughout the nation, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Asante Covid Testing Now Easier in Southern Oregon

Asante drive-through locations in Grants Pass and Medford, Oregon, individuals no longer need to have an order from a primary care provider to be tested for the COVID-19 virus. The tests are provided at no cost to those who cannot afford them.

Only patients with positive testing results will be contacted. It is very important to provide a good contact phone number and to leave that phone on for both Asante and Josephine County Public Health to reach the patient.

“We appreciate Asante doing this for the community so that more people have easy access to free testing,” said Dr. Leona O’Keefe, JCPH deputy health officer. “Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should be tested right away.”

Symptoms include difficulty breathing, fever, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of smell or taste, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, fatigue, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Those with access to a medical provider should see their provider for testing if possible, as this will help Asante manage the increase in testing and following up with testing results.

Asante drive-through testing site locations and hours are as follows:

Asante COVID-19 Specimen Collection Site — Grants Pass
• 1630 Ringuette St. Grants Pass, OR 97527
• Hours:
o Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
o Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to noon

Asante COVID-19 Specimen Collection Site — Medford
• 1321 Center Drive, Medford, OR 97501
• Hours:
o Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
o Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information: https://www.asante.org/covid-19/

Oregon reports 1,785 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 7 new deaths

There are seven new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,935, the Oregon Health Authority reported Friday. Oregon Health Authority reported 1,785 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 238,463.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (7), Benton (21), Clackamas (94), Clatsop (42), Columbia (21), Coos (50), Crook (14), Curry (23), Deschutes (159), Douglas (149), Gilliam (2), Harney (1), Hood River (18), Jackson (84), Jefferson (19), Josephine (77), Klamath (21), Lake (1), Lane (280), Lincoln (17), Linn (71), Malheur (15), Marion (116), Morrow (16), Multnomah (134), Polk (27), Sherman (1), Tillamook (17), Umatilla (83), Union (22), Wallowa (6), Wasco (22), Washington (119) and Yamhill (36). 

Bootleg Fire 100% Contained

Oregon’s third-largest wildfire in the state’s modern history, the Bootleg Fire, is now 100% contained. The fire which started a little more than six weeks ago, put firefighters through the ringer through most of it’s life.

The lightning fire took off in Klamath County after embers attached to extremely dry fuels in the area, that had not been burned in more than 30 years. From there, the fire exploded onto the scene forcing thousands of people to flee from their homes and presenting a challenge for fire crews as the intense fire activity forced firefighters to pull back several times.

In total the Bootleg Fire destroyed 413,717 acres, or 646 square miles, and destroyed more than 150 homes and more than 200 outbuildings.

New Wildfires

Two new wildfires started by lightning late over the weekend grew rapidly Friday on the edge of Klamath and Lake counties, not too far from the site of the Bootleg Fire, which until recently was the nation’s largest blaze.

Patton Meadow Fire_08132021_8PM

The Fox Fire Complex includes The Patton Meadow fire about 14 miles west of Lakeview, exploded to 11 square miles in less than 24 hours in a landscape sucked dry by extreme drought. An RV park was evacuated overnight. Another nearby fire was smaller but also growing and was just over one square mile Friday afternoon.

Gov. Kate Brown declared an emergency to help get firefighting crews and resources to the Patton Meadow Fire, which is also threatening communication infrastructure, authorities said. Tamara Schmidt, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman with the fire incident command team, said fire growth was extremely rapid due to the weather
conditions. More INFO: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7798/

Oregon National Guard Deploys Guardsmen to Wildfires

Twenty Airmen with the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142nd Wing have departed Portland en route to support wildland fire fighting efforts across the state of Oregon.

This effort from the Oregon Military Department is a part of Operation Plan (OPLAN) Smokey, an effort by the state whose focus is to fight wildland fires with a combined force of guardsmen, firefighters, and emergency operators.

Oregon Air National Guard Master Sgt. Bernard Untalan, 142nd Wing OPLAN Smokey Coordinator, says these deployments have a profound effect on the Airmen.

“OPLAN Smokey is a tremendous and meaningful opportunity for our citizen-airmen to assist our state during its most dire hour. The impact of their work protects lives, structures, and thousands of acres of beautiful Oregon land.”

These Airmen are part of 115 Oregon National Guardsmen from both the Army and Air National Guard that were requested by the Oregon Department of Forestry on August 11 to support efforts at the Rough Patch and Bootleg Fires. Oregon Army National Guard UH-60 and HH-60 Blackhawk helicopters are also currently deployed with crews helping to extinguish fires. So far this year, Oregon National Guard helicopters have dropped more than 225,000 gallons of water on wildfires throughout the state.

Other Guardsmen are providing supporting efforts in the Joint Operations Center, and two 116th Air Control Squadron Airmen are providing air control support at a helipad in Roseburg.

Normally OPLAN Smokey tours can last up to two weeks before the guardsmen are redeployed back to their home stations or replaced by other guardsmen to continue the mission.

More fire fighting training photos can be found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/oregonmildep/albums/72157719445937079 —- Oregon Military Department 

Here are links to be able to see updated info on the larger fires in Oregon:

Oregon OSHA coordinating distribution of particulate respirators in light of wildfire smoke and emergency requirements  

Oregon OSHA is working with several partners to distribute hundreds of thousands of particulate respirators to employers to help protect their workers in light of their new obligations under an emergency wildfire smoke rule.

Oregon OSHA logo

The division is working with the Oregon Homebuilders Association, the Associated General Contractors Oregon-Columbia Chapter, and Hoffman Construction to create distribution sites for employers to obtain free KN-95 and N-95 particulate respirators. At the same time, Oregon OSHA is coordinating with the Oregon Department of Agriculture on the distribution of such respirators to agricultural employers.

The work remains under way. Future updates will be available online. The following is a current list of contact information for partners who are helping distribute respirators at certain locations:

Meanwhile, Oregon State University Extension offices continue to support Oregon’s farmers and ranchers by offering free particulate respirators around the state. Find a local office at: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/find-us 

While the state’s supplies last, the particulate respirators are intended to be distributed to employers when wildfire smoke events trigger Oregon OSHA’s emergency temporary rule. The maximum number of respirators allowed to be received is four per employee.

Oregon OSHA’s rule applies to employers whose employees are – or will be – exposed to wildfire smoke where the ambient air concentration for the fine particulate matter (also known as PM2.5) is at or above an Air Quality Index (AQI) 101, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups. 

Sensitive groups include people with lung and heart problems; children younger than 18 and adults older than 65; pregnant women; and people with diabetes.

Oregon OSHA encourages a careful reading of the temporary wildfire smoke rule, which took effect Aug. 9 and remains in effect for 180 days. The division offers free and confidential consultations, and technical advice – involving no citations, no penalties, and no fault – to help employers understand the requirements.

Moreover, Oregon OSHA provides free online training to help employers meet certain training requirements found in the temporary wildfire smoke rule. The training is available in English and Spanish. Topics covered include the importance, limitations, and benefits of using a particulate respirator, and how to properly wear one. 

For the 2021 season, KN-95 particulate respirators previously approved under federal emergency use authorization can be substituted for respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for exposures below AQI 499. For exposures of AQI 500 and above, NIOSH-approved respirators (what are commonly known as N-95s) must be used. 

There are counterfeit KN-95 respirators on the market, so it is important to choose one from the list of models that Oregon OSHA considers acceptable for substitution during the 2021 season. To review the list, visit Filtering respirators acceptable for use in Oregon under temporary rule protecting workers against wildfire smoke

Workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace. That includes the right to raise concerns free from retaliation and to file a complaint with Oregon OSHA. 

Consultation, technical advice, educational and other resources

Oregon OSHA offers free resources – involving no citations, no penalties, and no fault – to help employers comply with workplace health and safety requirements. They include:

Consultation services – Provides free and confidential help with safety and health programs, including how to control and eliminate hazards, and hands-on training

Technical staff – Helps employers understand requirements and how to apply them to their worksites

Also, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, which includes Oregon OSHA, maintains the Multicultural Communications Program that provides outreach to communities with limited English proficiency. That outreach encompasses information about on-the-job safety and health. The program includes a toll-free phone number for Spanish speakers: 800-843-8086.

Other resources include:

Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, visit osha.oregon.gov — Oregon Dept. of Consumer & Business Services

ODOT Concerned with Rise in Deadly Crashes Around the State

Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Public Information Representation Lou Torres said the state agency is increasingly concerned about the traffic crashes and deaths.

“We are alarmed about the overall increase in severe crashes statewide,” Torres said. “Even with fewer people driving in 2020, we saw a significant increase in severe and fatal crashes and that trend has continued in 2021. As of July 28, Oregon traffic deaths were 22% higher than in 2020.”

Fatal Crash on Hwy 95 – Malheur County

On Friday, August 13, 2021 at approximately 11:45 A.M. (MST), Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a two vehicle collision on Hwy 95 near milepost 60.

Preliminary investigation revealed an International semi-truck pulling a loaded cargo trailer, operated by Eric Murwanashyaka (22) of Abilene, TX., was southbound when it crossed into the northbound lane and collided with a Honda Odyssey van operated by Rebecca Haselmann (50) of Santa Clara, CA. 

Haselmann and passenger, Emma Nutter (18) of Santa Clara, CA., sustained fatal injuries and were pronounced deceased.

Murwanashyaka was transported to an Idaho hospital with injuries. OSP was assisted by Jordan Valley EMS and ODOT — Oregon State Police 

Fatal Crash on Interstate 5 – Linn County

On Sunday, August 15, 2021 at approximately 10:40 A.M., Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel were responding to a wrong way driver when it became a two vehicle crash on Interstate 5 near milepost 212.

Preliminary investigation revealed a Volkswagen Jetta, operated by Shiloh Edsitty (29) of Albany, was southbound in the northbound lanes and collided with a Freightliner semi-truck operated by Phillip Paylor (55) of Grants Pass. 

Edsitty sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased. Paylor was not injured. OSP was assisted by Halsey Shedd Fire Department and ODOT. Oregon State Police

Fatal Crash on Hwy 101

Two people died in a multiple vehicle crash that shut down all lanes of busy Oregon Coast Highway 101 just south of Lincoln City for several hours Friday, Aug. 13.

Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a two vehicle crash on Hwy 101 near milepost 121. Preliminary investigation revealed a Dodge Durango, operated by James Versteeg (46) of Gleneden Beach, was northbound when it crossed into the southbound lane and collided with a Chevrolet Silverado, operated by Lewis Ford (41) of Lincoln City.

That deadly incident follows a series of traffic crashes along Highway 6 just a few weeks ago near Tillamook that left three people dead and sent several others to area hospitals.

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