Willamette Valley News, Monday 2/27 – Suspicious Fire Damages Church In Sweet Home, Wood Chip Train Derails Near Corvallis

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com

Monday, February 27, 2023

Willamette Valley Weather

Suspicious Fire Damages Church In Sweet Home

On Saturday, February 25, Linn County 911 Dispatch Center received a call reporting a structure fire at the Fir Lawn Lutheran Church located at 109 W Holley Rd in Sweet Home at approximately 1:25 A.M.

Sweet Home Fire responded, with the first-arriving unit on scene at 1:29am reporting heavy fire, according to a release from Sweet Home Fire District,

The Incident Commander requested a second alarm assignment, bringing mutual aid resources from Halsey, Brownsville, and Albany.

Firefighters responded to the scene with ten fire apparatus including five engines and one ladder truck, and extinguished the fire within one hour.

The building sustained extensive damage, but no injuries or deaths were reported; a preliminary investigation of the fire turned up evidence suggesting that the cause was suspicious in nature.

An ongoing investigation involving the Sweet Home Fire District, the Sweet Home Police Department, and the Office of the Oregon State Fire Marshall, is reportedly underway.

Wood Chip Train Derails Near Corvallis

At about 9 p.m. on February 23, a train car derailed north of northeast Conifer Boulevard, near Cheldelin Middle School. Corvallis city officials said the derailed train was a hopper car carrying wood chips, which spilled all over the area. Crews rolled right in and worked to clean up a train and get things on track again.

No hazardous materials were being carried, and at this time there are no impacts to the community, according to the Corvallis Fire Department.

About nine train cars were involved in the derailment, Corvallis officials said. The road will be periodically blocked for several days while crews with the railroad company work to clean up the spill.

Officials said it is currently unknown what caused the derailment, but an investigation is underway. They confirmed that there were no injuries.

UPDATE On Pedestrian Killed In HWY 99 Hit And Run

Eugene Police have identified the pedestrian killed in a hit and run crash on Highway 99 near Fairfield on February 23.

According to police, 29-year-old Curtis R. Mayo of Eugene was pronounced dead at the scene of the vehicle versus pedestrian crash.

Police also said they have recovered a vehicle involved in the crash, but they are still looking for a second involved vehicle. It is described as a dark-colored vehicle that may be an SUV, but its exact make and model is unknown. 

The Eugene Police Major Collision Investigation team continues to look into the incident. Anyone with information is asked to call them at (541) 682-5138.

PREVIOUS INFORMATION RELEASED FEBRUARY 23At 8:54 p.m. on February 23, Eugene Police officers were called to respond to a vehicle-pedestrian crash on Hwy. 99 near Fairfield. The pedestrian was deceased on scene. Preliminary information indicates one or possibly two vehicles were going northbound on Hwy. 99 when the crash occurred. Speed is being considered as a factor in the crash. The involved vehicle(s) left the scene and would likely have damage. Eugene Police Major Collision Investigation team is investigating the crash and is asking anyone with information to call 541.682.5138. Traffic has been shut down on Hwy. 99 in both the southbound and northbound lanes, between Fairfield and Royal. Travelers are advised to find alternative routes.Case 23-02825

Fatal Hwy 99 Crash Near Monroe

The Benton County Sheriff’s Office reported that one person was killed and another injured Saturday morning in a crash on Highway 99W north of Monroe. It was the third fatal crash in Benton County on the highway over the first nine weeks of this year.

Deputies were dispatched to the scene at 9:42 a.m. and the highway was closed for approximately four hours.

An investigation showed that a Jeep headed north on the highway was attempting to turn west onto Dawson Road when it was struck by a southbound Ford pickup. The Jeep’s front-seat passenger was pronounced deceased at the scene and the driver was transported to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis with injuries. A rear-seat passenger in the Jeep and the driver of the pickup were not injured.

A press release issued on the crash through BCSO did not include any age, sex or city of residence information about those involved. Deputies said both drivers cooperated with investigators. The Benton County Regional Crash Team responded. Alcohol and speed do not appear to be contributing factors in the crash, BCSO said. 

Assisting at the scene were the Monroe and Corvallis fire departments, Corvallis Police Department and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Anyone who witnessed the crash or has any information concerning the incident can call BCSO at 541-766-0139.

Fatal Traffic Crash Near Winston

An 18-year-old Roseburg man died Thursday morning following a single vehicle traffic crash. 

On Thursday, February 23, 2023, shortly before 8:00 am, 9-1-1 were notified of a vehicle in the river following a vehicle crash near Brockway Road and Willis Creek Road. 

The Sheriff’s Office responded to find a 2003 Toyota Tacoma pickup which had gone through a bridge railing and fallen approximately 30 feet below into the river landing on its top. With the assistance of swift water rescue crews and Bill’s Towing, the vehicle was recovered. The driver of the pickup, 18-year-old Roseburg resident Austin Luke Cross of Roseburg, was located inside and was declared deceased at the scene. 

Investigators have determined that Cross was traveling westbound on Brockway Road when he lost control of the vehicle on the icy roadway. Speed is believed to be a contributing factor in the crash. 

The Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the Winston Police Department, Oregon State Police, Winston-Dillard Fire District and Ambulance, Douglas County Fire District #2, and the Douglas County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Governor Kotek Launches Emergency Response Infrastructure to Implement Homelessness State of Emergency

Multi-Agency Coordination Groups Will Lead Day-to-Day Planning, Coordination to Achieve Specific Goals in Reducing Unsheltered Homelessness This YearSalem, OR—In a significant step following her executive order declaring a homelessness state of emergency ( EO 23-02), today Governor Tina Kotek kicked off the first meeting of the regional multi-agency group that will support the emergency response in the Portland metro region. The meeting was held virtually due to ongoing weather conditions.

On January 10, Governor Kotek declared a state of emergency in regions of the state that have experienced an increase in unsheltered homelessness of 50% or more from 2017 to 2022. She directed the Oregon Department of Emergency Management (OEM) and the state housing agency (OHCS) to support the establishment of Multi-Agency Coordinating groups in emergency areas that will serve as the core infrastructure of the emergency response, also known as “MAC groups.”

Local MAC groups include representatives from local jurisdictions, public housing authorities, local homelessness agencies, rapid rehousing service providers, shelter developers and operators, landlord associations and behavioral health providers. MACs are being set up in each continuum of care, in addition to the Metro regional MAC, and will deliver the emergency response:
• Metro region
o Multnomah County
o Washington County
o Clackamas County
• Central Oregon
• Eugene, Springfield and Lane County
• Medford, Ashland and Jackson County
• Salem, Marion and Polk counties

These MAC groups will provide the planning, coordination, and operational leadership that will bring real, measurable improvements on the ground. They will be responsible for the day-to-day implementation of funds, working with both landlords and unsheltered people in their communities to help move individuals and families into housing stability.

“Everyone at this table is already working hard to reduce homelessness. What today’s meeting really represents is a surge in urgency, coordination, and discipline to bring multiple jurisdictions together to achieve specific outcomes,” Governor Kotek said. “It will take all of us working together to make the progress Oregonians are demanding.”

Governor Kotek has directed the MAC groups, OHCS, and OEM to develop plans and administer funds in order to achieve the following goals by January 10, 2024:
• Prevent 8,750 households from becoming homeless statewide;
• Add 600 low-barrier shelter beds in emergency areas; and
• Rehouse at least 1,200 unsheltered households in emergency areas.
MAC groups in each emergency area will submit a community plan to address the specific needs of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness within the service region, in alignment with the goals of the emergency order. The state is offering technical support to all jurisdictions identified in the Governor’s executive order to ensure they have the support needed to accomplish this work.

This work depends on the legislature acting quickly to pass the targeted investment that the Governor has proposed. Her $155 million proposal will provide additional investments for communities in every corner of Oregon, while also allowing our limited emergency management infrastructure to focus on delivering targeted results in areas with the highest increases in unsheltered homelessness. https://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=87717

Homeless Advocates Weigh In On Governor’s Timeline To Add Housing And Shelter Beds As Winter Weather Hits Oregon

Hundreds of people in Multnomah County and other cities across the state sought emergency shelters to escape the cold and snow over the last week.

This comes as Governor Kotek just created Multi-Agency Coordinating groups, representing regions across Oregon. These groups will map out priorities to address the homeless crisis.

Cathy Clark is the Mayor of Keizer and part of the group representing Marion County. Clark said severe weather reflects the need for more permanent solutions.

“Even temporary or stopgap measures just don’t provide what people need. They’ve got to have a place where they can go inside, be out of the weather, be able to lock up their belongings so they can go take care of the business that they need to,” she said.

The governor set a goal of adding 600 low-barrier shelter beds and rehousing at least 1200 unsheltered households by January 2024.

Clark said she’s worried about that timeline. “If we really want to engage with especially people experiencing homelessness with lived experience or for the certain populations that we need to connect with we may not be able to meet those timelines in the same way as we would under this kind of very shortened process,” she said.

Laura Golino de Lovato is the executive director of Northwest Pilot Project, a service provider in Portland. Golino de Lovato said she sees the governor’s proposal as a good structure. “That could help us identify short-term solutions that allow people to be sheltered or to be housed, even if it’s transitional or temporary housing, while we work on some of the bigger solutions,” she said.

Both women agreed that the state taking a listening approach to address the homeless crisis is an encouraging start.

“Not just focusing on the metro area, which we know is big, it’s a big population, but looking at the whole state and areas within the state where homelessness has really grown dramatically,” Golino de Lovato said.

Moving forward, the governor’s office said MAC groups will submit a community plan to address specific needs within their region that align with Kotek’s emergency order.

Oregon Transportation Department Reports Dangerous Driving Conditions Throughout Parts Of Oregon

ODT says you are going to want to think twice before driving in Oregon over the next few days.

Roads may be dangerously icy throughout central and eastern Oregon and across the Portland area as snow and slush have frozen, leaving roads in poor condition.

Oregon Transportation Department says to avoid travel until conditions improve, but if you must travel, be prepared for difficult winter driving conditions and have supplies in your vehicle to be ready for major delays.

Numerous crashes have occurred over the past several days. Crews have been out working to clear away stranded or damaged vehicles and treat roads to improve conditions. Check TripCheck before traveling.

Phoenix High School Girls Basketball Team Bus Crash On Hwy 97

 A bus carrying members of the Phoenix Highschool Girl’s Basketball Team and coaching staff was involved in a vehicle accident Saturday night on their way home from the team’s last game of the season.

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The Phoenix Talent School District said the accident happened on Highway 97 about 30 miles south of Bend.

It said a vehicle traveling northbound hit the bus and another car head-on while attempting to pass another car. The bus driver was able to control the bus and steer it onto the shoulder. Fortunately, no one on the bus was hurt. The bus, however, was totaled.

The six athletes, along with two coaches and the bus driver were not injured after a car traveling northbound on Highway 97 crashed into the bus and another car, which were both headed south. The driver of the First Student bus was able to maintain control of it after the car, which attempted to pass the southbound traffic, crashed into the bus and another car.

“The bus driver did a great job keeping it from being much worse,” Dave Ehrhardt, the athletics director for Phoenix High School said. “Our coaches stabilized the scene and helped calm down the kids, and the families of the other kids circled back from an hour away to help get everyone home.”

Double Fatal Crash – HWY 26 – Clackamas County

On Saturday, February 25, 2023, at approximately 3:40 P.M., the Oregon State Police responded to a two vehicle crash on Hwy 26, near milepost 59, in Clackamas County.

The preliminary investigation indicated a Subaru Outback, operated by Althea Spahn (26) of Beaverton, was westbound on Hwy 26 with 4 passengers. The Subaru lost control, spun out, crossed into the eastbound lane, and was struck by an oncoming ODOT snowplow, operated by Jessie White (29) of Troutdale. 

Two passengers of the Subaru, Lillian Alma Spahn (24) of Portland and Micah Paul Strauss (28) of Portland, were pronounced deceased at the scene. 

The three surviving occupants of the Subaru and the operator of the ODOT snowplow were transported to local hospitals for medical treatment.

The roadway was closed for approximately 6 hours while the on-scene investigation was conducted.  Poor road conditions have been determined to be a significant contributor to this crash.

OSP was assisted by AMR, Hoodland Fire, ODOT, the Clackamas County Medical Examiner’s Office, and the Clackamas County District Attorney’s office.

Marion County Sheriff’s Office looking for help in identifying deceased female found in a Jefferson field

On February 21, 2023, about 4:45pm, deputies from the Sheriff’s Office Enforcement Division, Jefferson Contract, along with detectives from the Criminal Investigations Unit responded to a report of a citizen finding a female, deceased, in a field at the dead-end of Tenth Street in Jefferson, Oregon. The Marion County Medical Examiner’s Office responded to assist.

Wednesday, an autopsy was performed by the State Medical Examiner and the death has been determined to be natural causes.

The female found, was a white female, unknown age, 5’3 ½”, 128 pounds, wearing a red tank top, camo colored long sleeve shirt, Green sweatshirt, green sweatpants, and black tennis shoes. She was described as having a brooch attached to the green sweatshirt in the left chest area with a white pearl-looking piece in the middle of it.

We are asking anyone with information on a possible identify for this female to please call Deputy N. Morse, 971-720-0726.

Registration is Open for the 2023 Oregon Women Veterans Conference

Registration is now open for the 2023 Oregon Women Veterans Conference, which will be held on May 20 and 21 at the Salem Convention Center. Hosted by the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs, this free, biennial event is the largest gathering of women veterans in the state.

Women veterans from every branch of military service, era and background are invited to attend this free event celebrating the service and contributions of women who answered the call to serve throughout history. The conference will include informational workshops, keynote speakers and networking opportunities. 

This year’s theme, “Stronger Together — Voices of Service” is a testament to the continued strength, diversity and community of our women veterans, said ODVA Director Kelly Fitzpatrick, who is an Army veteran and the first woman to lead the state agency.

“Oregon continues to be a leader in recognizing, remembering and honoring the outstanding contributions of women who have served their country, and we are proud to be able to host this year’s conference in person again,” Fitzpatrick said. “Together, our collective voices achieve more, overcome challenges, and allow our stories to be shared.”

Women veterans make up one of the fastest-growing segments of the Oregon veteran community, with an estimated 25,000 women veterans living in the state today, representing nearly one-tenth of overall veteran population.

The first Oregon Women Veterans Conference was held 25 years ago in 1998. 

“The camaraderie and shared calling of service is what inspires our lives and is what continues to unite women veterans across every generation and era of service,” said ODVA Women Veterans Coordinator Jessica Bradley. 

The conference is an opportunity for women veterans to socialize, connect to resources, learn about their earned veteran benefits, and celebrate their service.

Attendance is free, but registration is required. Please visit wvc.oregondva.com to register and find additional event information on lodging and sponsorship and vendor opportunities.

Established in 1945, the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs is dedicated to serving Oregon’s diverse veteran community that spans five eras of service members. ODVA administers programs and provides special advocacy and assistance in accessing earned veteran benefits across the state. Learn about veteran benefits and services, or locate a local county or tribal veteran service office online at oregon.gov/odva

Fremont-Winema National Forest Seeks Camp Hosts for 2023 Season

The Fremont-Winema National Forest is outreaching for campground hosts at four locations across the Forest for the 2023 season.

Camp hosting is a great opportunity to spend your summer enjoying national forest lands while helping others do the same! Camp hosts are friendly, knowledgeable and available. They set a good example and help visitors feel at home while providing information, explaining fees and rules, and performing light maintenance such as cleaning campsites, picnic tables and grills, restocking toilet paper and fee envelopes, patrolling for litter, maintaining waste receptacles, and notifying forest service staff of maintenance needs.

Although volunteers are not paid a salary, they do receive a free camp site in the campground, propane, gas as well as a subsistence allowance. Applicants will need to supply their own RV or other self-contained camping setup and possess a valid drivers license. A government vehicle will be provided to carry out camp host duties.

Applications are being accepted through April 30. Campground hosts typically start in mid-May and volunteer through Labor Day. Hosts take time off during the week, to ensure availability to campers over weekends. Hosts for Digit Point Campground will likely start closer to mid-June. Individuals or couples interested in serving for at least one month are encouraged to inquire. Retirees often find the camp host program an ideal way to spend summers getting to know new forests and new people.

To apply for the host positions at Williamson River or Digit Point Campgrounds, please contact Recreation Specialist Danilo Figueroa, 541-883-6702 or danilo.figueroa@usda.gov.

To apply for the host positions at Lofton Reservoir Campground or Cottonwood Meadows Campground, please contact Recreation Specialist Greg Campbell at 541-947-6359 or gregory.campbell@usda.gov. MORE INFO: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/fremont-winema/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD1091210


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