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Northwest news in brief

Campgrounds, homes evacuated

MITCHELL (AP) — A sheriff says a wildfire burning in central Oregon has prompted the evacuation of numerous campgrounds and roughly a dozen ranch homes.

Wheeler County Sheriff Chris Humphreys said late Monday night that the Bailey Butte fire has burned across about 800 acres in an area where the Ochoco National Forest meets rangeland. He says local fire departments are protecting homes and so far no residences have burned.

A two-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 26 was temporarily closed about 13 miles west of Mitchell, Oregon. The Red Cross says it plans to open an evacuation center in Mitchell.

He says the area has been hit by lots of lightning but it wasn’t immediately clear what started the fires.

Klickitat PUD disputes fire claim

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — The state attorney general’s office has billed the Klickitat Public Utility District $2 million for the cost of fighting a large wildfire last year.

But the utility district is disputing the state’s claims that its power lines caused the 40-square-mile Mile Marker 28 fire.

The Yakima Herald reports state investigators say the blaze started when tree branches touched the utility district’s power lines. Investigators say flaming needles fell and lit the dry fuels below the tree.

Janet Pearce of the state Department of Natural Resources says state law requires her department to recover fire suppression costs.

Bu the chief operating officer of the Klickitat PUD says his agency was surprised by the state’s conclusions and the attorney general’s bill.

Miami car thief makes good time

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Police in the town of Blaine, Washington, near the Canadian border found a car in a bank parking lot on July 2 that had been stolen in Miami just about two days earlier.

The Bellingham Herald reports the thief was in a hurry. According to Google Maps it would take 50 hours to drive the 3,400 miles nonstop.

Police don’t know who took the black 2012 Jeep Patriot or why they sped from one corner of the country to the other.

Oregon joins best seafood cook-off

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The best seafood chef in the nation will be crowned Saturday, Aug. 2, in New Orleans when the 11th annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off is held.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board on Monday announced the competition won last year by Mississippi chef David Crews. It will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Participating chefs represent Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

Judges include Ben Pollinger, executive chef of Oceana in New York; Kris Moon, James Beard Foundation; Barbara Mathias, co-publisher and vice president of Food Arts magazine; Brian West, chef-instructor at CIA-San Antonio and Susie Selby from Selby Winery.

County’s fairgound turnaround

GRANTS PASS (AP) — A financial turnaround appears to have gotten the fairgrounds in Josephine County out of a jam that threatened its future.

Last fall, the county commissioners said they wouldn’t put any more general fund money into the operation: Either it would become self-sustaining, or the fairgrounds would be shuttered.

The books on the fiscal year recently closed, and fairgrounds officials say they are more than $100,000 in the black, The Grants Pass Daily Courier reported. Operating costs are about $625,000 a year.

The brighter financial picture is attributed to increased rental fees, grants, a fundraising drive and donations from groups.

All that means the county can focus on the centennial edition of the fair, scheduled Aug. 13-16, instead of making plans for its demise.

“We’re staying open,” said Fairgrounds Manager Mary Groves. “I think we’re going to be here for a long time to come.”

The fairgrounds and its finances had long been in decline.

The decline of horse racing and competition for entertainment dollars from casinos and video poker got part of the blame. As the finances weakened, the fair was unable to hire the likes of Johnny Cash or the Beach Boys to draw crowds, and the buildings and grounds aged and deteriorated.

The commissioners issued their ultimatum in 2013 after bailing out the fairgrounds to the tune of $340,000, and now one of them says the turnaround is solid.

“It’s a wonderful picture,” said Commissioner Keith Heck. “It seems that the momentum of the fairgrounds is moving in a positive direction.”


Information from: Daily Courier, http://www.thedailycourier.com

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