relay for lifeEUGENE, Ore. — The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life 2014 kicked off Friday.

The event runs from noon on Friday to noon on Saturday at Willamette High School.

So far, more than 1,800 participants have raised $381,000 for cancer research.

The opening ceremony starts at 6 p.m. with a survivors lap at 7:30 p.m.

debra-irene-johnsMEDFORD, 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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SPRINGFIELD, Ore.– The lumber industry took a hit immediately after a fire destroyed the Swanson Springfield Plywood and Veneer Mill. The fire happened last Thursday, and by Friday, plywood prices jumped 10 to 12 percent; in particular, sheathing and sanded plywood. Those are materials the mill produced.

“I think overall, it was too dramatic of a price increase, so quick that we think those prices will come down 45 to 60 days down the road,” said Steve Killgore of Roseburg Forest Products in Roseburg.

Killgore is also the former owner of the mill. He sold it to the Swanson group in 2007. He says this price hike comes at a time when demand is at its peak.

The mill represents 5 percent of the western production and 2 percent of the North American production, so Killgore doesn’t believe the loss will disrupt the plywood market long term. In the short term though, some items may be hard to find. Also, hours after news of the fire spread, there was a rush in orders.

“Some of them were legitimate in that they need to cover their needs, but part of it was fueled by an emotional response to wanting to protect themselves and have volume available,” added Killgore.

If Swanson decides to rebuild the mill, Killgore says it could take up to two years. The company is shifting workers to its plant in Glendale and is having a job fair for employees next Wednesday.

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. — The famous wolf known as OR-7 has puppies, and they are growing. New photos, released by wildlife officials this week, show OR-7 and his puppies. ODFW can confirm the existence of two cubs, and possibly a third cub. They say there might be more.

The cameras took the photos July 12th, but weren’t check until July 17th. ODFW checks the cameras every one to two weeks at sites. Officials have 2-4 cameras that pick up movement, and are placed at checked spots throughout Jackson County to monitor wildlife. ODFW is not releasing the location of the photos for public and wildlife safety.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says they are able to track the location of the cubs with a GPS tracking collar on the male wolf OR-7. He’s been tracked for the past 3 years.

“The wolves are still in Jackson County and we’ll see. They’re mobile. They’ve gone all over before. We’ll see where they go. Who knows where they will be next month,” said ODFW District Wildlife Biologist Mark Vargas.

On NewsWatch12′s Facebook post about OR-7 got a lot of attention. One criticism some people hold against wolves is that they don’t always kill prey to survive, but for the so-called “thrill”. Vargas says predators like wolves do, in fact, kill to survive, and that the hardest part for a predator eating a prey species is catching that prey and consuming all of it.

“At times there might be more prey items killed than can be consumed, but the ultimate goal is to eat their prey,” Vargas wrote in an e-mail responding to our inquiry. “Sometimes more prey may die than can be consumed in a few days and other scavengers might clean up the remainder.”

sick boyFOXBORO, Mass. (CNN) — There was a big birthday-eve party on Thursday for little Danny Nickerson, who’s battling cancer.

The boy got more mail delivered to his hometown post office than all of Foxboro, Massachusetts combined.

Boxes and boxes full of birthday cards, all for the boy with the rare inoperable brain tumor who turns 6 on Friday.

His mom said he had just one item on his birthday wish list.

“When we said what do you want for your birthday, he said mail, I want mail. So he got mail,” said Carley Nickerson, Danny’s mom.

An army of friends and relatives have spent days shuttling the cards to his home.

Letters have been mailed from Aruba, Texas and even from a squadron of Marines from Afghanistan.

In all, there have been about 50,000 letters received so far, with much more mail on the way.

Pope Francis(CNN) — Pope Francis is planning his first trip to the United States.

According to the Catholic News Service, the pontiff will attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput confirmed Thursday that the pope accepted his invitation saying, “Pope Francis has told me that he is coming.”

Pope Francis has received invitations from other cities as well, but this is the first one he has accepted.

11-8 gmo wheatMEDFORD, 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 it 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 its 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.

“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,” said Aurora Paulson from the Center for Food Safety and a co-petitioner for Measure 92.

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.

Highway 99TALENT, 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 lanes 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.

Bailey BranchCORVALLIS, Ore. — Benton County still needs your help deciding what to do with the Bailey Branch line.

The county purchased the old rail corridor in October for almost a half-million dollars. Eventually the county wants to restore rail service to the area, but in the meantime is trying to figure out what to do with it.

The right-of-way runs from south of Corvallis to Monroe, then heads west towards Hull-Oakes Lumber.

Some options include developing public trails, swapping the land with surrounding land owners to make it closer to a road, or selling or leasing the land.

The public has until August 8 to comment.

For more information, click here.

HEAVEN KING

HEAVEN KING

COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. – The Lane County Sheriff’s Office has made an arrest following an investigation into a woman’s body found on the side of USFS Road 2212.

On July 9, 2014, deputies found the body of Heaven Raynell King, 36, of Sweet Home, about 35 miles southeast of Cottage Grove. Detectives and the Lane County medical examiner have been investigating the circumstances of King’s death.

The suspect will be arraigned in Lane County Circuit Court at 1:30 p.m. Friday. Findings of a grand jury are confidential until a defendant is served in court.

This is a developing story. We’ll have more information as it becomes available.

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