Red Flag warnings along the coast; Vet rehab facility proposed for forest work camp; “Smoking box” linked to arson fire; Fuel prices expected to remain low remainder of summer; Road work on Rhody; Scammers working Louisiana Relief

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Red Flag Warnings and Heat Advisories

It’s going to be another red flag day for the Central and Northern Oregon Coast… and the Coast Range.

Weather forecasters are saying conditions are ripe today and this evening for – quote – “significantly unstable conditions” that could lead to extremely high fire danger.

Fire starts in forested areas along the coast from the Florence area and north into the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State have the potential for rapid spread and could easily become “plume dominated” fires.

Similar conditions earlier this week led to a 222-acre blaze just outside Depoe Bay.  Fire crews were able to control it quickly, but not until it had threatened several homes in the area.

The National Weather service says relatively low humidity, coupled with unstable winds and high heat can contribute to extreme fire behavior.

Lane’s forest work camp could become Vet rehab facility

Lane County Commissioners voted 3-2 this week to negotiate a long-term lease of the Forest Work Camp with the group Veteran’s Legacy.  That group wants to provide rehab services to veterans with Post Traumatic Stress and adjustment disorders, as well as drug and alcohol addiction.

Commissioners Jay Bozievich and Sid Leiken wanted to accept another offer… this one of an outright purchase by Emerald Valley Wellness Clinic.  They offered to purchase the former prison camp for $50-thousand subject to several conditions.  A third offer, from Just In Time, a drug addiction recovery organization, asked the County for an outright gift of the camp.  That group noted the county has limited uses for the land and is currently spending $250-thousand a year in maintenance and security.

The 105-acre parcel was first put into use as a prison facility and work camp in 1991.  It was mothballed in 2008.

Because it operates in prime forest land, the possible uses of the camp are limited by land-use regulations.

If a successful lease is not achieved with Veteran’s Legacy, Commissioners may pursue one of the other two offers.

“Smoking box” draws bomb squad and linked with arson fire

The Eugene Police Department Bomb Squad responded to the Florence Elks Lodge on 12th Street Tuesday afternoon at the request of local officials.  Florence Police Commander John Pitcher said the 14-inch square metal file box was emitting smoke.  Officers and firefighters were afraid there may have been an explosive device of some sort.

John Pitcher — “They used their x-ray machine and their, and their robot, and they were able to get the box open.  There was no explosive device.  We do know that it is attached to the suspicious fire at the old hospital, the business center.”

That fire, at the Florence Business Center, less than a block away, was discovered at 6:40 Tuesday morning.  Pitcher said the box at the Elks Lodge wasn’t discovered until about 1:30 in the afternoon.

John Pitcher– “The officers that responded to the suspicious fire at the business center, they walked in the area and it wasn’t there then.  So it showed up in between that 8-9 o’clock until about one.”

How and when it got there remains a mystery.  Pitcher said they are investigating both incidents and anyone with any information should call the Florence Police Department and talk to Detective Brandon Ott.

Fuel prices expected to hold steady through Labor Day

The gradual slide of retail gas prices across the country has “hit the brakes”.  Marie Dodds with Triple-A of Oregon says the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded jumped a nickel in the past week to $2.18.  The average price in Oregon went up about a half-penny, she said, and is currently at $2.44.

Locally, it held steady at $2.31.

Dodds blamed the national increase on surging crude oil prices and refinery issues.

Prices at the pump in Florence are 56-cents a gallon less than they were a year ago; and more than $1.50 below the August 2014 average price.

Domestic gasoline supplies remain high and oil prices continue to be lower than in previous years, lending credence to the thought that retail prices will remain relatively cheap through the rest of the summer and into early fall.

Road work on Rhody north of 35th

Crews will begin repaving a short stretch of Rhododendron Drive just north of 35th Street tomorrow.  Florence Public Works Director Mike Miller said Ray Wells Incorporated will do a “grind-inlay” the full width of the roadway from about 150 feet north of 35th to Eden Lane.  Crews use a special machine to grind away the existing road surface, and immediately replace it with a two-inch layer of fresh asphalt.  It’s the final step in a sewer replacement project in the area.

They are not extending the new pavement directly to 35th street at this time according to Miller because another sewer project in the area will ultimately wind up tearing up the roadway at that intersection within the next two years.

Miller said work is expected to be completed Friday.

Scammers working Louisiana flood relief

Relief efforts for the extreme flooding in Louisiana have drawn hundreds and hundreds of relief workers from around the country.  The American Red Cross in Oregon has already sent at least three different crews of volunteers to the area.

Thousands of people are still in shelters and the Red Cross has already received nearly $8-million in pledges and donations designated for that effort.

But, according to Amy Shlossman, the CEO of the Red Cross Cascades Region, the recovery costs are expected to exceed $30-million.  She says you can call 800-red-cross to donate or go online.

Already there have been alleged scammers on the prowl seeking to take advantage of the situation.  Several residents in the Florence area have reported getting suspicious sounding phone calls from people seeking donations… when questioned strongly, they hang up.