Northwest news in brief

Smoky Haze Covers State Members of the Firesliders softball team from Portland, Ore., wear masks to keep out smoke from wildfires as they wait to board a jetboat in Grants Pass to take a ride on the Rogue River on July 31. In the forests of southwest Oregon, firefighters and support crews now number more than 4,000 people with more on the way. Five crews of 10 people each are expected to arrive Friday, five more on Sunday.

Divers find six sunken cars

OAK GROVE, Ore. (AP) — As part of a training exercise, Clackamas County dive teams agreed to look for a car an insurance company wanted them to find near the Oak Grove boat ramp on the Willamette River.

Divers found the sunken car Thursday, plus five more. At least one had been reported stolen but appeared to have been dumped by the owner.

Neighbors told KOIN car dumping is an ongoing problem at the ramp, harming wildlife and creating hazards for children who play in the water.

Octopus hunting ban pondered

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Hunting giant Pacific octopuses in Puget Sound could be banned or restricted under regulations being considered by a state panel.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission began reviewing the rules after a diver killed an octopus in October at a popular diving area near Alki Point in Seattle. A diving instructor who arrived on the beach saw the man beating the octopus to death.

Photos of the incident outraged other divers who are familiar with octopus lairs and watch for the animals. Divers petitioned the panel to outlaw octopus hunting or to create marine preserves where they’ll be safe.

Current rules allow a person with a valid state fishing license to harvest one giant Pacific octopus per day in most areas of Puget Sound.

The commission is weighing the topic at its meeting Friday and Saturday in Olympia.

The Seattle Aquarium says giant Pacific octopuses average 90 pounds and their arms can span 20 feet across, but a fully grown octopus can fit through a hole the size of a lemon.

Coast Guard responds to calls

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) — Columbia River-based Coast Guard crews responded to three suspected hoax distress calls within several hours last weekend. The agency estimates that more than four hours of searching cost taxpayers about $8,000.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nate Littlejohn says the same Coast Guard sector responded to five similar calls earlier this summer. He the agency dispatched a helicopter crew from Astoria, Ore., and a 25-foot boat from Portland in response to the calls. Making false distress calls is a felony.

The spokesman notes that making a false distress call is a federal felony with a maximum penalty of five to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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