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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.


Donations for fireworks show fall short

For the past four years, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 966 have coordinated the annual Fourth of July fireworks show at the Port of Brookings Harbor, collecting money from the community and hiring a company to handle the fireworks. 

This year, the VFW is having trouble collecting money and, with three weeks left before the holiday, is nowhere near meeting their monetary goal of $25,000, the cost of the show. 

The show will go on, said VFW Post Commander Rick Bremer, but the lack of funding this year could jeopardize future fireworks shows in Brookings.

“We’re not quite at 50 percent of what we need,” said Bremer. “It’s coming down to crunch time, and there’s no way we can make it with just what we’re collecting.”


Effort to light bridge underway

Julie Schmelzer wants to light up … the bridge?

And hold a big party in celebration of it.

Schmelzer, Curry County’s economic development director, imagines shining lights on the 84-year-old Isaac Patterson span in Gold Beach, greeting visitors to town after a long drive down the lonely, dark coastal highway.

“We’re missing the boat by not doing this,” she said. “And I’m one of these people; I think outside the box. If we ever want to see that bridge lit again, what are we going to do? There’s always a way to fund it.”


Schafer faces jury in swindling case

A 12-person jury Tuesday heard opening statements and witness accounts in the first day of the trial of Marlyn Schafer of Wedderburn, who is accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from the Gold Beach Senior Center, where she served as treasurer for six years.

The trial is slated for 10 days in district court in Gold Beach.

Schafer, a former Gold Beach city councilor and mayor, former Curry County commissioner, longtime treasurer of the Gold Beach Senior Center and secretary/treasurer of the Curry Health District, was indicted by a grand jury a year ago on charges of aggravated theft, or theft over $10,000, from the senior center in Gold Beach.


Harris Beach State Park will be closed Sept. through May, 2016

The popular campground at Harris Beach State Park overlooking the ocean north of Brookings will be closed from Sept. 8, 2015 to May 25, 2016, while utility upgrades and a paving project are done, it was announced Tuesday. No reservations will be accepted for that time period.

For the most part, the day use area will remain open except for limited times during the project period.


Volunteers help doomed dogs

After landing safely in Gold Beach Friday, Debbie Rodriguez hands one of six crates containing rescue dogs to Curry County Animal Shelter executive director Mark Curran.

Pilot Greg Jacobs touched down on the runway of Gold Beach Municipal Airport Friday without so much as a bump, much to the relief of his spectators — and his six canine passengers.

Jacobs and Debbie Rodriguez, a volunteer with Contra Costa County Animal Services in California, transported six small dogs from the Bay Area shelter to the Curry County Animal Shelter.

“This is our fifth time doing this,” Jacobs said. He estimates he’s flown about 35 dogs to various shelters in Oregon.


Inmate releases keep cops busy

A reduction in space at the Curry County Jail and the subsequent book and release of more prisoners, including those with mental illness, is keeping authorities busier on the streets.

Officials also are concerned that inmates with mental illness are not getting the help they need.

“It’s not a crime to be mentally ill,” said Gold Beach Police Chief Dixon Andrews, “but it doesn’t mean people with mental illnesses don’t commit crimes. It’s a fine line to walk.”

It’s a line city and county officials have continually dealt with as the number of mental health patients in the community have risen in the past few years. New programs and collaborations between law enforcement and public health entities have improved the situation, but many issues remain.


Free summer meals for kids

Although the school year is coming to a close, children of all ages can still enjoy free breakfasts and lunches this summer through the Brookings-Harbor School District’s Summer Food Program.

Starting June 15, students can go to the Brookings-Harbor High School cafeteria, at 625 Pioneer Road, for meals Monday through Thursday, with breakfast served from 8 to 8:45 a.m., and lunch from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“Students don’t have to qualify for the program,” said BHSD Food Services Supervisor Cindy Badger. “The summer food program is all about feeding children after school’s out and providing nutritious meals.”


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