Six wildfires that stretched from Curtin to Cottage Grove on Friday evening snarled traffic on northbound Interstate 5, caused some anxious moments for nearby homeowners and turned a stretch of I-5 into a massive firefighter command post.
The fires, which were first reported around 6 p.m. Friday burned at least 30 acres as of 10 p.m., are expected to continue to burn all night.
Kyle Reed, spokesperson for the Douglas Fire Protective Association, said in a Facebook post that crews from multiple agencies had stopped the spread of four of the six fires, and are working to contain the additional two fires.
Structural firefighters, were assessing nearby homes to determine if structure protection was needed. Reed said no official evacuations have been issued as of Friday night, but nearby residents should be aware of their surroundings and keep up to date with changing conditions.
A command post was set up near milepost 163.
The DFPA and at least five fire departments responded to the scene with "engines strung out as far as I can see," Reed said.
Reed said helicopters and an air tanker have been requested to fight the fires that were reported around 6 p.m.
Reed urged cautions for motorists moving through the area.
"The big thing is traffic along I-5 is still moving but people need to be careful moving through the area," Reed said.
As of 10:17 p.m., TripCheck showed bumper-to-bumper traffic from milepost 160 to milepost 163 past Curtin.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The garage doors that lead to the old auto shop class at Roseburg High School are open again with a brand new alignment rack and new technology lining the west wall. Automotive teacher Don Zell is ready for the group of 150 students, the first in six years, to arrive Wednesday.
Zell repainted the “nicotine yellow” classroom, decorated now with car logos and his many certifications, and he brought in a refrigerator and a foosball table to make the kids feel welcome and at ease.
“If they know you care, then they will listen,” Zell said. “I try to build a safe spot for the kids.”
The program is designed to take three years, so Zell wanted mostly freshmen and sophomores who could finish the whole program and get all of their certifications.
Some upperclassmen, like senior Rose Berry, managed to find their way onto his roster.
“I feel like it’s going to be a really fun program and I want to get in on the ground floor,” Berry said. “In case I need to work in a mechanic shop. And it’s good anytime you have to work anywhere with tools. I wish it had been here earlier because I am a senior and I can only take one year.”
Students who finish the program will be able to take a test for Automotive Service Excellence certifications, which Zell is qualified to administer through the Universal Technical Institute.
The closest of the 13 UTI campuses is in Sacramento with 1,200 students and $50,000 tuition. Admissions counselor Steele Witchek attended Zell’s community meeting Wednesday night to help answer questions about the certifications and offer suggestions.
“CTE programs have been disappearing for a long time,” Witchek said. “Auto shops in particular are expensive. We have 4,000 companies offering to pay for our students schools because they are so desperate. They have thousands of positions they are trying to fill. Our school is six hours away and I was up here the next day after he called to meet with him.”
Several managers for local auto shops and dealerships showed up at the community meeting as well, anxious to see how they could contribute to the program and to see what they were getting out of it. Ron Lindsey, the service manager at Lithia Ford, said he knows they won’t see any results of the program for a few years, but he’s willing to wait.
“It’s an investment we have to make now,” Lindsey said. “It’s technologically way more advanced than it used to be. Shop techs are dwindling and the youngest generation is hungry for anything.”
Other shop managers like Dan Smith at Les Schwab said the job market now is already tight and it’s just going to get more competitive. Smith said they are looking for at least one person in each of their shops including one or two mechanics and they are hard spots to fill.
“Everybody needs somebody to work on their cars,” Smith said. “This is really attractive for employers to see they’ve got hands on training already. The field isn’t just flush with mechanics.”
Zell said out of 150 students, he normally sees about 10 to 15 who will go on to be mechanics in shops immediately after high school and a few who will after a few years to mature at a trade school or community college.
“The mechanical skills are actually really easy to teach, but the soft skills and the technical skills are the hardest,” Zell said. “Everything I teach, they are going to use. I make sure in the first couple of weeks they know what’s going on.”
Even if the students don’t go on to be mechanics or otherwise tied to the industry, data from the Oregon Department of Education shows students who participate in career and technical education programs like auto shop graduate at a rate of 77 percent, compared to 69 percent for all students in Douglas County public schools.
“Historically, nationwide, we went through decades of pushing for college readiness,” Roseburg High School assistant principal Brett Steinacher said. “Here in Oregon, there is a huge awareness and understanding that not all students are going to have the ambition or the means to go to college. Kids that are committed to career and technical pathways have a significantly higher graduation rate and are better prepared for life after high school.”
The $290,000 program is funded primarily with Measure 98 funding, the High School Graduation and College Career Readiness Act of 2016, designed to assist school districts with improving high school graduation rates along with post-secondary options.
According to the Oregon Department of Education, nearly $2 million of high school success funding was allocated to schools in Douglas County including $765,000 for Roseburg Public Schools. Other programs in the county include Yoncalla expanding their shop program and a Career and Technical Education center for several South County schools.
Students who take more than three credits in career and technical programs are even more likely to graduate, showing a 80.5 percent graduation rate last year in the state.
Division leader for Career and Technical Education, Sheri Carson, said they surveyed the students about bringing the auto program back and the results were clear.
“Out of 1,270 surveys returned, 200 didn’t want it or didn’t care,” Carson said. “The rest wanted it, with a 50/50 split between boys and girls. I’m just excited to have it back.”
Students who finish this program and get all of their certifications are technically qualified to start work with a living wage job after high school, but Zell and Lindsey said learning never stops, especially for mechanics.
“I’ve been doing it for 24 years and I still do training,” Lindsey said. “People think you go to a two-year school and are a master tech. It’s still all about experience.”
This November, residents of all the cities in Douglas County will choose their mayors and city councilors. In some cities, the familiar names of incumbents will fill the ballot, while in others voters will have some tough choices to make.
Here’s the information we’ve gathered about who filed for those seats by this week’s deadline:
Voters in Wards 2 and 4 will have to choose between multiple Roseburg City Council candidates this November, while voters in Wards 1 and 3 will not. Longtime Mayor Larry Rich will run unopposed for re-election, as will Ward 1 Councilor Alison Eggers. In Ward 3, Bob Cotterell is running unopposed for the seat he held before John McDonald was elected in 2014. McDonald isn’t seeking re-election.
Ward 2 voters will choose between incumbent Councilor Tom Ryan, a retired police officer who has served on the council for 20 years, and former Councilor Marty Katz, a retired downtown businessman who served on the council between 2012 and 2015.
Ward 4 voters will choose between three women, retired parole officer Bev Cole, downtown business owner Kristi Rifenbark and NeighborWorks Umpqua resident service coordinator Ruth Smith. The winner will take over from Steve Kaser, who is not running for re-election. The winner will become the fifth woman on the council, giving women a majority on the board.
Incumbent Sutherlin Mayor Todd McKnight, an Oregon Department of Transportation enforcement officer, is running for a third term in November. He’s unopposed.
Three candidates have filed for three open council seats. One is incumbent Councilor Michelle Sumner, a social services manager who was appointed to fill the remainder of the term left by Dennis Riggs, who resigned in June. Sumner previously served on the planning and budget committees. Another is incumbent Councilor Tom Boggs, retired Sutherlin police chief who volunteers driving veterans to Eugene and Portland appointments. The third is Becky Wattles, a loan officer and banker who has served on the budget committee for three years.
In Oakland, Mayor Bette Keehley is running for re-election and will face challenger Edward Messmer. Keehley has been Oakland’s mayor since 2007. She is a retired division manager for Sacramento Superior Court. Messmer is a retired physician assistant with no prior governmental experience.
City Councilors Craig Riley and Janice Wier are seeking re-election to two at-large positions. They face two challengers, Terry Knowlton and Douglas Lee Foust.
Riley has been on the Oakland City Council since 2014. He is retired from 50 years in the roofing industry and is a past president of the Associated Roofing Contractors of Washington State.
Wier has served eight years on the City Council. She is a retired nurse and firefighter who worked for Riverside County, California before moving to Oakland in 2007.
Knowlton is an independent contractor, a former craft superintendent and project engineer for Peter Kiewit and Sons and former project foreman for Laskey Clifton. He has no prior governmental experience.
Foust is a semi-retired independent builder and contractor. He has previously served as the treasurer of Oakland Economic Development.
There’s a three-way race for mayor in Yoncalla, with current Mayor Jerry Cross retiring. Medical assistant Micki Vroman, teacher’s assistant Amanda Stroud, and 18-year-old Umpqua Community College student Benjamin Simons are running for mayor.
Micki Vroman’s father Gene Vroman is running for city councilor position 1. He retired as Yoncalla public works supervisor in July and is unopposed.
Incumbent Ward 3 Councilor David Vian is unopposed in his run for re-election.
City Councilor Justin Cobb is running unopposed for mayor, while newcomers Tim Addison and Michael Hogsett are running for council positions 2 and 4, respectively.
In Elkton, three incumbent councilors are running unopposed for re-election. They are Ryan Fall, Kim Moore and Joan Smith. There is also one open position for which no one filed. The mayoral position is not up for election this year.
Incumbent Mayor Linda McCollum is running unopposed for re-election.
Incumbent Ellen Lee Anderson, who was appointed to the council in March, will face challenger Joe Liedtky for councilor position 1. Anderson is a former nurse, bookkeeper and web page designer. She is a volunteer for Dial-a-Ride and the Project Blessing Food Pantry. Liedtky designed accounting software for Sears and has been active with the Fraternal Order of Eagles and the Pacific Dunes Moose Lodge.
Incumbents Mark Bedard, Richard Patten and Debby Turner are running unopposed for Reedsport City Council positions 4, 5 and 6, respectively.
Incumbent Mayor Dick Hayes will face challenger Gary Vess in November. Hayes was appointed mayor to replace Kenneth Barrett, who was arrested in 2017 and convicted this year of online sexual corruption of a minor and unlawful possession of a firearm. Hayes, a retired builder and developer, served on the city council for about 15 years before being appointed. Vess is retired from the Oregon Department of Transportation and serves on the local school and water district boards. He is also a previous city councilor.
Two incumbent city councilors are also running for re-election to their seats. They are Dorie White and Scott Rutter.
No one filed to run for mayor of Myrtle Creek.
Incumbent Henry Stevens is running unopposed for re-election to city council position 2, while position 4 will see a race between Julie Peterson and Kathryn Otero. Peterson has been involved with promoting Myrtle Creek through the Bring ‘Em In Committee, while Otero is connected with the South Douglas Food Bank.
Riddle has no contested races in the upcoming election. Mayor William Duckett, who has served in that role for 24 years, is running unopposed for re-election. Two incumbent city councilors, home health care provider Shira Randall and Umpqua Bank Canyonville branch manager Jane Mitchell, are running unopposed for positions 2 and 5, respectively. The only other opening is for city council position 1, but no one has filed for that seat. Riddle City Manager Kathleen Wilson said in an email that position 1 could be filled by a write-in candidate. If there isn’t one, the council will appoint someone to fill the seat.
Incumbent Jake Young is running unopposed for mayor of Canyonville. His son and incumbent Councilor Rusty Young, a firefighter and paramedic, is also running for re-election. He is one of three candidates for three positions. Newcomer Dana Byrd, a casino buyer for Seven Feathers Casino Resort is running, and so is Marilyn Loomis, who had previously served on the council but isn’t currently in office.
In Glendale, Mayor Adam Jones and Councilors Audina Jephson, Lucille Martin and Allen King are running for re-election. All are unopposed.