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2014 – A fiery year comes to an end in Grant County

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on December 29, 2014 2:36PM

Last changed on December 29, 2014 2:40PM

A late-night fire blasted out the windows as it charred the contents at the east end of the Grant Education Service District building, fronting on Canyon Boulevard, in September. Investigators determined a security light bulb had dropped to the ground, igniting foliage and causing the fire. The ESD is rebuilding on the same footprint at the site.

A late-night fire blasted out the windows as it charred the contents at the east end of the Grant Education Service District building, fronting on Canyon Boulevard, in September. Investigators determined a security light bulb had dropped to the ground, igniting foliage and causing the fire. The ESD is rebuilding on the same footprint at the site.

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Firefighters work amid the wreckage of the Mt. Vernon Motel explosion and fire, which rocked the quiet town in September. Several residents of the complex were left homeless, and Tim Sherlock, who lived in the unit where the blast hit, is still recovering from burns. He was pulled to safety by a neighbor, Bob Dodson.

Firefighters work amid the wreckage of the Mt. Vernon Motel explosion and fire, which rocked the quiet town in September. Several residents of the complex were left homeless, and Tim Sherlock, who lived in the unit where the blast hit, is still recovering from burns. He was pulled to safety by a neighbor, Bob Dodson.

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Smoke billows from the Lost Hubcap Fire in late August. It burned south of Monument, charring 2,700 acres before it was contained in September.

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Smoke billows from the Lost Hubcap Fire in late August. It burned south of Monument, charring 2,700 acres before it was contained in September.

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Local 4-H members were on hand for an August benefit dinner to help with medical expenses for Sue Horn, the county roadmaster who is battling brain cancer. Helping with the dessert auction were Whitney McClellan, left, Fallon Weaver, Jeannie McCarthy, Macy Strong and Paige Weaver.

Local 4-H members were on hand for an August benefit dinner to help with medical expenses for Sue Horn, the county roadmaster who is battling brain cancer. Helping with the dessert auction were Whitney McClellan, left, Fallon Weaver, Jeannie McCarthy, Macy Strong and Paige Weaver.

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Voters in 2014 gave the OK for a new fire station in John Day. A bond measure approved in the city and the John Day Rural Fire District will replace the out-dated fire station on Dayton Street, which officials said was too small for modern equipment and suffered from leaks.

Voters in 2014 gave the OK for a new fire station in John Day. A bond measure approved in the city and the John Day Rural Fire District will replace the out-dated fire station on Dayton Street, which officials said was too small for modern equipment and suffered from leaks.

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A plume of smoke flows across the mountains in this panoramic view of the South Fork Complex fires, which burned more than 66,000 acres of timber and rangeland. The fire was sparked by lightning on Aug. 1 and declared contained six weeks later.

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A plume of smoke flows across the mountains in this panoramic view of the South Fork Complex fires, which burned more than 66,000 acres of timber and rangeland. The fire was sparked by lightning on Aug. 1 and declared contained six weeks later.

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Local residents were heartened last spring by news that the Malheur Lumber Co. sawmill in John Day would be adding a second shift. The mill’s prospects were buoyed by the continuation of the Malheur National Forest’s 10-year stewardship program. Local company Iron Triangle is the contractor for the forest wide program, which is expected to give timber- and resource-related local businesses a firmer economic footing.

Local residents were heartened last spring by news that the Malheur Lumber Co. sawmill in John Day would be adding a second shift. The mill’s prospects were buoyed by the continuation of the Malheur National Forest’s 10-year stewardship program. Local company Iron Triangle is the contractor for the forest wide program, which is expected to give timber- and resource-related local businesses a firmer economic footing.

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District Attorney Ryan Joslin and his election challenger Jim Carpenter await questions at a community forum at the Mt. Vernon Grange. Carpenter went on to win the race, and will be sworn into office Jan. 5 at the Courthouse in Canyon City. Joslin recently announced plans to join the Benton County District Attorney’s Office in the new year.

District Attorney Ryan Joslin and his election challenger Jim Carpenter await questions at a community forum at the Mt. Vernon Grange. Carpenter went on to win the race, and will be sworn into office Jan. 5 at the Courthouse in Canyon City. Joslin recently announced plans to join the Benton County District Attorney’s Office in the new year.

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Forest Service rangeland staffer Ernie Gipson points out grazing information at a John Day open house in March on the proposed Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision. The public comment period for the revision was extended in 2014 after residents protested they didn’t have enough time to digest the massive document.

Forest Service rangeland staffer Ernie Gipson points out grazing information at a John Day open house in March on the proposed Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision. The public comment period for the revision was extended in 2014 after residents protested they didn’t have enough time to digest the massive document.

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Grant County Farm Bureau president Jeff Thomas, flanked by Mark Webb, Mt. Vernon Mayor Sue Horn and Shaun Robertson, talks to the County Court about issues surrounding the proposed sale of the Grouse Mountain Ranch for a new state park. The state withdrew the park proposal in the face of stiff opposition from local ranchers and others worried about the loss of land from the local tax rolls.

Grant County Farm Bureau president Jeff Thomas, flanked by Mark Webb, Mt. Vernon Mayor Sue Horn and Shaun Robertson, talks to the County Court about issues surrounding the proposed sale of the Grouse Mountain Ranch for a new state park. The state withdrew the park proposal in the face of stiff opposition from local ranchers and others worried about the loss of land from the local tax rolls.

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A motorist checks out his options for travel south on Highway 395, as a manhunt blockaded the town of Seneca in October. A local man is being held on charges stemming from the incident, which began with shots fired into the Timbers Inn cabins. Law enforcement agencies streamed into the community south of John Day after the man fled into the darkness. He was arrested without incident the following evening.

A motorist checks out his options for travel south on Highway 395, as a manhunt blockaded the town of Seneca in October. A local man is being held on charges stemming from the incident, which began with shots fired into the Timbers Inn cabins. Law enforcement agencies streamed into the community south of John Day after the man fled into the darkness. He was arrested without incident the following evening.

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Dave Traylor presents a sign, crafted from a pine board, that explains the county’s name at a ceremony held in October in Canyon City’s park, marking the 150th birthday of Grant County. The sign was a gift to the county. The Grant County Chamber of Commerce organized the festivities.

Dave Traylor presents a sign, crafted from a pine board, that explains the county’s name at a ceremony held in October in Canyon City’s park, marking the 150th birthday of Grant County. The sign was a gift to the county. The Grant County Chamber of Commerce organized the festivities.

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It’s been a year of fire – fire in the mountains, fire in town – in Grant County.

The long, hot fire season started June 9 – about three weeks early, triggered by drought conditions. Persistent lightning storms through the summer set off blazes that continued into the fall.

In all, wildland fires burned more than 300,000 acres – state, federal and private – across the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Central Oregon district. Several of the large fires scorched territory in Grant County, including the Waterman Complex, the Sunflower Fire, Lost Hubcap, Southfork Complex, and Bald Sisters Fire.

As ODF District Forester George Ponte summed it up, nearly all the fires in the district were multi-jurisdictional ones – burning across ownership boundaries and requiring joint response. By season’s end, 11 incident commanders had been brought in to work on the region’s fires.

Community fire agencies were busy too, especially in late summer, as unrelated fires burned the Mt. Vernon Motel and the Grant County ESD office. Neither was arson; the Mt. Vernon fire was blamed on leaking propane conduit and the ESD fire was sparked by a hot light fixture that failed and fell into foliage on the ground next to the log structure.

But there also was good news in the fire business, as voters passed a bond measure to build a new fire station in John Day. Plans are underway to build to serve both the city and the rural fire district.

And fires weren’t the only hot spot in Grant County.

Early in the year, tempers ran strong in a battle over the proposed sale of the Grouse Mountain Ranch to Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The deal, which was unveiled in 2013, set off a debate over private property rights and the county’s eroding private property tax base.

In early 2014, the state agency pulled the plug on the deal, citing intense opposition. Later this year, a portion of the ranch was reportedly sold in a private deal.

The election season also stirred community debate, with an unexpectedly fierce race between old friends and former co-workers for the district attorney’s job. The competition ended with challenger Jim Carpenter claiming the win over incumbent Ryan Joslin, who ends his second term in office this month.

In this issue, the Eagle offers some images from the events of 2014.























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