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Buckskin Fire grows to 2,000 acres

Drivers are urged to take extra caution if they plan to travel Highway 199 toward Grants Pass this week, as fire trucks and thick smoke from the Bucksin Fire are likely to slow traffic along the narrow, winding road.

The lightning-triggered fire, which has burned more than 2,000 acres since it began June 11, is located southwest of Cave Junction and 6 miles north of the Del Norte County border. It has moved from its ignition point east across Baldface Creek toward the Curry and Josephine county line and north into the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. More than 400 firefighting personnel are battling the blaze.



Photo by Mark Harpur/americanwindsurfingtour.com

A professional windsurfer launches himself off a wave at Pistol River during the annual Pistol River Wave Bash that continues today.

Click here for more on the Pistol River Wave Bash.


Discord sinks water tank project

Officials with the city of Brookings, Curry County, South Coast Lumber and the Federal Aviation Administration are blaming one another for the likely demise of the city’s water storage project at the Brookings Airport.

The $2.8 million project the city, county and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have been working on for two years is “dead on arrival,” Mayor Ron Hedenskog said this week.

South Coast Lumber in Brookings, which uses the road that abuts the north end of the airport runway to access its timber lands, said that, if it could not have continued access “without any additional limitation or restriction” to the road it has used for the past 54 years, it will not permit the city to place a 500,000-gallon water tank on its land adjacent to the airport.

It’s those words that have made the FAA balk.


Firefighters corral numerous lightning-sparked wildfires

The Buckskin Fire, located in eastern Curry County, has charred about 100 acres of forest as of Friday afternoon. Submitted photo.

Firefighters spent all week battling and containing numerous lightning-sparked wildfires throughout Southern Oregon, including several on the eastern outskirts of Curry County.

No structures are threatened by any of the fires as of Friday afternoon, said Virginia Gibbons, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. But continued high temperatures and winds are expected to keep fire agencies on high alert.


Crosswalk being built after fatal accident

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has begun construction on a crosswalk on Chetco Avenue near Lucky Lane —  the result of citizens’ demands to make the area safer after a Brookings woman was killed there. 

Joyce Marie Betties, 73, was struck and killed by a car while crossing that section of highway last August. She was often seen walking up and down the street and frequenting Fred Meyer and the Chetco Activity Center to have lunch with friends.

Prior to the accident, ODOT and the city had been exploring placing a crosswalk in that area because of an increase in pedestrian and motor traffic there.


College trying to improve grad rates

A recent state study shows only 24 percent of community college students at campuses throughout Oregon finish a degree or certificate within seven years — an alarmingly low rate, officials said.

And while Curry County’s Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC) falls within the statewide average, college officials are taking steps to improve the completion rate for their students.

Factors that often impact students’ ability to complete a degree include financial difficulties, lack of transportation and juggling full-time jobs and family commitments.


Conflict between Huxley, Weeks going to mediation

County IT Director Todd Weeks, right, confers with his attorney, William F. Cloran, during Friday’s hearing with the Curry County Commissioners.

It was kumbaya all over again at the county offices Friday after the commissioners agreed to withdraw a proposed reprimand levied by Commissioner Tom Huxley against IT Director Todd Weeks, and to bring in an outside mediator or counselor to help the two resolve their differences.

Huxley has accused Weeks of insubordination. Weeks has accused Huxley of creating a hostile work environment.

“Once this is over, we should wipe the slate clean, open the lines of communication. …” said Commissioner Chair Susan Brown at the end of the quasi-judicial hearing Friday afternoon. “It doesn’t matter how we feel about each other; it’s about how we do our jobs.”


Smoke from distant wildfire reaches Curry County

Curry County residents, particularly those in the Brookings and Harbor may smell or see smoke, the result of a wildfire burning in the wilderness north of Cave Junction. There is no threat to homes or property in Curry County, according to U.S. Forest Service officials.

As of 4 p.m. today, firefighting resources were responding to the “Buckskin” Fire, located approximately six miles north of the California border, one mile outside the Kalmiopsis Wilderness on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Airtanker 161 was dropping water on the estimated 50- to 75-acre blaze, which is actively burning and clearly visible from the town of Cave Junction, according to Forest Service spokewoman Virginia Gibbons.

Members of the Siskiyou Rappel crew were on the ground on scene and more rappellers were enroute. Helicopters are also enroute/on scene, as are smokejumpers from Redmond. Two hotshot crews currently assigned to other incidents on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest are being reassigned to the Buckskin Fire to help battle the blaze.

Other fires:

In the Gold Beach Ranger District, which includes the wilderness in eastern Curry County, firefighters were mopping up small wildfires started earlier this week by lightning strikes. None of the fires were near populated areas. Here is the latest information as of 4 p.m. today:


•The “Tom Fry” Fire (#355), located two miles SW of Agness, is four acres in size.  The retardant line held yesterday and firefighters have completed containment line. Steep, rugged, and remote terrain, coupled with heavy fuel loading, is impacting mop up efforts.


•Fire #346 is located near Hog Mountain. The fire is 2 acres in size and firefighters have completed a line around it.  Fire is in patrol status with one engine assigned.

New Starts


•Fire #372 Miller Fire, called in this morning, is reported to be 3.5 acres in size. One Forest Service engine, patrol unit, and 20-person initial attack hand crew, in addition to Coos Forest Protection Association resources, were responding. The fire is located near Elko Camp in the Hunter Creek area, is not threatening any structures, and is near to but not threatening South Coast Lumber lands.


•The North Smith Fire near Packsaddle Mountain is currently two acres in size. It is located near the SW corner of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness boundary. Four helitack crew members (Lakeview), a Forest engine and a 20-person initial attack hand crew was assigned.  

Oversight could jeopardize city water tank

County commissioners last week caught a small mistake in a letter the city of Brookings had written and were prepared to send to South Coast Lumber that could now jeopardize Brookings’ 500,000-gallon water tank at the airport — and that could have risked the county’s chances of obtaining future grants through the federal government.

That little omission was a cc: (carbon copy) to the FAA in a letter assuring South Coast Lumber and its subsidiary Chetco Resources that they can have uninhibited access to the road that wends behind the north end of the runway and onto their timber tracts to the east.

“South Coast and Chetco,” the letter reads, “shall continue to enjoy these longstanding, enforceable rights to use Airport Road without any additional limitation or restriction.”

It’s those last four words that would cause the FAA problems, possibly halting the project altogether.


Storm heralds fire season

A storm on Monday night produced multiple lightning strikes off the coast of Brookings at Harris Beach. Photo by Collin Winegarden

The fire season has officially begun, again a few days earlier than in years past and with lightning storms already striking and igniting forested areas in Curry County.

The lightning storm Monday night ignited one fire on U.S. Forest Service land northeast of Brookings, north and east of Bosley Butte, and another on Coos Forest Protective Association (CFPA) land in an area called the “Stackyards” off Carpenterville Road, which South Coast lumber employees had under control by Tuesday morning.


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