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City maps out response to Carson-Pacific Pride fire damage

MT file photoSeveral buildings were destroyed in the April 12 Carson-Pacific Pride fire along South Central Avenue in Medford.

Medford City Council heard from staff Thursday about the city’s response to the fire and oil spill at Carson-Pacific Pride on the evening of April 12.

Councilors unanimously ratified a local emergency declaration that could help the city assist local businesses affected by the fire.

The fire was reported at 9:39 p.m. and burned well into the following day. Seven businesses housed in four buildings adjacent to the commercial fueling station at 936 South Central Ave. were destroyed.

Also, more than 20,000 gallons of oil — mostly lubricant — evaporated or escaped from the commercial fuel station as a result of the fire, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, DEQ.

The portion that didn’t evaporate flowed from the Pacific Pride location along South Central Avenue into the road, down storm drains and into Bear Creek. That amount is unknown.

Medford City Manager Brian Sjothun announced that businesses affected by the fire won’t be required to pay utility fees — which is allowed with the city’s emergency declaration.

“It’s not a lot of money, but it is significant to someone who has lost their building and can’t generate revenue,” Sjothun said.

He also said the area’s federally elected officials and the city’s contract lobbyists advised Medford officials about how the declaration could also aid the city if it needs assistance with cleanup along the Bear Creek Greenway, for example.

Some sources of help mentioned by city officials for those who own or work for businesses affected by the fire include WorkSource Oregon Rogue Valley, which was scheduled to meet with business owners late last week, and the Oregon Employment Department, which will assist workers left unemployed.

City officials intend to support businesses that wish to obtain assistance as well as find ways to expedite issues that could arise as these business owners move forward with their recoveries.

City Attorney Eric Mitton said city officials can provide some assistance as businesses begin to rebuild by allowing for some flexibility with the municipal codes as businesses eventually begin to rebuild or repair with the emergency declaration in place through Oct. 12.

The declaration could be extended past that date, if necessary.

The right lane of South Central Avenue that remains closed could be that way for a while as crews continue cleaning up the oil. The road still closed is softened from contact with oil.

“You can kick the asphalt with your boot and basically tear it,” John Vial, the city’s public works director, explained.

He told councilors it could take a few weeks before road repair could begin. The work would require grinding out 600 feet of the road and replacing it.

The city’s entire storm drain system has been thoroughly cleaned and much of the oil has been removed. The fire site itself is expected to require at least several weeks of remediation, Vial also said.

And businesses there are accessible.

Now, “a light intermittent sheen is present on the creek and is expected to persist for some time,” the DEQ announced Friday. “But cleanup crews have collected and disposed of most of the recoverable oil in and around the creek that flows through Medford and into the Rogue River.”

Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finished their work to guide the cleanup and have left. Crews have completed most of the cleanup of petroleum products released into the water, the DEQ reported.

Some oily sheen had been visible on the surface of Rogue River earlier not long after the fire.

“Daily water sampling in Bear Creek continues to snow a declining trend of dissolved oil in the creek,” the DEQ also noted.

The DEQ will continue watching for oil accumulations and taking samples from the Rogue River.

Officials with the Oregon Department of Wildlife will be on the lookout for animals affected by the oil release.

People are asked not to approach or handle these animals — including those that were oiled. Instead, call 541-857-2407 to notify experts in wildlife rehabilitation. International Bird Rescue helped care for oiled Canada geese and mallard duck during the past week.

It was stated during the council meeting that several oiled birds died.

NexGen Logistics LLC, Pacific Pride’s operator, is paying for contractors and funding the significant response, including wildlife rescue and recovery efforts.