Liam Moriarty

Reporter for Jefferson Public Radio

Increasingly, wildfires and the smoke they cause are becoming the daily reality of summer in southern Oregon and northern California. On Saturday, several hundred people gathered at Southern Oregon University to hear a series of panel discussions on how local communities could respond.

UPDATE: FRIDAY, SEPT. 14, 9:30 a.m. -- Cooler, moister weather conditions are giving fire crews the change to make strong progress in containing the Delta fire. It's grown slightly to just over 60,000 acres and is 28 percent contained.

I-5 remains open and traffic is flowing while repairs are being made to guardrails and other infrastructure damaged by the fire.

NOTE: Since this fire seems to be in hand, we will make further updates to this report only if new developments warrant. To follow the daily updates issued by managers on the Delta fire, follow this link.

When disasters strike, access to food is a top priority. With thousands still displaced by the Carr fire near Redding, the volunteer chefs of World Central Kitchen believe canned soup and bologna sandwiches aren’t enough.

In a commercial kitchen in downtown Redding, volunteers are slicing up pans of fresh herbed focaccia bread. Chef Jason Collis is overseeing today’s lunch:

"We’re doing Italian sausage and pepper pasta, with a sun-dried tomato pesto sauce."

Crews have largely tamed the Klamathon fire, which burned 36,500 acres in northern California and southern Oregon over the past week. The fire is 65 percent contained and the area has seen minimal fire behavior since Tuesday.

The fire perimeter hasn’t grown for three days and only a relatively small area of rugged terrain remains without containment lines. Mark Brown is Chief of Operations for CalFire Team 4. At what was described as the final public briefing on the Klamathon fire, Brown said the incident is winding down.

Fire managers have expressed cautious optimism that they will be able to continue making progress against the Klamathon fire in the coming days.

UPDATE: Sunday July 8, 8:45 p.m. ... Crews continue to battle the Klamathon fire along the Oregon-California border. 

As of Sunday evening, the fire had burned 35,000 acres and was 25 percent contained. 

The US Forest Service has just released a new science report that will guide how National Forests are managed in the Pacific Northwest.

Managers at the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest are weighing how much of the area burned in Oregon’s largest fire last year should be salvage logged.

But while harvesting partially burned trees will put cash in local pockets, the forest health and fire safety benefits that proponents claim are more elusive.

There’s broad agreement that fire plays a vital role in forest ecology in the West. Many of our problems with severe wildfires can be traced, at least in part, to a century of putting fires out, rather than letting them clean up excess forest fuels.

Now, there’s a need to deliberately set controlled fires to help re-establish a more natural fire pattern.

The US Forest Service is proposing to log trees killed or damaged in last year’s Chetco Bar fire.

Liam Moriarty / JPR

Oregon’s sprawling Second Congressional District encompasses roughly the eastern two-thirds of the state. Greg Walden -- the only Republican in Oregon’s delegation -- has represented the district since 19-99, and has routinely been re-elected by huge majorities. This year, seven Democrats are competing for the chance to unseat Walden in the fall.

Oregon’s Second District Congress member Greg Walden says he believes stakeholders in the Klamath Basin can come together again to negotiate a comprehensive solution to the region’s water wars. 

In Klamath Falls Tuesday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed an executive order declaring a drought emergency in Klamath County. This is the 11th time a governor has declared drought in the Klamath in the past 16 years.

Like many rural towns, Port Orford, on Oregon’s south coast, has struggled with shifting economic tides. The Port of Port Orford has long been a key economic driver in the town, providing essential infrastructure to the local commercial fishing fleet. But the decrepit wooden building which houses much of that infrastructure won’t last much longer.

Now, many in town are pinning their hopes for Port Orford’s renewal on an ambitious replacement project, which would take the port in new directions.

Port Orford is perched on the Pacific coast, less than ten miles from the westernmost point in Oregon. And while it’s only about 60 miles as the crow flies from the heavily-traveled I-5 corridor, getting there means a two-hour-plus drive over the Coast Range.

Its relative isolation is one reason tourism isn’t a well-developed industry in Port Orford. Another is the strong local desire to retain the town’s identity as a fishing village.

Now, economic pressures are fueling a new effort to foster tourism that’s consistent with Port Orford’s values.

Many rural Oregon towns share the same problems; the natural resources they traditionally based their economies on no longer support them, and isolation and limited funds often make solutions hard to come by. But how these communities grapple with these changes can vary.

JPR’s Liam Moriarty takes us to Port Orford, on the state’s south coast, to see how people in one fishing town are working to carve out a potential future.

Recent decades have not been kind to rural Oregon. As natural resources come under increased pressure -- and the economy becomes more globalized -- small, resource-based communities have been hit hard. Port Orford, on Oregon’s south coast, is no exception.

But now, some people in Port Orford are trying innovative approaches to adapting traditional livelihoods to the new reality so their town can survive – and even thrive – in the 21st Century. 

Attempts in recent years to open nickel mines near the headwaters of pristine creeks and rivers in southwest Oregon have faced solid opposition. In response, the Obama Administration last January withdrew 100,000 acres of federal land in the area from consideration for mining for at least 20 years.

A Republican congressman from Utah says that was illegal. He’s asked the Trump Administration to review that and all other Obama mineral withdrawals. And the foreign-owned mining company that most stands to gain is weighing in, as well.

The National Flood Insurance Program was created by Congress in 1968 to offer subsidized insurance to property owners and businesses located in areas prone to flooding.

Now, as part of a legal settlement, the agency that administers the flood insurance program is proposing stricter rules meant to discourage development in salmon habitat in Oregon.

But many property owners – and local governments – say the rules are regulatory overreach. And, in a case with national implications, the city of Coos Bay, Oregon, is suing to get them overturned.

The Chetco Bar fire in southwestern Oregon was the state’s biggest wildfire of 2017, burning just over 191,000 acres, mostly in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Seven homes were lost and hundreds of people had to evacuate from Brookings and nearby communities.

Now, specialists have assessed the damage to the landscape and repair work is getting underway. But the full impact will largely depend on this winter’s weather, and on management decisions that have yet to be made.

Earlier this month, as wildfires were ripping through California’s wine country, government and tribal agencies collaborated with non-profits to deliberately set prescribed fires further north in the western Klamath Mountains.

The Klamath Training Exchange – or TREX – strategically put fire on the ground to protect towns from wildfire, to restore native cultural traditions and to train crews in how to use “good fire” to fend off “bad fire.” 

The Chetco Bar fire, near Brookings on Oregon’s south coast, simmered for weeks in the scars of previous fires in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness before breaking out in mid-August. As the fire raced across the landscape, driven by high winds, the firefighting effort came under growing criticism.

The dozens of fires burning in the Northwest this summer forced thousands of people from their homes and cast clouds of heavy smoke that kept residents inside and ruined untold numbers of vacations. That’s led to some vigorous finger-pointing on editorial pages, talk radio and social media. JPR asked some forest experts for a reality check.

The wildfires burning in much of Oregon this summer have blanketed the state with unhealthy levels of smoke. This has led a growing number of outdoor events to cancel during the height of the summer tourist season. At a time when many rural Oregon communities are already struggling, the economic impact could really hurt.

The persistent haze of smoke from the wildfires burning around the Northwest has led many people to wear face masks to protect their lungs. But health officials say many of those masks aren’t doing what the wearers think they are.

Everybody needs care at some point in their lives. If not as elders, or when injured or sick, then certainly as children. But a study of what it calls the “care economy” in Oregon says the state is failing to invest in the social infrastructure needed to make high quality care available to everyone who needs it, at whatever stage of life.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wrapped up his weekend tour of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon on Sunday.

Among others, he met with a pro-monument group of conservationists, landowners and local elected officials, and with Oregon governor Kate Brown.

Over the past century, fossil-fuel powered automobiles have become the default transportation mode across the industrialized world, impacting everything from patterns of land use to foreign policy.

And while the dominance of cars has certainly had beneficial effects, it’s also taken a heavy toll in pollution, resource consumption and a range of social and public health ills.

A recent report from the University of California Davis envisions a future in which how we get around each day becomes cleaner, faster, greener .. and cheaper by combining three emerging technologies.

About 200 people gathered in Ashland on Saturday night to celebrate the life of a hometown boy who died trying to protect a pair of women from anti-Muslim abuse in Portland.

America’s energy future is often cast as a battle that pits fossil fuels such as coal and gas against wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. But in the Pacific Northwest, we've already slashed greenhouse gas emissions -- and saved big bucks -- with a clean energy source that often doesn't even get mentioned in policy debates.

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