Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Most Salem families will get up to $1,100 per child to pay for food

July 21, 2021 at 12:54pm

State bans camp fires in parks, forestland as fire danger grow

Fire crews from Marion County, formed into Task Force 16, were relieved Saturday, July 17, from service on the Bootleg Fire. This photo from the scene is by Ryan Russell, Keizer Fire District division chief.

3 p.m. WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Additional details about campsites affected and potential fines for violating the ban.

SALEM – Because of high fire danger, those nights of sitting by a campfire and roasting marshmallows just disappeared – at least in Oregon state campgrounds in much of the state.

The Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department announced Wednesday a ban on campfires of any kind in state campgrounds east of Interstate 5. The move hits some of the largest and most popular parks in Oregon - about 2,000 campsites in all.

At the same time, the Oregon Forestry Department imposed a similar ban on state forests in the state east of the freeway.

The restriction takes hold on Thursday, July 22.

“This includes charcoal fires, cooking fires, warming fires, charcoal briquettes, pellet grills, candles, tiki torches and other devices that emit flames or embers. Portable cooking stoves or propane lanterns using liquefied or bottle fuels are allowed, though propane fire pits are not,” the state agencies said in a joint announcement.

The statement said Oregon is already enduring several large wildfires and on average 7 out of 10 wildfires are caused by people.

“These additional restrictions are intended to help reduce the number of human-caused fire starts. This will allow firefighters to focus on the existing large fires as well as new blazes that may emerge,” according to the announcement.

The agencies said that “the step of banning campfires east of Interstate 5 was deemed a necessary measure to protect life and property in what is already a very challenging and dangerous fire season.”

Campers are urged to take meals with them that don’t require cooking.

Chris Havel of the Parks Department said campers can face a warning, citation, or expulsion from the park if they violate the ban. They can also be fined up to $2,000.

No wildfires this season have been traced to campgrounds as the starting point.

"We’ve had close calls," Havel said. "The last thing we want to do is be, though, is the reason some fire crew has to rush to a new fire, even if the odds are low."

So far, he said, there are no plans to close campgrounds except in the face of an evacuation order. He said the state closes a campground if it falls under a Level 2 evacuation order - get ready. That is a step sooner than mandated evacuations under a Level 3.

July 21, 2021 at 12:21pm

Salem police arrest suspect in cantina shooting

Salem police said Wednesday that Nevada law enforcement agencies have arrested a suspect in a July 10 bar shooting that left two men dead in northeast Salem.

Nivardo Ramirez Monge, 21, was arrested on suspicion of two counts of first-degree murder, Salem police spokesman Lt. Treven Upkes said.

The shooting at Capital Cantina (formerly Woody's Cantina), 1486 Hawthorne Ave. N.E., left Jose Pablo Arrevalo, 27 and Erlin Adonay Rivas-Lopez, 29, dead. Both men lived in Salem.

Salem police identified Monge as a suspect in the shooting and determined he was in Nevada during their investigation, according to a news release. Police said Nevada authorities arrested Monge on Monday, July 19 Tonopah, Nevada.

Police detectives have started the process to bring Monge to Salem for prosecution, the release said.

-Rachel Alexander

July 21, 2021 at 10:20am

Most Salem families will get up to $1,100 per child to buy food

Veronica Diaz squirts mayonnaise on her son Victor's sandwich during a free summer lunch at Washington Elementary School on June 18, 2019 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

If you get an unexpected piece of mail with a South Dakota return address, don't throw it out.

Oregon is mailing out payments starting Thursday to the families of about 450,000 children and teens across the state enrolled in preschool or public school to make up for free school meals missed during pandemic-related school closures.

About 39,000 children enrolled in the Salem-Keizer School District - nearly the entire student body - should receive the payments.

Families can expect three payments in July, August and September of up to $408 per child, the state's Department of Human Services said.

Each payment is supposed to cover two or three months of missed school meals during the 2020-21 school year. The state said families will receive $136 for each month public schools were closed entirely, and $75 for each month when schools were operating in a hybrid of online and in-person classes.

Families already enrolled in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, also called food stamps, will see the extra money added to their existing cards. Those not enrolled will receive a debit card mailed from a South Dakota return address.

The money can be used to buy food and beverages at retailers that take food stamp benefits, which includes nearly all grocery stores, as well as many farmer's markets.

The money is part of Oregon's response to the pandemic and will be sent to every child who receives free or reduced price school meals. That's true even if the child's school offered brown bag meals while school buildings were closed, as Salem-Keizer schools did.

Free school meals are intended to ensure children from low-income families don't go hungry and can focus on schoolwork. Children normally qualify to receive those meals based on their household income. But schools where at least 40% of students qualify for free meals can opt to offer the meals to all students, cutting down on paperwork.

Of the 65 schools in the Salem-Keizer district, 63 make free meals available to all, district spokesman Aaron Harada said.

Only Candalaria Elementary School and Straub Middle School don't do so. That means families at those schools will only receive a payment if they normally receive free lunch at school.

More information about the program is available on the state's human services website.

Oregon families who don't normally get SNAP benefits will receive a card in the mail like this to cover school meals missed during closures. (Department of Human Services)

-Rachel Alexander