Wildfires Continue to Rage in Oregon, Suspect Arrested for ArsonW
ith over 10 major wildfires reported across Oregon, Washington and Idaho, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group has dubbed this the "worst wildfire seasons the western U.S. has ever seen." As of Sept. 12, the Eagle Creek Fire located in the Columbia Gorge east of Portland is burning 35,000 acres and is 11 percent contained. It's forced evacuations of residents, the closing of hiking trails until Spring 2018 and burned at least four structures — nearly engulfing the historic Multnomah Lodge — according to the Oregon State Fire Marshal.
Fire Behavior Analysts predict low to moderate fire behavior on the high ridges to the south, away from populated areas, and in the coming days OSFM hopes the fire will continue to burn at a low intensity. The Oregon Department of Transportation stated it plans to reopen sections of the Interstate 84 corridor in the coming days.
Suspected in igniting the blaze, a 15- year-old Vancouver, Wash., teenager is accused by bystanders of setting off a smoke bomb, according to OSP. However, no charges have yet materialized.
OSP thanked the public's assistance in developing a suspect profile which led to the arrest of Christopher Glen Wilson, 37, accused of igniting four local wildland fires. Three of the fires were contained at 2 acres; however, the McKay Fire near La Pine grew to 1,219 acres. Wilson, who awaits an arraignment in Deschutes County Circuit Court, is suspected of igniting other fires in the area, according to OSP Capt. Bill Fugate.
Wilson was allegedly driving a stolen blue Hyundai Sonata when he was intercepted by OSP Troopers Sept. 3. The fires he's suspected of igniting occurred along Hwy. 97, between the area of Lava River Cave and Milepost 180 south of La Pine, according to Fugate. Fugate is appealing to the public for any additional information, specifically if they saw the 2016 blue Hyundai Sonata Wilson was driving in an area where wildfires were reported. OSP reports the car could be identified by a "distinct army sticker placed in the back window."
Central Oregon has experienced the side effects of numerous fires with recent hazardous air quality notices posted throughout the Tri-County region, even forcing the cancellation of the annual Sisters Folk Festival. As of Sept. 12, the air quality in Bend improved to a rating of 52 pm, compared to a 416 pm rating on Sept. 4, which the Air Quality Index reporting that "Unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion."
Historic Records of Oregonians Have Health InsuranceA
steady increase in health care coverage for Oregonians has been attributed to former President Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act and the State of Oregon's "smart" decisions to expand Medicaid in 2014, according to Policy Analyst Janet Bauer from the Oregon Center for Public Policy.
In a report released Sept., 12, Bauer attributed a nearly 9 percent growth from 2013, with 93.8 percent of Oregonians currently covered by health insurance. "Oregon continues making steady progress toward the goal of universal coverage," notes Bauer in the report, "...Oregon has made more progress since 2013 in extending health insurance than all but five other states."
OCPP credits the uptick to the state's 2014 decision to expand Medicaid to more residents who did not otherwise previously qualify. It also attributes the expanded Oregon Health Plan as a reason why 350,000 more Oregonians have greater health coverage.
"Oregonians are healthier, can get preventive care for conditions like hepatitis and heart disease and can manage chronic conditions such as diabetes," wrote Bauer, "...keeping Oregonians insured helps secure Oregon's progress."
Beheaded Buck Dumped in SistersT
wo wildlife organizations are appealing to the public for help in finding a hunter who illegally shot, beheaded and left a buck deer within the city limits of Sisters. The Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division was notified Sept. 2 of the evidence near Highway 242 and Brooks Camp Road, 75 feet from a residential area. The animal had been shot with an arrow and decapitated, most likely during the late evening hours of Sept.1, according to OSP.
"Poaching wildlife and damaging habitats affects present and future generations of wildlife, impacts communities and the economy, and creates enforcement challenges," wrote Sgt. Yvette Shephard of OSP.
A reward of up to $500 is being offered for any information leading to the arrest and conviction in this case as part of the Oregon Hunters Association Turn-In-Poacher program.
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the Turn in Poachers (TIP) hotline at 1-800-452-7888 or 541-388-6213. (Case # SP17-323528).