Archive for the ‘News briefs’ Category

News brief: Mineral timber fire still burns

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Smoke rises from hillside across from Mineral Lake. /Courtesy photo by Moira J. Thomas-Fisk McCreery

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Some 55 personnel worked the Mineral area wildfire today which has made its way into mature timber but a couple days of work still remain, according to a spokesperson from the state Department of Natural Resources.

At mid-day, the scorched area was measured at about six acres and the fire 25 percent contained, spokesperson Nick Cronquist of DNR said.

Lewis County Fire District 9 Chief Kevin Mounce said it was about 6 p.m. on Sunday when he looked out a window and saw smoke rising from just to the northwest of the Mineral Lake Lodge, in a clearcut on private property.

Carolyn McKelvie who owns and operates the lodge said it was about that same time she smelled smoke and checked every room in her building.

“My guests had just had a wedding and were down at the lake,” McKelvie said. “They saw flames and came running up the hill.”

The lodge is on the 100 block of Mineral Hill Road across the street from the lake.

The fire came less than a quarter mile from her place but crews have built a large fire break to protect it, McKelvie said today.

Mounce called upon fellow fire departments in Glenoma and Morton to assist and then DNR arrived about 8:30 p.m. Sunday. He turned the scene over to the state agency, he said.

DNR dealt with the fire overnight and yesterday morning it flared up and grew, he said.

“The winds came up around 9:30 or 10 and it started taking off on us then,” Mounce said.

DNR brought in two helicopters yesterday which dropped water on the flames for much of the day, according to Mounce. The terrain is described as very steep.

Today, DNR utilized three hand crews, three engines and a dozer, according to Cronquist. The helicopters remain on standby.

This afternoon, Cronquist characterized the spread potential as very low.


Two helicopters use water from Mineral Lake to suppress fire across the road on Monday. / Courtesy photo by Carolyn McKelvie

News brief: Wildfire burning in Mineral

Monday, September 8th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Firefighters are actively working a fire this morning that ignited off Mineral Hill Road in Mineral yesterday.

Personnel from the state Department of Natural Resources were called about 6 p.m. to the scene, where it was slowly creeping up a timbered slope, according to a DNR spokesperson.

Last night they continued to mop up and they are out there again today, spokesperson Janet Pierce said. It was estimated at 2.8 acres, she said.

A DNR dispatcher in Castle Rock this morning said it started in a clearcut on mostly flat ground, but firefighters are working also on a pretty steep incline. She said she didn’t have a “size up” yet this morning.

News brief: Meet Chehalis fire chief candidates

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It will probably take a week or so before a new fire chief will be decided upon for the city of Chehalis after tomorrow’s day of interviewing the three finalists, according to Chehalis City Manager Merlin MacReynold.

Jeff Larson

The change comes almost six months after the departure of halftime chief, Jim Walkowski who was also head of neighboring Riverside Fire Authority in Centralia but moved to Spokane County to take a new job. Capt. Rob Gebhart is serving as interim chief.

MacReynold said the city interviewed about a half dozen candidates and any one of the three remaining could do the job.

“But what’s important is they’re a good fit for the community,” MacReynold said.

Joseph Sands

Which is why tomorrow each will be interviewed by four different panels and then by MacReynold. Then at 4:30 p.m., the city council and the public will get to meet them, he said.

“At the council meeting, we’ll have them get up and talk about their experience and why they’re interested in coming to Chehalis,” he said.

The pay is in the high $80,000s per year, according to MacReynold. The Chehalis Fire Department has 14 employees.

The three men are:

Gary Woodson

• Jeff Larson, who for the past 13 years has been fire suppression battalion chief with the city of Lodi, California. Involved in the fire service almost 30 years.

• Joseph Sands is an engineer-paramedic in Billings, Montana, serving previously in several locations in positions that have included assistant chief and interim chief. Has more than 22 years experience of emergency service.

• Gary Woodson, former fire chief for Pendleton, Ore. Fire and Ambulance Department where he started in 2010. Involved in the fire service since 1974.

Plea bargain struck in Riffe’s 1980s child sex case

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – There will be no trial as to whether former Mossyrock resident Ricky Riffe sexually abused his 9-year-old step-daughter in the mid-1980s.

It was scheduled to start next week, but instead he is expected in court tomorrow to plead guilty to something less than originally charged, as part of a plea deal.


Ricky Riffe

Riffe, 55, was sentenced last year to nearly 103 years in prison, following a lengthy trial and his conviction in the 1985 kidnapping, robbery and shotgun deaths of an elderly Ethel couple, Ed and Minnie Maurin.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer confirmed this afternoon that a change of plea hearing will take place tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. in Lewis County Superior Court, but declined to say more.

Riffe’s Seattle-based defense attorney John Crowley confirmed he and prosecutors made a deal.

Riffe was arrested in the summer of 2012 in the Maurin homicides and brought to Lewis County from his home in Alaska. The following February, prosecutors charged him with what was then called statutory rape as well as indecent liberties, saying new information came to light.

He appeared in court briefly a week ago, as lawyers talked about a defense motion to move the child sex abuse trial to another locale, with Crowley contending his client would not face an impartial jury in Lewis County.

Crowley said late this afternoon the plan is Riffe will plead guilty to one count of indecent liberties, an offense that would have a standard sentencing range of around five years in prison. He also declined to say more.

For background, read:

• “Attorneys dispute statute of limitations rules on surprise child sex charge for Maurin double murder defendant” from Saturday February 23, 2013, here

• “Riffe maintains innocence in face of sentence of more than a century for Maurin murders” from Tuesday December 3, 2013, here

News brief: Semi truck hits car loaded with kids, drives away

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Chehalis woman and three children were hospitalized after their car was struck by a semi truck changing lanes on northbound Interstate 5 near Napavine last night.

It happened just before 9 p.m. near the exit 72 interchange and the Honda Accord came to rest striking the center barrier, according to the Washington State Patrol. The big rig continued on without stopping, according to the state patrol.

Transported to Providence Centralia Hospital were Finola B. Erickson, 30, a 1-year-old baby girl and two boys, ages 4 and 8, the investigating trooper reports.

Lewis County Fire District 5 Chief Gregg Peterson said he understands the injuries were minor; everyone was reportedly belted in.

All were discharged from the hospital last night, according to a state patrol spokesperson.

News brief: Controlled substance homicide trial on track for November

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 36-year-old man who police believe sold heroin to a Centralia man who died of a drug overdose the same night appeared briefly in Lewis County Superior Court today as lawyers ready for his November trial.


Robert T. Lusk

Robert T. Lusk was charged in June with controlled substance homicide for the death last spring of 23-year-old Tyson J. Anderson in Centralia.

Prosecutors and defense attorney Erik Kupka notified the judge in writing today the trial could take as long as five days. His client’s defense is general denial, according to Kupka.

The trial in Lewis County Superior Court is on the calendar for the week of Nov. 3.

For background, read “Centralia heroin death leads to criminal charge for person who allegedly supplied the drug” from Wednesday June 11, 2014, here

Ricky Riffe must wait to learn if trial can be moved

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Gone is the bushy beard and long hair Ricky Riffe seemed to have begun cultivating once he was convicted last December.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Ricky A. Riffe appeared just very briefly in Lewis County Superior Court today, as lawyers prepare for a second trial in two years for the former Mossyrock man.

Riffe, 55, was charged last year with sexually abusing  his 9-year-old step-daughter in the mid-1980s, as he awaited trial for the 1985 kidnapping, robbery and shotgun deaths of an elderly Ethel couple.

He was convicted and sent to prison for nearly 103 years.

Defense attorney John Crowley filed a motion asking the trial get moved, saying his client would not face an impartial jury in Lewis County given inflammatory publicity beginning after his arrest in the notorious unsolved old case.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told Judge James Lawler this afternoon he opposed the motion, saying the issue is “not ripe.” A legal term, Meyer said, meaning premature.

“You don’t know that until you get your jury pool,” Meyer said.

Crowley told the judge he agreed and the parties concluded the question about a change of venue could be dealt with before, but during the same week as the trial.

The trial is scheduled for the week of Sept. 8.

Coroner: Pilot from Centralia, died from head injury

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The man killed when his small plane went down into a parking lot next to Interstate 5 in Chehalis has been positively identified as Gregory G. Graham, 66, of Centralia, the Lewis County Coroner’s Office said this evening.


Chehalis Collision Center lot

The cause of Tuesday night’s fiery crash of the single-engine plane remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board but Coroner Warren McLeod said the cause of Graham’s death is blunt force trauma to his head.

Chehalis-Centralia Airport Manager Allyn Roe said Graham was a new face at the airport, renting a hangar on Aug. 15.

He purchased a P5151 Mustang from out of the area, had it trailered in and with others had been reassembling it for the past week and half, according to Roe.

Officials said witnesses watched the plane take off and appear to become unstable before coming down inside the fenced area of a closed vehicle repair business. Nobody else was hurt, despite the surrounding area consisting of a residential neighborhood to the east and a busy retail area including Wal-Mart and K-Mart to the west.

The aircraft is classified an experimental plane, meaning it was built by an individual and not a factory. Roe described it as a three-quarter-scale replica of a popular WWII fighter plane.

Its tail number identifies it as owned by Paul Piper in Waynesfield, Ohio in the registration database of the Federal Aviation Administration, with a manufacture date of 2007.

For background, read “Professional pilot watched small plane struggle to climb before deadly Chehalis crash” from Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014, here

News brief: Chehalis resident locked up briefly for assault of baseball player

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Updated at 8:48 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Prison is waiting for a rural Chehalis man after a judge sentenced him for an assault at a Centralia party that left the victim with a broken jaw.

The victim lost 40 pounds because he couldn’t eat and lost a college baseball scholarship, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Mark McClain said. The 19-year-old from Nevada was among about the top 10 prospects in the country before the incident, he said.

Cole T. Rife was given 19 and one half months today for his earlier convictions by a Lewis County jury of second-degree assault and attempted first-degree burglary. He was found not guilty of witness tampering, McClain said.

Following his release, he will be under the supervision of the state Department of Corrections for three years.

He also was ordered to undergo evaluations for anger management and alcohol, and follow the recommendations, McClain said. His lawyer filed a notice of appeal and the judge authorized a $250,000 appeal bond.

Rife, 18, and Tyler L. Burk, 19, from Rochester, were arrested in April for the  March 16 assault at the 500 block of East Maple Street.

Burk testified in Rife’s trial and has pleaded guilty already to lesser charges, according to McClain.

Rife has been out of jail on an unsecured bond since his arrest, and was taken into custody following this morning’s sentencing hearing, McClain said.

Before the day ended, $25,000 was posted with the county clerk’s office on Rife’s behalf, and he was released.

“Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup – FIGHT AT PARTY BRINGS FELONY CHARGES” from Saturday April 19, 2014, here

Fires extinguished at Chehalis Industrial Park

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Firefighters from four departments responded overnight to a fire in the Chehalis Industrial Park at a tire recycling business.

Crews found a semi-trailer about half full of rubber shavings burning, flames from which spread to a conveyor-type piece of machinery, according to Lewis County Fire District 6.

The 1:20 a.m. incident on Melhart Road at Conrad Industries took about an hour to get under control, according to Chief Tim Kinder.

Nobody was hurt and the cause is under investigation, Kinder said.

Just yesterday evening, crews were called to the nearby Mohawk Industries on the 200 block of Downie Road where a small pile of foam beneath a hopper had ignited.

Employees had it nearly extinguished by the time the fire department arrived, Kinder said. Mohawk manufactures carpet padding, according to the chief.

“(It was) mostly smoke, not a lot of damage,” Kinder said.


Contents of trailer at Conrad Industries are extinguished. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 6.

News brief: Local oxycodone dealer goes back to prison

Thursday, August 21st, 2014


By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The accused prolific local trafficker of pain medications was sentenced yesterday to 12 years behind bars, following a plea deal that helped him avoid a third strike and a life sentence.


Forrest E. Amos,

Forrest E. Amos, 31, has been held in the Lewis County Jail since late last year when he was released from prison and charged with a multitude of offenses based on a lengthy investigation by Centralia police.

He originally faced 26 varied charges including leading organized crime, but on July 31 pleaded guilty to 14 offenses. Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead dropped the charge of organized crime.

Halstead also dismissed four counts of intimidating a witness, in a case from this summer in which Amos was suspected of planning from inside the jail to have associates hurt or pressure witnesses against him.

Law enforcement estimated that in 2011 when Amos was aggressively dealing Oxycodone, that he was the main supplier of the synthetic opiate within Lewis County, possessing and dealing thousands of pills a month. Charging documents outlined how Amos reportedly continued to traffic drugs to the outside through others from behind prison walls.

Amos’s second strike came for shanking a fellow inmate while he was in prison for his first strike, taking part in the beating of a man to steal his marijuana  and pistol in the year 2000 when he was 16 years old, according to court documents.

The former resident of Napavine and Chehalis agreed not to appeal his convictions or sentence in any way, according to court documents.

Among the crimes to which he was sentenced were delivery of  Oxycodone while incarcerated during 2013 as well as during 2012 before he was locked up.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey signed an order that included one year of supervision following his release, as well as numerous financial legal obligations including repaying $13,800 for his court-appointed attorney Don Blair.


For background, read, “Police: Organized crime defendant created ‘hit list’ of key witnesses” Thursday June 19, 2014, here

News brief: Truck, body recovered near Randle

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A body found with a pickup truck yesterday afternoon south of Randle has yet to be identified but an autopsy is scheduled for today.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said the vehicle is registered to a man from Bonney Lake who was reported missing on May 27.

The discovery was made by brush or berry pickers at the end of the 161 road, which is off Forest Service Road 23, Cmdr. Steve Aust said.

Detectives aren’t suspecting foul play, Aust said.

Police: Phone tricksters have detailed customer info

Monday, August 18th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Centralia business owner is the latest near-victim of a telephone scam which is growing increasingly common.

In today’s case, like others, the caller pretended to be from a utility company which would be shutting off service if the customer didn’t pay up with a  money order immediately.

“Go to Rite Aid, send money Western Union, you have 45 minutes,” Centralia Police Department Officer Patty Finch said, describing the instructions given to the woman.

The woman actually went to Rite Aid, but was cautioned by employees there not to follow through, according to Finch.

She then called police.

Finch said the people at the other end of the phone line possess information which might lead the potential victim to feel convinced they are talking to their actual provider.

They were able to tell the woman her correct service address and her billing address, which are different, Finch said. “So they have information,” she said.

Centralia officers are getting dispatched to such incidents about every two weeks, Finch said.

They commonly claim to be Centralia City Light, Lewis County PUD or Puget Sound Energy, according to police.

The convincing caller says if the person doesn’t act within the hour, their power or water will be shut off. In today’s case, the woman was told her propane was going to be turned off, Finch said.

“Please be advised that none of these businesses operate in that fashion,” Finch said in a news release today. “If you are asked to wire money though Western Union or any other service, this is most likely a scam.”

Her advice: Contact your service provider first before sending money to anyone.

Birds, burn barrels and continuing fire danger

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Just because it rained a little bit doesn’t mean the risk of brush fires has diminished.

Members of four fire departments responded yesterday afternoon to a fire behind a house on the 400 block of Toledo-Vader Road.

“Apparently rubbish in a burn barrel ended up blowing over into some grass and trees,” Lewis County Fire District 2 Chief Grant Wiltbank said.

The wind was fairly strong and the vegetation is still quite dry, he said.

Crews managed to get it under control within about five minutes of their arrival and kept it to less than an eighth of an acre but spent the next 45 minutes extinguishing hot spots such as a smoldering old stumps, according to the chief.

“A couple more minutes and the fire would have been a really difficult fire to contain,” Wiltbank said.

At least a half dozen personnel from the state Department of Natural Resources joined Lewis County Fire Districts 2, 15 and 20, he said.

Burn barrels are not permitted for use in Washington.

Wiltbank said he didn’t know if DNR issued a citation but said another consideration is anyone who starts a fire illegally, even if it’s an accident, will find themselves responsible ultimately if it gets away and burns down someone else’s home or barn.

“Their insurance is not going to cover it,” he said.

Outdoor burning restrictions were put in place earlier this month by the Lewis County Board of Commissioners. Last week, fire chiefs in the county issued a joint request for people to use extra caution, in part because so many firefighters were out of town helping battle wildfires in Eastern Washington.

Wiltbank said whatever precipitation we’ve gotten isn’t going to be absorbed by grass that is dead out there.

“All it takes right now is a spark in tinder dry grass, and away it goes,” he said.

“The flaming bird fell to the ground and caught the grass on fire.”
– District 12 Battalion Chief Jim Fowler

Just two days ago, members of Thurston County Fire District 12 spent about two hours putting out a fire that threatened Beaver Stadium at Tenino High School.

Crews called about 11:40 a.m. to Hogdgen Street and West Garfield Avenue found tall grass burning, which spread into a stack of stored telephone poles.

District 12 Battalion Chief Jim Fowler said it was knocked down by roughly noon, but they then dug about a 200-foot fire line.

The incident was blamed on a bird, now deceased and now dubbed “Little Sparky,” according to Fowler.

It landed on a transmission line, and then ignited, he said.

“The flaming bird fell to the ground and caught the grass on fire,” Fowler said.

News brief: Driver injured in collision with building

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

One person was hurt when car ran into building. / Courtesy photo by Ken Brown

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 73-year-old Onalaska woman is in satisfactory condition this morning after crashing her car into a building along state Route 508 just east of Interstate 5 yesterday afternoon.

Troopers and aid were called about 4 p.m. to the scene where the four-door sedan was covered with bricks and its single occupant trapped inside, according to responders.

Firefighters had to stabilize the car and remove part of its top to get her out, according to Lewis County Fire District 5.

Marian B. Burton had been traveling eastbound when her Buick Lucerne left the roadway, according to the Washington State Patrol. It happened about three miles east of Interstate 5.

She was airlifted to to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver. Her vehicle was described as totaled and was impounded.

Burton was to be cited for wheels off the roadway, according to the state patrol.

Port Orchard boy’s body being recovered from Ohanapecosh River

Monday, July 28th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Kayakers navigating the Ohanapecosh River in East Lewis County yesterday afternoon located the teen who fell in earlier this month and recovery efforts are underway today.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office says they began at about 10:30 a.m. today, with deputies and members of Packwood Search and Rescue and Olympic Mountain Rescue.

The 17-year-old from Port Orchard was last seen on July 4 being swept down the extremely swift and cold river after he slipped while taking photographs with friends.

The body is in a difficult spot to reach; it took teams two hours to get to it as the terrain is very steep, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown stated in a news release.

Searchers have been hopeful over the past three and half weeks the water levels would drop so the boy would be found, Brown said.

The sheriff’s office has not named him, but The Kitsap Sun identified him as Josh Osborn.

As of about 1:30 p.m. today, teams were still working on removing the boys’ body from the canyon, according to Brown.

The area is near the Cedar Grove Campground off state Route 123 just south of the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, according to the sheriff’s office.

The same day Osborn drowned, an 18-year-old Tacoma resident,  Rashawn J. Hale-Moody, drowned in Alder Lake, at the intersection of Lewis, Thurston and Pierce counties.

Read about Thurston County ordered to pay millions in Maytown case …

Friday, July 18th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Olympian reports a Lewis County jury decided that the Thurston County commission illegally interfered with the sale of property near Maytown and awarded the Port of Tacoma $8 million and Maytown Sand & Gravel $4 million.

News reporter John Gillie writes the lengthy trial revolved around a commission decision to order additional environmental studies and hearings during a review of its already issued 20-year gravel mining permit for the site.

Read about it here