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GRANTS PASS, Ore. -An idea sparked by the major wildfires that destroyed over 70,000 acres of Southern Oregon last summer, Hidden Valley High School students Rachel Loughran, Jordan Gilbert, and Sylvia Marr have found a way to award $35,060 to their local Fire Departments in Josephine County.

As members of the Josephine County Foundation (JCF)- a student led non-profit, these three decided to partner with their local fire departments because they saw the educational and financial need in their community. JCF consists of local students from Hidden Valley High School, Illinois Valley High School, North Valley High School, Grants Pass High School, and New Hope Christian School. The student’s objective is simple: to come together to serve their community, and to raise funds for Josephine County.

Through online resources and meetings with all Josephine County Fire Departments, the students decided the best way to assist the firefighters would be to write grants towards funding for equipment. This way, students in the community would get the experience of learning about philanthropy with the benefits of bringing outside/new funds into Josephine County.

Not knowing the financial need of the local fire departments, Hidden Valley High School Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) members helped JCF members interview each local Fire Chief and fill out a Needs Assessment based on the top priorities for their station. The assessment showed that $11 million dollars of equipment was needed over the next 5 years.

After making a list of the low-cost, critical equipment based on each agency’s needs assessment, the students set a 2 year goal of raising $60,000 for their community’s fire safety equipment. Within this first year, these high school students were able to raise $35,060 of their goal in grant money for the fire departments. On May 19th, the Josephine County Foundation held their first ever Awards Ceremony where they distributed the funds as follows:
• Applegate Fire Department – $4,500 for 10 Firefighter Pagers
• Grants Pass Fire Department – $4,560 for Structural Turnouts
• Illinois Fire Department – $6,500 for a RAD-57 CO Monitor and Positive Pressure Vent Fan
• Rural/Metro Fire Department – $4,800 for 3 Multigas/CO Detectors
• Williams Fire Department – $5,800 for 2 Gate Valves and 5 Fire Hose Nozzles
• Wolf Creek Fire Department – $8,900 for 1 3/4 ” Fire Hose and 3 Handheld Radios
Through all this hard work and dedication, these JCF members also wrote a 30 page report and gave a seven minute presentation through FBLA at the National Leadership Conference and received 2nd place in the nation against almost 100 other community projects. Their national success further demonstrates the hours committed, the hard work dedicated, and the lives changed through this partnership.

This project has had a monumental affect on Josephine County’s schools and community, and will for years to come. In the upcoming school year, students will continue to apply for grants to fund the needs of the departments in order to reach (or exceed) their goal of $60,000.

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Medford Police have arrested Debra Irene Johns, who they believe is responsible for the multiple suspicious fires in Medford that began on June 25th.

Medford Police believe Johns to be connected to 23 fires in downtown Medford in the past month, most recently in the Jackson County Jail bathroom on Wednesday morning.

The suspect is no stranger to police; in fact, while investigating arsons this week, police saw the woman, knew who she was immediately, and knew she was wanted on unrelated charges.

Debrah Johns is being charged with starting 2 fires, but investigators believe she is also the person behind 21 other fires, including that huge warehouse fire that burned on Fir Street about a month ago, but it was the palm tree that burned in Hawthorne Park on Thursday morning that first led police to Johns.

Police say she was nearby at the time they responded and they knew she was wanted on unrelated warrants, for which they took her into custody. At that time, they discovered that a small fire had been set earlier in the morning in a bathroom in the jail that the public has access to.

Police are not revealing how they connected Johns to that fire, but she is now charged with several counts for both the bathroom fire and palm tree fire. The investigation into the remaining 21 arsons is on-going, but investigators seem confident that with this arrest, downtown Medford won’t see additional arsons at the same rate.

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MEDFORD, Ore. — It’s been two days since thunderstorms moved through southern Oregon and although time has passed, lightning strikes still smolder and sometimes the best way to get a view of the smokes, is from  6,000 feet.

“They’ve got a smoke report up Tolman Creek in Ashland, and we’re going to go fly over it and get a lat and long for the ground folks,” said Oregon Department of Forestry Officer Jesse Blair through an airplane headset six thousand feet above Jackson County.

Since thunderstorms moved through the weather has warmed up and fuels are drying out. That combination allows lightning strikes smoldering for a couple of days to grow into wildfires. New smokes can be thin and light at first making them difficult to spot from some perspectives.

“It really has a lot to do with sun angle and topography features. So, a lot of times we’ll fly a drainage on the north line and then we’ll turn around and fly it on the south line,” said Blair.

That’s where technology lends a hand. Armed with an iPad and maps of this week’s lightning, Blair can pinpoint where to look.

“We can look at each individual down strike on our map and fly to those specific areas and get real detailed flight paths figured out,” said Blair.

Weather plays a role in how the pilots scour the area. Low lying clouds shortly after thunderstorms mean flying beneath them, but above hazards.

“We can only fly in so far and have enough pace to make a U-turn and fly back out safely without hitting anything,” said Pilot Jeff Nielsen.

Each fire season and each flight is different but flights after storms are steady. The Oregon Department of Forestry will continue the reconnaissance flights every day until there are three consecutive days with no smoke.

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High pressure will begin building into the West these next few days, pushing the storm track well to our north. A warming trend will be ongoing into next week. For today and throughout the weekend, quiet weather and dry conditions will persist.

Into early next week, the heat will again be brutal as triple digits return to our area. At this point, monsoonal moisture will begin creeping into our neck of the woods. This is going to support scattered thunderstorms over Northern California and the Klamath Basin.

It now appears that thunderstorms will move into West Side Valleys for several days next week. For now, the storm threat looks to be Tuesday through Thursday across the Valley. There will likely be changes from one model run to the next these next few days, so stay tuned for updates.

For more on your local weather, head over to Facebook and/or Twitter!

Meteorologist Alyssa Caroprese

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Medford Fire will continue to operate with a separate administrative body than Jackson County Fire District 3.

In a study session today, the Medford City Council took an in-depth look at months worth of research.

Originally, city leaders thought it might save money for the agencies to function as one body with a single overhead administration.

Ultimately, the council decided against the merger, but will continue to evaluate how the city can work with District 3 in other ways.

However, the process of even looking into the possibility did cause some tension for Medford’s existing partnership with Jackson County Fire District 2.

“District 2 has been a little upset in the process. We’ve done everything we can do reach out and communicate, we’ve bent over backwards. They’ve been at every meeting that’s been involved in this process for a year. We’ve really tried to reach out, and we do have a long relationship with District 2 and we like having them as partners,” said Medford City Councilor Daniel Bunn.

Medford fire district has contracted with district two for more than 50 years, and district two owns several pieces of equipment medford fire currently uses.
council members say they plan to continue the relationship… but also hope to take action to gain ownership of some of that equipment moving forward.

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TALENT, Ore. — Oregon Department of Transportation planners are hoping to facilitate some big changes along highway 99 in the next several years.

At an open house on Thursday, the public got a first look at some proposed improvements along the highway between North Ashland and South Medford.

One of those changes, and perhaps the most controversial, is making less-traveled stretches of the highway three lane instead of four lanes with an added turn lane.

The areas that may see that change would be the strip between Talent and Phoenix, and Talent and North Ashland.

Some other proposed improvements are added or improved bike lanes, new sidewalks and wider traffic lanes.

Project managers hope to implement all the improvements in the next 20 years and it will cost about $20 million.



CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — A state committee is trying to decide how much pot someone could buy if voters approve recreational marijuana. The November ballot measure would also allow the state to tax any marijuana.

However, the bill also puts an end to any new city taxes on medical or recreational marijuana, but if cities approve marijuana tax by that time, it will be “grandfathered” in. Central Point has moved a step further to make that possibly at Thursday night’s city council meeting.

The council voted unanimously tonight to have a second reading for an ordinance that will establish tax on marijuana and marijuana infused products.

Following suit with other cities in the area, council members decided to tax five percent on medical marijuana, and 10 percent on any future recreational marijuana sales. The council also discussed possibly raising the percentage at a later time.

The second reading of the ordinance will be august 14.

The city currently has a medical marijuana dispensary moratorium in place until next may.

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Thursday proved to be beautiful, with plenty of blue skies and spring-like temperatures.  It was a rare gem in our typical summer pattern.  That summer heat returns by the end of the weekend and sticks around for the majority of next week.  The coolest days that we will see for a while are going to be this Friday and Saturday.

The trough that brought showers, storms, and cooler temperatures is much further north and east now, and we are seeing dry, west to east flow aloft.  Over the next several days, a high pressure ridge will develop in the upper levels of the atmosphere.  At the surface, there are already signs of a thermal trough forming to our south.  This is the same set-up we see when afternoon temps climb near and above 100 degrees.  In fact, by Sunday, highs will be about ten degrees above average.  That’s a stark contrast from Thursday, where record lows were set in both Klamath Falls and Lakeview.

To go along with the oppressive heat next week, there is the chance for isolated thunderstorms in northern California, as well as along and east of the Cascades and west side valleys.  A few waves of energy enter the region, and with plenty of daytime heating, that means a few afternoon storms.  We will keep a close eye on any thunderstorm activity, as fuels are still very dry, even after the rainfall earlier this week.

For more information, or to send me your weather pictures, log on to Facebook or Twitter.

Chief Meteorologist Kate McKenna

electionsMEDFORD, Ore.– The measure to require Oregon to label genetically modified products was approved for the November ballot on Wednesday. The Secretary of State’s office said the near 119,000 signatures turned in for the initiative were validated. They said just over 87,000 were needed to qualify, and it only took campaigners six weeks to get them all.

If approved, manufacturers, retailers and suppliers would have to label raw and packaged foods produced entirely or partially by genetic engineering. The requirement would begin January of 2016. Similar efforts were voted on in the state of Washington and California, but they did not pass.

A group called “Oregonians for Food and Shelter” said they will launch a campaign in opposition soon. The Executive Director of the group, Scott Dahlman, said the proposal would mandate costly and misleading food labeling regulations in Oregon. He said growers will be required to track foods that end up in the state, which is expensive and hard to do since genetically engineered crops can’t be tested in it’s final product. Dahlman said the only way to know is to track it from the beginning, but this places a burden on everyone throughout the supply chain.

Aurora Paulson from the Center for Food Safety and a co-petitioner for Measure 92 said, “The Center for Food Safety is committed to this issue because we believe that one of the great freedoms we have as Americans is the basic right to choose what foods we feed our families,”

This measure is the last that will qualify for the November Election.

The other six include:

  • Creating a top two primary voting system.
  • Amend the constitution to require equal rights among all.
  • Allow judges to join the National Guard or hold teacher positions
  • Create a special scholarship fund for low-income children
  • Allow immigrants to get drivers licenses
  • Legalize the sale and taxing of recreational marijuana.

Stay with Newswatch 12 throughout the election for the most up to date information about these measures progress.


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CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — Byron Higinbotham is not an actual ninja based on traditional standards, but he sure looks like one on the Higs Gym obstacle course in Central Point.

“I was really interested in how the Navy SEALS do their physical fitness and watched several videos and thought, man, that looks so fun,” Higinbotham said. “I think I can build something like that.”

That’s exactly what he did. Higinbotham built the sprint obstacle course on his own property right next to his house.

“It went through several different phases and built different things,” Higinbotham said. “I’ve tried to build an environment where it’s littered with tons of different obstacles of different sizes, different shapes.”

The course offers a fitness regimen to people of all different sizes and ages. Higinbotham said kids are actually the perfect candidates for the course.

“Kids innately do this stuff, you know, in their living room, at home,” Higinbotham said. “They’re building forts, and they’re jumping off stuff and climbing stuff. Unfortunately as we get older, we lose that playful side, and fitness, getting in shape should be fun.”

Besides the fun and the exercise, there’s an added benefit to obstacle course training.

“It forces you to think on the fly, to make quick decisions as you’re running through your environment, and so it’s training  your body physically but it’s also training your mind to stay sharp and to stay engaged with what you’re doing,” Higinbotham said.


If you want more information on the Southern Oregon Ninja Challenge or Higs Gym, go to:

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