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Wildfires
Crews respond to four fires Thursday

With six weeks left until summer, fire crews responded to four fires in Douglas County on Thursday.

The Union Gap Fire, located one mile south of Oakland, burned approximately 18 acres by Friday morning, according to a press release from the Douglas Forest Protective Association. Kyle Reed, a spokesman for the DFPA, said a more accurate map of the burn’s size will be produced in the coming days.

A reverse 911 message was sent to nearby homeowners Thursday afternoon alerting them to the fire. The fire didn’t threaten any homes and no evacuations were issued.

On Thursday, crews used a helicopter to slow the spread of the fire as well as a fire dozer to prevent flames from spreading further up a hill. By nightfall, firefighters were working to install hose lays and create fire lines on each flank of the fire. Crews were engaged overnight and expected the fire’s activity to diminish overnight.

Early Friday morning, crews completed fire lines and were focused on addressing hotspots within the fire area. Fifteen firefighters and a water tender are currently assigned to the fire. Smoke may be visible for several days.

Firefighters from the DFPA, Oakland Rural Fire Department, Sutherlin Fire Department, Fair Oaks Rural Fire Department and North Douglas County Fire & EMS were on the scene.

The preliminary investigation indicated an escaped burn might have caused the fire.

Also, an escaped burn might have started another fire Thursday, according to the DFPA.

The Tiller Trail Highway Fire, located seven miles southeast of Tiller near the community of Drew, had burned approximately 40 acres by Friday morning.

The fire didn’t threaten any homes and no injuries were reported.

On Thursday, crews used three helicopters, a fire dozer and several hand crews to slow the spread of the fire and secure fire lines. Crews were engaged overnight as fire intensity began to diminish.

By Friday morning, firefighters completed fire trails. Forty-five firefighters, three engines and a fire dozer are currently working to extinguish smoldering materials within the fire’s area.

Resources on scene of the fire included the DFPA, the Umpqua National Forest, the Rogue River Hot Shots, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Tiller Rural Fire Department, Milo Rural Fire Department, Days Creek Rural Fire Department, Canyonville South Umpqua Rural Fire Department, Riddle Rural Fire Department, Tri City Rural Fire Department and Myrtle Creek Rural Fire Department.

Earlier Thursday, crews also responded to two smaller fires in the area.

Crews from DFPA and local fire departments suppressed a small grass fire near Kelly Court and Wolf Valley Road in the Kellogg area. The Kelly Court Fire burned about 1/4 acre of grass.

Additionally, firefighters from DFPA, the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest District, Glendale Fire Department and Wolf Creek Fire Department suppressed a small grass fire along the side of Interstate 5 near milepost 80, near Glendale. The I-5 fire burned about 1/10 of an acre.


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breaking
Myrtle Creek woman dies after head-on collision east of Roseburg

A Myrtle Creek woman is dead after a head-on collision sent two people to the hospital and left two vehicles mangled on Highway 138E near Les Schwab Tires on Thursday afternoon.

The driver of a red Mazda CX-5, Sherri Hu, 38, was transported to CHI Mercy Medical Center with very serious injuries and later died, according to the Roseburg Police Department.

Friends of Hu started a GoFundMe page for the family; her husband Phil Hu, daughter Alli, her parents Patti and Jerry and her sister Terri.

The driver of a Chevy 2500 pickup truck, a 17-year-old male whose identity has not been released by authorities, was also transported to the hospital but was later released.

The investigation is ongoing, according to police, and the male driver is cooperating. According to information posted on the police department’s Facebook page, there is no evidence that either driver was impaired during the collision.

According to witness statements, the male driver was driving westbound before he drifted across the center lane and into the eastbound lanes. The male’s vehicle then struck Hu’s vehicle, which was traveling eastbound.

Emergency personnel responded to the scene, in the 3800 block of Highway 138E just before 3 p.m.

At the scene, Sgt. Jeff Eichenbusch, a spokesman for the Roseburg Police Department, said both victims were alive when they were transported to CHI Mercy Medical Center.

“It’s a highway, it’s straight and level and a lot of people are going faster than they should,” Eichenbusch said.

The Oregon Department of Transportation kept a single lane open in each direction while both drivers were transported. Eichenbusch said the highway would remain open with one lane each direction during the investigation and reconstruction. It was eventually opened at approximately 7 p.m.

Emergency personnel from the Roseburg Police Department, the Roseburg Fire Department, the Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Transportation responded to the scene of the crash.


Public_safety
Sheriff's budget: Douglas County Budget Committee decides to cut nine instead of 10 positions

The Douglas County Budget Committee gave tentative approval Thursday to a $24.2 million public safety budget that cuts nine enforcement and corrections positions from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office budget. The positions eliminated include two patrol deputies; however, one detective analyst position that had been facing the ax was rescued.

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin also recommended a political action committee be created to persuade voters to pass a public safety levy, and pledged to actively campaign for the levy’s passage.

Hanlin

In addition to public safety, the budget committee approved public works and a number of other departmental budgets Thursday. The committee was scheduled to meet again Friday to approve the remaining departmental budgets and the overall budget for Fiscal Year 2019-20.

The county commissioners had initially told Hanlin he would have to cut 10 positions in his proposed budget, so he identified 10 in his departmental budget proposal. Most of the positions are jobs that are currently vacant, but Hanlin told the committee the public would be safer if they were filled, and he asked that at least three of those he had identified be restored to his final budget. He got one.

“These cuts are difficult to take because we are often stretched dangerously thin in patrol and our jail is often at or near max capacity, with one of the highest inmate to officer ratios in the state,” he said.

Courtesy of Andrea Zielinski 

Zielinski

Hanlin successfully lobbied for one of those positions, a detective analyst who assists with criminal investigations, to be restored. A show of public support for restoring a second, the community outreach and volunteer coordinator position held by Andrea Zielinski, who is also a Roseburg City Councilor, was unsuccessful in swaying the committee. A motion to restore Zielinski’s position made by committee member Tom Nelson died following a tie vote.

Zielinski coordinates a host of programs that raise community awareness about law enforcement, from a Shop with a Cop program that has law enforcement officers Christmas shopping with underprivileged kids, to a Citizens Police Academy, to Neighborhood Watch programs.

Hanlin said Zielinksi has fostered transparency, connected law enforcement with the community and reached out to crime victims, sometimes collecting additional information from them that helps solve crimes.

Southeast Roseburg resident Ruth Smith was one of several citizens who asked the committee to retain Zielinski, saying her work with Neighborhood Watch had transformed Smith’s neighborhood.

“We have gone from ‘felony flats’ to being part of the heart of Roseburg, and we are extremely appreciative of everything she’s done for us,” Smith said.

The budget committee is made up of all three Douglas County commissioners plus three other community members. All three commissioners voted against the motion to restore the community outreach position, while the other three committee members voted in favor of restoring it.

The detective analyst position costs the county $80,000 a year in salary and benefits. Zielinski’s position costs $97,000 a year in salary and benefits, in part because she’s been a county employee for 20 years.

Commissioners Chris Boice and Tim Freeman said with the county’s reserves dwindling, the committee must decide whether to run out of reserves faster or make deeper cuts now.

“Do we want to just continue to spend the money on the current level until it’s gone, or do we want to start tapering it down?” Boice asked.

Freeman noted that other departments had dramatically reduced staffing over the past decade, while the sheriff’s office has received the highest priority for funding.

“Ultimately at the end of the day we’re going to run out of money and what we do today will affect how quickly we do that,” he said.

Most of the budgets being considered this week are hold-the-line budgets with little change in dollars or personnel over 2018-19. Most of the positions cut in the proposed 2019-20 budget are in public safety.

The public works budget is a $41 million budget, up $11.6 million from 2018-19. Primarily the increased expenditures will be for capital projects including needed bridge repairs, which, thanks to a change in federal law, will now partly be paid for by Title III Secure Rural Schools monies left over from previous years.

Public Works Director Scott Adams said bridges are a top priority because the county has 306 bridges and half of them were built in the 1950s and 1970s. Since the bridges have a lifespan of 50 years, they’re overdue for replacement. Most public works capital improvements are paid for by pass-through dollars from the state and federal government.