WINCHESTER — A fire alarm went off in the community workforce training building at 9 a.m. Thursday on the Umpqua Community College campus.
It wasn’t a real emergency, but part of an emergency drill in conjunction with Douglas County Fire District No. 2 and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
“Preparation is key to emergency management at UCC,” UCC Director of Facilities and Security Jess Miller said. “Repetition in training will better prepare us for real emergencies, both large and small.”
Thursday’s scenario was a fire in the community workforce training building that burned the south side of the building and sent eight people to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, according UCC Director of Communications & Marketing Tiffany Coleman.
Coleman set up a press conference outside the building after the fire was extinguished. She was in the emergency operations center during the fire to serve as the public information officer.
Smoke remains in the attic and the building was deemed unusable, according to Coleman. The college plans to relocate classes.
The building also houses the operating systems for the heating and air conditioning of Tapòyta Hall, which will be down.
With the exception of the eight students who were transported to the hospital, all other staff and students gathered at the reunification zone in the back of the parking lot.
UCC Chief of Security Brian Sanders and a security guard remained on the scene at all times. Sanders would call Miller with updates.
Text alerts were sent out through the college’s alert system.
Douglas County Fire District No. 2 was on campus within two minutes with the first truck, while two more followed within ten minutes.
“We want to make this a bigger incident,” Douglas County Fire District No. 2 Batallion Chief Scott Richardson said about the drill. “It’s pretty realistic for us. Anytime we do training it’s an opportunity to learn.”
Both UCC and the fire department went over the scenario afterwards to critique.
“It went good for the most part,” Richardson said.
UCC’s emergency command center was staffed by 25 people.
“I was proud of our team. The process was taken very seriously and assignments are aligned wll with the skill sets within the plan,” Miller said.
“We will continue to provide training and increasing out relationships within the community.”
During the drill, smoke machines were set up in the building to create the illusion of a real fire and immediate danger.
“We’ve had fire drills, but nothing like this,” Administrative Secretary for Community Workforce Training Lynne Smith said.
Staff in the career workforce training building evacuated to the fountain instead of the parking lot.
“We don’t want to clog our parking lot, because of emergency vehicles coming in,” Sanders said.
Susan Neeman, the coordinator for personal enrichment, tech and continuing education, grabbed the safety bag out of a co-workers office before making her way to the ...
“Building monitors have to grab the safety bag and make sure doors are shut and everybody’s out,” Neeman said. The building monitor for the building, however, was at a meeting at the time the alarm went off.
Neeman said she didn’t think there was a protocol for who takes the safety bag, but there was an understanding that somebody would. Everyone in the building knows where the safety bag is located.
A similar scenario is true inside the emergency control center.
“Every position has at least one alternate with a similar skill set,” Miller said. “In the event no one is available for a specific position, each position has a comprehensive plan and check sheet to follow responsibilities and actions taken.”
A Roseburg High graduate used his video filming talents to document plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean during an 80-day sailing expedition earlier this summer.
Corbin Marshall, who now lives on a sailboat in Hawaii, graduated from RHS in 2011 and spent the summer documenting of his adventure in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 miles from his home in Oahu.
“It was a really cool opportunity I saw online in early May and they were looking for volunteers for research and kind of a documentary expedition specifically toward plastic pollution in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific,” Marshall said.
The patch is said to be about 994,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California.
The group, called the Vortex Swim, is made up of volunteers dedicated to the project for several years. The crew was doing research on plastic pollution rotating ocean current in the North Pacific about halfway between Hawaii and California.
“I had a pretty great skill set going into it, and my roommate had a really good skill set too, so we applied,” he said.
They were chosen from 250 candidates to assist with sailing, a doctor, two scientists and someone who had a media background to photograph and document the whole expedition. Marshall had many of those skills.
After Marshall graduated from Roseburg High School, he went to Umpqua Community College for two years and then to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, where he studied digital film.
Marshall said his goal was to tell the story in the most accurate way.
“I did a lot of photos of different moments and videos of our swimmer interacting with wildlife in the water and the plastic in the water,” Marshall said.
Marshall recorded about 180 hours of video and took close to 2,000 photos during the trip.
The team left on June 13 from Hawaii, and spent 80 days out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. One of their objectives was to collect microplastics — small plastic fibers that had been broken down over time — by dragging a net for 30 minutes and gathering anything on the surface. Crew members would count them and send the results to their science partners at the Smithsonian, NASA and some other organizations. They also did microfiber filtration to find plastic fibers that are too small to see.
One of the goals of the expedition was to learn more about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
“It’s really challenging to explain, it’s such a complex system with currents and wind and weather,” he said. “We never really came to find a group of garbage necessarily, but there were areas where it was a little bit more dense.”
The good thing about having a swimmer in the water, he said, was that it forced them to go slow and they were able to see things in the water that they probably would not have if they were going faster.
The swimmer was a well-known long-distance French swimmer named Ben Lacompte, trying to make the swim from Tokyo to San Francisco.
Lacompte swam 300 nautical miles through the dense areas to help raise awareness and represent the 300 metric tons of the plastic garbage that Marshall said, ends up in the ocean each year. He then swam into San Francisco Bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge as an arrival event.
“We had crazy experiences, a lot of plastics and debris and fishing gear in the water, and we were guiding this guy swimming every single day and we were doing a lot of different science protocols,” Marshall said.
There were some interesting moments with wildlife in the ocean.
“There was one day where I found a bottle with a fish stuck inside of it and one day we found a sharp piece of plastic inside one of the fish we caught, one of our highlight stories that kind of demonstrated what was going on out there.” Marshall said.
The divers also had an encounter with a large sperm whale and Marshall was able to get some impressive photographs. But on that same day, he saw a lot of debris in the water, big nets, fishing crates and household bottles, a couple of toothbrushes.
“That was one of the highlights for sure,” he said. “It’s like a really high and then kind of a low because you have this cool moment when you swim with a sperm whale which is an amazing animal, and then you have all this debris in the water and a lot of us had this initial excitement and then as time went on you become more and more sad about it.”
Marshall and his roommate, Joshua Munoz, who own and live on a sailboat in Oahu, are likely done with their part of the project. After all the video and data was gathered, Marshall doesn’t know how much he and Munoz will be involved, but he’s interested to see what comes out of it.
Lecompte is looking for a production company like a National Geographic, Discovery Channel, or another big production company, that would want to produce their story.
Marshall said he and his roommate are hoping to help with the editing if a company does decide to pick it up.
“It could be a couple of years, a couple of months, I really have no idea,” Marshall said. “It would be nice to be involved and see some of that footage to the end and see some good production out of it,” Marshall said.
The flavors sound like something you’d find at a juice bar, tiki lounge or bakery: Blue Raspberry, Mad Mango, Grape Runts and Lemon Cupcake.
But they’re not juices, mixed drinks or any kind of food. Instead, these and dozens of other such products are flavors added to e-cigarettes at vape shops in Douglas County and elsewhere to make them more appealing to smokers. The flavors help longtime traditional tobacco cigarette smokers wean off those products and move to e-cigarettes, which they say are less harmful.
However, the flavored e-cigarettes area being targeted by health care providers and now the Trump administration, which this week announced plans to ban most of them nationwide.
The proposed ban comes at a time when hospitals and health officials in nearly three dozen states have reported nearly 500 cases of vaping-related illnesses since the beginning of the summer. Doctors have said that many patients appear to have vaped some THC or cannabis-related products, although others have reported using e-cigarettes as well. No one has singled out a particular company, device or product as the possible culprit.
Deaths have been reported in Oregon, Illinois, Kansas, California, Indiana and Minnesota. The patients’ ages ranged from the 30s to middle-aged or older, and some had underlying lung or other chronic conditions, health officials said.
While most of the cases appear to have involved marijuana oils, the outbreak has also prompted a reckoning over the proliferation of vape products containing nicotine.
Pediatrician and Douglas County Public Health Officer Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer said the move to ban such products is long overdue.
“Getting rid of flavored vape products is something we’ve been pushing for a while,” he said. “The concern is that they attract young, new users to nicotine.”
The move to ban flavored e-cigarettes follows increasing pressure by lawmakers, parents and educators, who have been overwhelmed by the popularity of vaping among youths and feel powerless to keep e-cigarettes out of their schools. The latest proposal may include a ban on menthol and mint flavored e-cigarettes, which have been the among the most popular flavors for the industry. Research has shown that these flavors are very appealing to youths and to nonsmokers, although some vaping advocates note that they hold great appeal for smokers who want to use e-cigarettes to quit.
Dannenhoffer, however, dismisses that argument.
“I don’t think longtime two-pack-a-day smokers are switching to vape, that’s not what’s happening,” he said. “They’re really attractive to young people who never smoked cigarettes before. They like the taste and the smell of these things.”
Jason Weber, owner of two Smokeless Solutions vape shops in in Roseburg, sees things differently. Weber said vaping is the most successful way to help adults quit smoking. Toward that end he founded the organization Vape Crusaders, which promotes vaping as a way to help smokers kick the habit.
“Vaping is actually bringing the smoking rate down, and the big tobacco companies are doing everything they can to ban us,” Weber said. “It’s proven that lives will be saved if we’re allowed to continue to do what we’re doing.”
At his Garden Valley Boulevard store customers trickle in to discuss and buy his products. One customer, Jessica Tarver, calls Weber “a Saint” for helping her switch to flavored e-cigarettes after smoking tobacco for 11 years.
Tarver said the tobacco cigarettes were taking a toll on her health and she noticed a quick difference when she made the switch. She could go for hikes without losing her breath and she didn’t smell like tobacco. Tarver, who is an EMT and says she sees many people in her work who suffer from smoking-related illnesses, said she would not have been able to quit without her Hawaiian Punch-flavored e-cigarettes.
“Being able to vape something non-tobacco-flavored is absolutely why I quit,” she said. “I didn’t want to smoke tobacco flavor. Why switch to something I’ve already tasted?”
The proposed federal ban follows a move already underway in a handful of states to crack down on flavored e-cigarettes.
This week Michigan became the first state to prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also called for a ban, and Massachusetts and California are considering similar measures. San Francisco approved an e-cigarette ban earlier this year, which Juul Labs, the dominant seller in the United States, is lobbying to reverse through a ballot initiative this November.
In Oregon, legislators this year passed a measure for the Fall 2020 ballot that if approved by voters will heavily tax vaping products, beginning in 2021.
Weber, owner of Smokeless Solutions, said such moves are off the mark.
He reels off a bevy of statistics: e-cigarettes are 95% safer than traditional cigarettes; only 2% of high school students smoke e-cigarettes, consistently; nearly 14 million adults in the U.S. use vape products, and so on.
Weber is also quick to point out that the recent spate of deaths from vaping is connected to harmful ingredients added to oil products containing THC, which is different than the e-cigarette products being targeted.
“None of us condone kids vaping but at least we should be happy that they’re not smoking cigarettes,” he said, adding that if flavored e-cigarettes are banned there will be dire unintended consequences.
“Either all of us adults will go back to analogue cigarettes, or it will create the biggest black market we’ve ever seen.”
— Information from the New York Times was used in this report.