Pitcher Ready for New Role; National Wildfire Awareness Month; OHA Numbers for COVID; Rhody Festival

Pitcher Ready for New Role

Interim Police Chief John Pitcher says he is honored to take the lead role of the Florence Police Department.  Pitcher was quick to give a lot of the credit to retired Chief Tom Turner.

“He came with a great resume and I was able to soak that in like a sponge.  He always made sure he took me with him and he taught me from day one and I learned a lot from him and he has prepared me for this position.”

Pitcher himself has more than 3 decades on the job here in Florence and has built a lot of community good will over those years.  The City of Florence will now have to decide how to move forward.  City Manager Erin Reynolds would only say that they will be doing their due diligence but that they expect to make a final decision soon.

“We will be making further announcements and decisions in the coming days probably within 30 days or less.”

While Interim Chief Pitcher says he is ready for this new role, he had wished it had come under different circumstances.  Former Chief Turner had been battling some health issues in the last several years.  He plans to focus now on his health and spending time with his family.

National Wildfire Awareness Month

May is National Wildfire Awareness Month and despite the recent rains the pacific northwest is in for a long fire season. Homeowners are urged to begin preparing now.  Bob Sneddon has more:

Sure, it’s been a very wet spring in Western Lane County but Siuslaw Valley Fire Marshall Tony Miller says it’s easy to underestimate the fire danger area residents could be facing.

“We are currently in a drought.  And the amount of rain we’ve had in the last couple of months has been great and pretty significant.  But I think what is going to happen is that we’re going to continue with drought.”

Miller says there’s a popular misconception that forested areas around Florence and Dunes City are resistant to burning.  But, he adds all you have to do is remember the 2020 Sweet Creek Fire that threatened Mapleton.  Miller urges area residents to take steps now to prepare for what could be a hotter and more active fire season in coming months.

OHA Numbers for COVID

The Oregon Health Authority is reporting 1650 new COVID-19 cases as they report another 16.3 percent surge in cases.  Lane County’s COVID-19 page remains stagnant with their last posting coming on Friday, May 6.  For those concerned about the numbers locally, the county will only be updating their numbers once a week despite the rapid rising numbers.  The OHA says we can expect to see hospital numbers rise too, but many of the cases are breakthrough cases which have generally had fewer hospitalizations associated with them.  More than 52% of the cases reported last week, or 9,769, were in individuals that were at least partially vaccinated and more than 6,000 of those cases were in fully vaccinated and boosted persons.

Rhody Festival

We are just over a week away from the beginning of Rhododendron Festival and early reports are that we can expect a large crowd in Florence for the 4 days of events.  Davis Carnival will open one day later than in previous years and all activities will begin on Thursday, May 19, including the Crowning of Queen Rhododendron and the King of the Coast at the Florence events center that evening.