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Sheriff: Campers refuse to talk about Lobster Creek Fire 'upon advice from their attorney'

The Lobster Creek Fire burns about 12 miles northeast of Gold Beach in Curry County, Ore., July 3, 2018. (Curry County Sheriff's Office photo)

GOLD BEACH, Ore. - People at a camp organized in part by a Eugene-based group who were evacuated from the Lobster Creek Fire refused to talk to deputies about how the fire started, Curry County Sheriff John Ward said.

The Eugene connection is part of new information on the fire released by the Curry County sheriff on the investigation into the Lobster Creek Fire.

Just before 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 1, the Curry County Sheriff’s Office received the first of several 911 calls from the Lobster Creek Youth Camp, located about 17 miles east of Gold Beach.

The callers stated there was a fire in the meadow below the camp and that they were not able to contain it, the sheriff said.

Dispatch was advised there was a large group of juveniles and adults camping at location associated with The Next Generation Climate Justice Action Camp, which had a combination of adults and youth ranging in age from 14 to 17.

The camp was organized by the Eugene-based Civil Liberties Defense Center and a group called Rogue Climate, according to the CLDC website.

"This camp is for youth ages 14-18 who are interested in social and environmental issues and want to gain hands on skills," according to the CLDC wesbite. "The camp will provide information on movement history, climate justice campaigns, how to plan and run a campaign, non-violent protest planning, media and outreach skills, decolonization trainings, as well as know-your-rights trainings."

Deputies were dispatched and fire agencies alerted, including Coos Forest Protective Association, Gold Beach Fire Department, Cedar Valley/North Bank Fire and others, and Cal Ore Life Flight sent three ambulances to stage at the CFPA's request in case of injuries or heat exhaustion to firefighters.

First-arriving deputies safely evacuated all campers and camp hosts, the sheriff said.

"The fire had quickly grown due to high winds which pushed the fire and caused spotting out front of it and was on a path down the creek," the sheriff's office said.

Fire crews arrived and began fighting the blaze, which had spread into the Rayonier Timber Property and, within a couple hours, jumped the main Lobster Creek Road.

Meanwhile, the camping group had left the area and congregated at the Port of Gold Beach, the sheriff's office said.

"Deputies attempted to interview members of the group but upon advice from their attorney, they did not provide any detailed answers how the fire started although it was evident that they attempted to extinguish the fire initially," the sheriff's office stated. "Deputies were only provided very basic information from a few campers on what they saw and any efforts to extinguish the fire."

On Monday, July 2, a Type I Incident Management Team arrived and assumed command of the operations and continued a full frontal assault on the fire. The team felt confident that fire crews would have the fire under control quickly, CCSO said.

"Fire investigators worked all afternoon and again into (Tuesday) to try and determine the origin and cause of the fire," the sheriff's office said. "This information will be released when determined."

"I have to give credit for the fast response of our local CFPA and fire agencies along with the logging companies and their equipment that got on top of the situation that saved the Lobster Creek Youth Camp from destruction," Curry County Sheriff John Ward Said. "I want to commend our Sheriff’s Dispatch for getting and giving the information out quickly, coordinating resources to combat the fire and our deputies who were first on scene and safely evacuated the entire camp of about 50 people."

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