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A month-by-month review of 2015

A monthly synopsis of 2015.

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on December 29, 2015 5:57PM

Clinton Shaver, with the Molalla Rural Fire District, watches as a tree goes up in flames on the Canyon Creek Complex south of John Day.

Eagle file photo

Clinton Shaver, with the Molalla Rural Fire District, watches as a tree goes up in flames on the Canyon Creek Complex south of John Day.

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Undoubtedly, the 110,000-acre Canyon Creek Complex fire that destroyed 43 homes was the biggest story of 2015 in Grant County.

With its destruction and evacuations, followed by countless acts of charity for victims and the difficult task of rehabilitation and flood mitigation, the fire consumed news coverage as effectively as it decimated the forest.

The year, however, had many other highlights that may have been easily overshadowed by the plumes of smoke and flood of firefighters. Following is a month-by-month recap of the year that was 2015.


• Ochoco Lumber Co. laid off the second shift of employees at its Malheur Lumber Co. mill in John Day.

• The Grant County Library Foundation received a $20,000 grant to move toward its goal of a new county library.

• Maureen McGrath was hired as the executive director of Umatilla Morrow Head Start.

• Jim Sullens was honored for volunteering at Prairie City Fire Department for 50 years.

• Travis Frizzell escaped from Juniper Ridge Acute Care Facility before being captured the same day.

• Grant Western Lumber Co. auctioned the sawmill and equipment at the site at the west end of John Day.

• Andy Anderson was sworn in as Mt. Vernon mayor.

• Nick Ballou opened Nick’s Barber Shop in John Day.

• The European ear snail was found in the John Day River system.

• Jim Hamsher was sworn in as Prairie City mayor.

• The U.S. Forest Service received support from the regional office to re-engage with Eastern Oregon residents before moving forward on a new forest plan.

• Greg Moon became the new ranger of Malheur National Forest’s Prairie City District.


• Irene Jerome, an independent forestry consultant in Grant County, received one of 21 national Wildfire Mitigation Awards.

• State officials counted at least four breeding pairs of wolves for the third consecutive year among the packs east of Highways 395, 78 and 95, triggering Phase II of the Wolf Management and Conservation Plan.

• Attorneys for Grant County and Dean Hoodenpyl, director of the county’s community corrections department, denied discrimination during a Dec. 9, 2013, hiring meeting.

• The Oregon parole board ruled Sidney Dean Porter would spend at least five more years in prison for the killing of John Day police officer Frank Ward in 1992.

• Dong Cai’an, a school principal from China, visited Grant School District.

• Former John Day Police Chief Richard Tirico pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree official misconduct.

• Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned and was succeeded by Secretary of State Kate Brown.

• The Long Creek City Council approved a conditional use permit for Grant County Fiber to operate a small-wood chipping facility at the old mill site.

• After a winter break, work resumed on John Day’s Main Street and Canyon Boulevard improvement project.

• Monument-area resident Roy Peterson was indicted on 10 charges stemming from the acquisition of equipment for a fire district.

• Sheriff Glenn Palmer was named the county’s deputy medical examiner.

• County Commissioner Boyd Britton proposed that the Blue Mountains Forest Partners develop an alternative forest plan revision.

• Grant School District Superintendent Mark Witty accepted the top job at the larger Baker School District.

• Five members of the Grant County Public Access Advisory Board resigned in protest, leaving two members on the board.

• Shane Lee Sanders was sentenced to 73 months in prison for his late-night shooting spree last October at the Timbers Inn and TV Park in Seneca.


• Grant Union Junior-Senior High School Principal Curt Shelley accepted the Grant School District superintendent position.

• Buford Breland was arrested in Mt. Vernon on charges of manufacture, delivery and possession of methamphetamine.

• Terry Hanson and Carla Schroder, a Mt. Vernon couple, filed the first license for same-sex marriage in Grant County.

• The Grant Union Gold dance team placed first at the Thurston High School competition.

• Malheur National Forest Supervisor Steve Beverlin pledged to rescind a September 2014 road closure enforcement order by his predecessor, review projects from the last five years and present new orders to the county for review.

• The Oregon Republican Party’s 2015 Dorchester straw poll selected Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as the top candidate for the Republican Party in the 2016 presidential election.

• Grant Union Junior-Senior High School teacher Elizabeth Shelley received an Inspirational Teacher award for the second consecutive year.

• The Grant Union Gold dance team placed second at the OSAA State Dance and Drill Championships.

• Grant County settled a lawsuit with former Community Corrections employee James Gravley for $100,000.

• The Oregon State Police bomb squad detonated a homemade fireworks device found in a rental home in Prairie City.

• The Grant Union band won the Oregon Music Education Association’s District 6 large group festival for a third consecutive year.


• Oregon State University expert Seth Crawford says Oregon’s growers could supply the total United States marijuana market on just 5,000 acres.

• Grant County Circuit Court Judge William Cramer ruled the search of a Seneca property for marijuana was conducted without a warrant or consent, dismissing cases against Joy Maxine Graves, Raymond Martin and Kenny Walters.

• County residents pressed the Grant County Court to take a stand against forest road closures.

• Ochoco Lumber Co. received a $25,000 grant to explore new biomass development.

• Three local schools were placed on lockdown after an anonymous threat of violence that ended without incident.

• Prairie City School District Superintendent Ryan Gerry was hired as the Grant Union Junior-Senior High School Principal to start July 1.

• The John Day City Council voted 4-3 against a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.

• Christal Culley was honored as Outstanding New 4-H Educational Program Assistant by the Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Services.

• Grant County Chamber of Commerce launched its Greenbacks program, selling vouchers redeemable at chamber member businesses.

• Mitch Wilson opened Wilson’s Welding and Fabrication just west of John Day.

• Leslie Weldon, deputy chief of national forest systems for the Forest Service, approved an expansion of the Southern Blues Restoration Coalition’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration boundaries.

• Reitta Wyllie, John Day, was selected as the 2015 Grant County Fair and Rodeo queen.

• Nugget Lanes bowling center in John Day closed.

• The Oregon State Police John Day Worksite was recognized for outstanding DUII enforcement.

• The John Day Liquor Store moved inside Chester’s Thriftway.

• Erin Osgood was hired as the new Grant County Veterans Services Officer.


• Blue Mountain Hospital hired Randall Mee as its new CEO to start in June.

• The People Mover public transportation service expanded its coverage area to include routes to and from Monument.

• Grant Union Junior-Senior High School senior Marta Faulkner was awarded the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship to attend school for a year in Germany.

• The Grant County Court solicited public feedback about Forest Service road closures.

• A preliminary report from an industrial hygienist stated the source of fumes in southwest John Day was a solvent.

• Grant County Sheriff’s Office reported Monty Smith had been arrested after attacking a friend with a butcher knife.

• The International Seminar on Forest Landscape Restoration brought in visitors from 14 countries.

• The Grant County Court sent a letter to the Forest Service asking the agency to hold off on road closures in the Malheur National Forest’s Elk 16 and Big Mosquito projects.

• The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality was called in to assess mystery fumes in southwest John Day.

• Step Forward Activities received a $62,500 state grant to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Baker and Grant counties.

• A school-based health center opened at Grant Union Junior-Senior High School.

• The Grant Union band placed fifth at the OSAA 2015 Band/Orchestra State Championships.

• Gov. Kate Brown issued a drought declaration for Grant County and seven others.

• An Environmental Protection Agency emergency response team began looking into the odors seeping into homes and businesses in southwest John Day.


• The Environmental Protection Agency stated gasoline, possibly mixed with other solvent chemicals, was the cause of vapors rising into southwest John Day buildings.

• The discovery of 10 new prehistoric species at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and nearby Bureau of Land Management land was announced.

• Grant County Air Search purchased new equipment to help locate aircraft wreckage sites.

• Federal and state officials indicated Triangle Oil at 706 Canyon Blvd. was a “possible responsible party” for vapors in southwest John Day.

• The Ediger family’s Box T Ranch was honored as a 50-year Certified Tree Farm.

• An attorney for the county stated challenges to Forest Service road closures based on a 2013 ordinance would likely end up in federal court.

• Tracey Blood was hired as the new executive director of Grant-Harney County Court Appointed Special Advocates.

• Julie Curczynski was hired as the new superintendent/principal of Prairie City School District.

• The annual Chief Joseph BMW Motorcycle Rally drew 85 riders.

• Three cases of whopping cough were confirmed in Grant County.

• Bobby Wayne Lampton, 63, was found guilty on six charges related to child sexual abuse.

• Monument School celebrated its 100th anniversary.

• The Sugarloaf Fire burned almost 5,000 acres near Dayville.

• Ryan Nehl was hired as the deputy forest supervisor for the Malheur National Forest.


• Bobby Wayne Lampton was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sex crimes against a child.

• County residents spoke out about forest access at listening sessions with Malheur National Forest officials.

• A new elevator was installed at the Grant County Courthouse.

• Demolition began on the site for the new John Day fire hall.

• The Department of Environmental Quality stated Triangle Oil was responsible for the release of 1,000 to 5,000 gallons of gasoline into the ground along the 400 to 600 blocks of South Canyon Boulevard. Triangle Oil, however, disputed the claim.

• Karla Andrew was the first graduate of the school of cosmetology at Eastern Oregon College of Industries and Arts in John Day.

• Sheriff Glenn Palmer was back on the job the day after opening a letter and feeling a burning sensation on his arms and forehead. Other counties in Oregon reported receiving similar mysterious envelopes.

• Chinese foreign exchange students visited Grant County.

• An estimated 109 spring Chinook salmon died in the Middle Fork John Day River, apparently due to low river flows and warm temperatures.

• Mt. Vernon resident Patricia Baehr-Ross won the grand prize at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument’s art contest. Laurie Hueckman, Prairie City, received honorable mention.


• The Grant County Fair’s 2015 theme was “Blue Jeans and Country Dreams.”

• Kathryn Hedrick started as the superintendent/principal at Dayville School.

• Grant County Search and Rescue acquired a 2015 Ford F350 rescue vehicle.

• LaRue Broughton won the fair pie baking contest.

• Roy Peterson pleaded not guilty to 10 felony charges involving theft from the Monument Rural Fire Protection District. His trial was scheduled for March 28, 2016.

• The Berry Creek and Mason Springs fires combined to form the Canyon Creek Complex, which quickly grew from 10 acres Aug. 12 to more than 43,000 by Aug. 18, destroying 26 homes. By Aug. 24, the blaze was almost 73,000 acres and had destroyed 39 homes. Donations poured in and a relief center was established at the fairgrounds. A change in the winds sent the fire toward Prairie City, forcing an evacuation.

• John Day City Council members banned commercial marijuana operations with a 6-1 vote.


• Cooler weather and precipitation aided firefighters battling the 110,000-acre Canyon Creek Complex that destroyed 43 homes. Grant County Court began efforts to mitigate flooding issues exacerbated by the fire.

• Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative raised its monthly delivery charge from $21.56 to $25.50.

• Former John Day Police Chief Richard Tirico was cleared of all charges of official misconduct after a short trial.

• The Grant County Planning Commission rejected Robert Ake’s plan to develop a motorcycle camp west of John Day.

• A specialized Forest Service team recommended immediate action to mitigate post-fire risks.

• The Grant County District Attorney’s Office Victim Assistance Program received a three-year $606,000 grant to maintain staffing.

• Sheriff Glenn Palmer deputized 11 citizens to write and adopt a local natural resources plan and introduced it during a Grant County Court public comment period.

• John Day resident Balbina Escudero was honored at Hispanic Heritage Day in Salem.


• The John Day-Canyon City Parks and Recreation Department announced pending upgrades at the Seventh Street Complex in John Day after receiving a $347,000 state grant.

• Grant Union seniors Wyatt Weaver and Mackenzie Woodcock were named 2015 homecoming king and queen.

• Dayville High School junior Tanner Walczyk and senior Emma Hettinga were named homecoming king and queen.

• Philipp Dessau and Mew Wiriyasumon were named Long Creek High School’s homecoming king and queen.

• Monument High School juniors Charlotte Dailey and Hayden Schafer were named homecoming king and queen.

• Jack and Katie Johns, Fox Valley, were honored as Stockgrowers of the Year by the Grant County Stockgrowers Association.

• Matthew Eric Sagaser, 31, Mt. Vernon, was arrested on multiple counts of domestic violence, including kidnapping, strangulation and assault.

• Dusty Brian Korner, a 31-year-old convicted sex offender from Jackson County, escaped from the Juniper Ridge Acute Care Facility and was apprehended the next day.

• The McDonald’s restaurant in John Day closed.

• The Prairie City City Council voted to opt out of marijuana sales.

• Prairie City School seniors Ethan Camarena and Amaya Zweygardt were named homecoming king and queen.

• Grant County legal counsel Ron Yockim stated he believed the sheriff overstepped his authority by creating his own natural resources plan.

• State officials said the Canyon Meadows Dam should be removed this year to protect residents from an increased risk of flooding from the Canyon Creek Complex.

• Fire rehabilitation began in Canyon Creek.

• Laurie Wright started as the new Grant County Court secretary.


• Brennon D. Witty, 25, was charged with killing an endangered species and hunting with a centerfire rifle without a big game tag after reporting to state officials that he shot a wolf while hunting coyotes on private property.

• Dale Gleason Larkin, 51, Prairie City, died of drowning when his vehicle landed on its top in the Powder River.

• The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife voted 4-2 to remove gray wolves from the state endangered species list.

• Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, called for the director of the Oregon Department of Transportation to resign for withholding key carbon emissions information from lawmakers negotiating a transportation funding package earlier in the year.

• Rhiannon Bauman, Rich Boren, Amy Charette, Kristin Nodine, Valeen Madden and Brian Delaney were sworn in as new Court Appointed Special Advocates to serve abused and neglected children.

• The Grant County Road Department received $3.2 million for three road improvement projects through the Federal Lands Access Program.

• Matthew Eric Sagaser requested to change his attorney and withdraw his guilty pleas stemming from domestic violence charges.

• Highway 395 in Oregon was named “World War I Veterans Memorial Highway.”


• Sean Hart was hired as the editor of the Blue Mountain Eagle.

• Growing Tree Infant Center in John Day was forced to close pending investigation by local law enforcement and a state agency.

• The Carrie Young Memorial raised $18,000 to assist elderly people.

• Lorene Allen Day was celebrated Dec. 14 in honor of Grant County Court’s first female judge — the first time since it was originally proclaimed in 1988.

• John Day City Council members voted to raise monthly base sewer and water rates by $2 each.

• Grant County Court banned commercial marijuana operations in unincorporated areas of the county.

• Jeremy Lawson, 39, was shot after a report of an altercation at an Izee-area ranch.


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