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Local dancers join The Eugene Ballet Company in its annual performance of ‘The Nutcracker’

COOS BAY – Nothing kicks off the holiday season quite like “The Nutcracker.”

With angels, dancing mice and toy soldiers all accounted for, the annual production transformed the Hales Center of Performing Arts this weekend for residents throughout Coos County to enjoy.

Dance Umbrella for South Coast Oregon, which sponsors the yearly performance, has partnered with Eugene Ballet for the past 24 years in bringing the classic play to the Bay Area.

Christine Rader, artistic director for DUSCO, said the nonprofit works with local students throughout Coos County in perfecting their ballet dancing abilities. The group does so by offering students a chance to participate in its master classes, workshops and performances.

“We fundraise and take donations throughout the year to bring in other youth companies from across the state to perform here with our dancers,” Rader said. “It’s really helpful to have them come and help our audiences see what professional dancing looks like.”

This year, about 50 students from around the South Coast performed in the play, which included dancers from Time and Tide Dance Company, MarLo Dance Studio, Pacific School of Dance and Shockwave Dance Company to name a few.

In late September, auditions for “The Nutcracker” began as an instructor from the Eugene Ballet came down to meet the local dancers and choreographed their performances.

“This was a good year,” Rader said. “Mostly, everyone got a part. For some of the dancers, it’s their first time and others have grown with the play and have been in every part since they were five years old.”

Before opening day, the group had about six weeks to rehearse with local teachers at the Pacific School of Dance studio. This year, the shows were spread out and presented Friday and Saturday, different than previous years of presenting back-to-back shows in one day.

Along with gaining the experience of dancing with a professional company, Rader said it’s also a great time for local students to chat with Eugene Ballet members about the industry and gather valuable insight.

DUSCO also offers a pre-professional dance company, Ballet Pacific, which auditions students from surrounding schools to join. The company will provide scholarships to its students to participate in dance training programs and performances around the country. In March, DUSCO will also host its “Carnival of the Animals” featuring third grade community dancers and students from its company.  

“It’s just been really fun seeing the (dancers) get ready,” Rader said. “It’s a special feeling to be able to provide this opportunity for them and see how excited and happy they are.”

As for the Eugene Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” tour, the company will be pirouetting its way through Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska from now until December 18. The play featured 23 dancers from the company, which was choreographed by its artistic director Toni Pimble.

For a full schedule of its showing, you can visit

Searchers in California wildfire step up efforts before rain

CHICO, Calif. — Volunteers in white coveralls, hard hats and masks poked through ash-covered debris Sunday, searching for the remains of victims of the devastating Northern California wildfire before rains that are forecast for this week complicate their efforts.

While the rain could help tamp down the blazes that have killed 77 people so far, it also could wash away telltale fragments of bone or turn loose, dry ash into a thick paste that would frustrate the search.

A team of 10 volunteers went from burned house to burned house Sunday in the devastated town of Paradise, accompanied by a cadaver dog with a bell on its collar that jingled in the grim landscape.

The members of the team — one of several involved in the search — scrutinized the rubble in five-minute sweeps, using sticks to move aside debris and focused on vehicles, bathtubs and what was left of mattresses. When no remains were found, they spray-painted a large, orange "0" near the house.

Robert Panak, a volunteer on a different search and recovery team from Napa County, spent the morning searching homes, but didn't find any remains.

Asked whether the job was tough, the 50-year-old volunteer said, "I just think about the positives, bringing relief to the families, closure."

He said his approach was to try to picture the house before it burned and think about where people might have hidden.

Almost 1,000 names are on a list of people who are unaccounted for more than a week after the fire began in Butte County, authorities said late Saturday. They stressed that the long roster does not mean they believe all those on the list are missing.

Sheriff Kory Honea pleaded with evacuees to review the list of those reported as unreachable by family and friends and to call the department if those people are known to be safe.

Deputies have located hundreds of people to date, but the overall number keeps growing because they are adding more names, including those from the chaotic early hours of the disaster, Honea said.

"As much as I wish that we could get through all of this before the rains come, I don't know if that's possible," he said.

Honea said it was within the "realm of possibility" that officials would never know the exact death toll from the blaze.

On Sunday afternoon, more than 50 people gathered at a memorial for the victims at First Christian Church in Chico, where a banner on the altar read, "We will rise from the ashes."

People hugged and shed tears as Pastor Jesse Kearns recited a prayer for first responders: "We ask for continued strength as they are growing weary right now."

Hundreds of search and recovery personnel are involved in the effort, going to homes when they receive tips that someone might have died there.

But they are also doing a more comprehensive, "door-to-door" and "car-to-car" search of areas, said Joe Moses, a commander with the Monterey County Sheriff's Office, who is helping oversee the search and rescue effort.

The search area is huge, Moses said, with many structures that need to be checked.

The fire also burned many places to the ground, creating a landscape unique to many search-and- rescue personnel, he said.

"Here we're looking for very small parts and pieces, and so we have to be very diligent and systematic in how we do your searches," he said Friday.

The remains of five more people were found Saturday, including four in Paradise and one in nearby Concow, bringing the number of dead to 77.

Among them was Lolene Rios, 56, whose son, Jed, tearfully told KXTV in Sacramento that his mother had an "endless amount of love" for him.

President Donald Trump toured the area Saturday, joined by California's outgoing and incoming governors, both Democrats who have traded sharp barbs with the Republican administration. Trump also visited Southern California, where firefighters were making progress on a wildfire that tore through communities west of Los Angeles from Thousand Oaks to Malibu, killing three people.

"We've never seen anything like this in California; we've never seen anything like this yet. It's like total devastation," Trump said as he stood amid the ruins of Paradise and pledged the full support of the federal government.

Soon after the fire began, Trump blamed state officials for poor forest management and threatened to cut off federal funding.

"He's got our back," outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"There have been some back and forth between California leaders and the president," Brown said. "But in the face of tragedy, people tend to rise above some of their lesser propensities. So I think we're on a good path."

He also suggested California's severe wildfires will make believers of even the most ardent climate change skeptics "in less than five years," and that those living near forests might need to build underground shelters to protect them from fires.

Rain was forecast for midweek in the Paradise area. The National Weather Service said the area could get 20 mph sustained winds and 40 mph gusts, which could make it hard for crews to keep making progress against the blaze.

Northern California's Camp Fire has destroyed more than 10,000 homes and torched 233 square miles. It was 55 percent contained.

Honea expressed hope that Trump's visit would help with recovery, saying the tour by the Republican president and California's Democratic leaders "signals a spirit of cooperation here that ultimately benefits this community and gets us on a path toward recovery."

Forest Service to propose measures for southern Oregon

MEDFORD (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service plans to propose measures for southern Oregon aimed at reducing the size and intensity of wildfires and creating healthier forests better able to withstand the hotter, drier conditions brought by climate change.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest plan would include a mix of commercial logging and brush removal on 22,000 acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, the Mail Tribune reported Sunday.

It would include nearly 5,000 acres of prescribed fire and using fire to maintain up to 13,000 acres of previously burned areas.

Research shows the forest will better adapt to hotter, drier climates if the density of its tree stands is reduced and the growth of more fire-resistant trees is promoted. Growing more oak and pine trees instead of Douglas fir will also help the forests adapt.

"The objective is to make the watershed more resilient to disturbances like fire, insects and climate change," said Don Boucher, the forest's district ecologist and main architect of the plan.

In all, the package could cost up to $14 million, with as much as $2 million generated from commercial logging and the remainder coming from future grants, Boucher said.

The plan is detailed in an environmental assessment expected to be released Wednesday.

The proposals include 18 miles of new hiking trails and 4 miles of new off-highway vehicle trails. Miles of unauthorized trails would be decommissioned.

The environmental assessment will be up for public comment for a month, with comments incorporated in a final decision expected next spring, Boucher said. Work could begin next summer, he said.

Amanda Astor, southwest Oregon field forester for the American Forest Resource Council, said she thinks it's a good project overall. She said it's going to be "really good" for the landscape.

Tim Niemela from the Motorcycle Riders Association said the amount of proposed new trails shows a bias against motorized users. He believes it doesn't acknowledge the work his group does in the woods.

Local franchise matches Domino's Pizza grant for road work

COOS BAY -- In response to a $5,000 grant from Domino's Pizza to the City of Coos Bay as a way to fill potholes, Coos Bay’s local Domino’s franchise has offered to match it dollar-for-dollar.

Owners of the Coos Bay Domino’s will be giving the city another $5,000, also to be used for filling potholes.

The initial grant comes from a nationwide campaign the company launched where citizens in each state can nominate their city to receive a grant for road improvements.

Coos Bay was awarded the first grant because enough people in the community took the time to fill out a survey on Domino’s website.

Over the past spring and summer, the City of Coos Bay patched a total of 150 potholes for $200,000. Based on that total, each pothole patch costs an average $1,333. This means the $10,000 the city is receiving from Domino’s should fix around eight potholes.

Since the season for street projects is in the spring and summer, it’s unlikely any of these funds will be used until the weather changes. The $10,000 will be added to a road maintenance fund and used during next summer’s pothole project.