Blue Mountain Eagle | http://www.bluemountaineagle.com Blue Mountain Eagle Sun, 30 Aug 2015 01:15:46 -0400 en http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/staticimage/images/rss-logo.jpg Blue Mountain Eagle | http://www.bluemountaineagle.com Prairie City evacuations reduced to Level 2 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150829/prairie-city-evacuations-reduced-to-level-2 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150829/prairie-city-evacuations-reduced-to-level-2#Comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 19:37:03 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829929 PRAIRIE CITY — All of Prairie City is now under a Level 2 or “be ready to leave at a moment’s notice” evacuation order.

Parts of the city early this morning were put on a Level 3 or “leave immediately” evacuation order.

County road 62 from Prairie City south to the 16 road is open.

According to fire officials handling the Canyon Creek Complex fire, areas that are still under a Level 3 evacuation order include:

• All of Strawberry Road.

• Upper Pine Creek from Berry Ranch Lane and Dean Creek/Baldy Mountain.

• Upper Indian Creek Road from the Y south (including both the 55 and the 71).

• Upper Dog Creek, south of Little Dog Creek.

• The area west of County Road 62, south of the forest boundary (milepost 12) and north of the 16 to the junction of forest road 15/16. County Road 62 and the 16 are open for through travel.

Areas on a Level 2 evacuation order include:

• The area south and west of the 62 Road from Prairie City to the forest boundary.

• Lower Pine.

• Lower Dog.

• Lower Indian Creek.

• Gardner Ranch Lane.

• From J Bar L south to the end of County Road 65.

County Road 60 (Strawberry Road) is closed except for fire traffic and homeowners. Homeowners on the lower Little Canyon Mountain Trail area can also access their homes.

The 15 road remains closed.

]]>
Grant Union takes tourney by storm http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_Sports/20150829/grant-union-takes-tourney-by-storm http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_Sports/20150829/grant-union-takes-tourney-by-storm#Comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 19:07:21 -0400 Angel Carpenter http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829930 JOHN DAY – The Grant Union Prospectors dominated the nets at their invitational tournament, toppling Weston-McEwen, 25-13 and 25-11, in the championship game.

Baker edged out Powder Valley for third place.

Other teams invited to the tournament played at Grant Union Junior-Senior High School in John Day include: Dayville-Monument, Crane, Powder Valley, Baker, Pilot Rock, Crane, Heppner and Jordan Valley.

The Prairie City was also invited, however, coaches and athletes were impacted by the Canyon Creek Complex fire. The fire threatened homes in the town, and they had to forfeit the game. The Saturday fire came within a 1/2 mile of Prairie City.

Grant Union head coach Shae Speth and her family had also been touched by the same fire two weeks ago – they lost their home, south of Canyon City, to the same fire on Aug. 14.

Several area sports teams have rallied to assist the Speths in the last several days, including some attending the Saturday game.

Grant Union won games against Pilot Rock, Crane and Baker in pool play, then defeated Jordan Valley in the quarterfinal game and Powder Valley in the semifinal.

Head coach Shae Speth said the team had a rough start, beating Pilot Rock by a close margin, but came back to focus on pushing ahead when they grab the lead.

“We played well,” she said.

Dayville School’s student body president Hannah Flower, who is also manager of the Dayville-Monument volleyball team, is spearheading a spaghetti feed to raise funds for people affected by the Canyon Creek Complex fire.

The student body will serve a spaghetti dinner 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30, at the Dayville School cafeteria. Cost is by donation.

]]>
Convoy of vehicles leaves Prairie City http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150829/convoy-of-vehicles-leaves-prairie-city http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150829/convoy-of-vehicles-leaves-prairie-city#Comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 15:37:57 -0400 Sean Ellis http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829931 PRAIRIE CITY — Prairie City took on a surreal appearance Saturday as a convoy of cars, pickups and trailers packed with personal belongings headed west to escape the advancing Canyon Creek Complex fire.

Parts of the city were ordered to be evacuated early Saturday morning as the fire, driven by high winds, bore down on the town.

As an eerie orange glow blanketed the sky, a light rain and ash fell on the city, and deer and other animals could be seen fleeing across the highway, away from the advancing fire.

Residents under a “leave immediately” evacuation order began flooding out of town early Saturday morning, while those who were under a “be ready to leave at a moment’s notice” order prepared to do just that.

Residents reported feeling a range of emotions, from fear and uncertainty to gratitude that no lives had been lost.

“Everyone’s scared and nervous,” said Heather Reilly, an employee at Mountain View Mini Mart, where many people stopped to stock up on supplies before heading out of town.

At a Red Cross evacuation assembly area in Mount Vernon 20 miles west of Prairie City, Pat Shull said the whole situation had a surreal feel to it.

“The whole thing is unbelievable,” said Shull, whose home is at the very southern edge of Prairie City. “Even being here feels unreal, and we have no idea what’s going to happen.”

Fire crews managed to halt the fire within a half mile of the Art Morgan Road and within 1.5 miles southwest of Prairie City and into Shaw Gulch Saturday at about mid-day.

Evacuation levels, however, remain the same.

For the complete story, check out the Blue Mountain Eagle on Wednesday, Sept. 2

]]>
Fire halted within 1.5 miles of Prairie City http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150829/fire-halted-within-15-miles-of-prairie-city http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150829/fire-halted-within-15-miles-of-prairie-city#Comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 12:00:43 -0400 Nancy McCarthy http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829932 PRAIRIE CITY — Flames got within a half mile of the Art Morgan Road and within 1.5 miles southwest of Prairie City and into Shaw Gulch Saturday before fire crews were able to halt the fire.

Evacuation levels, however, remain the same.

Fire crews still expect heavy winds that will push the Canyon Creek Complex fire to the east.

The 62 Road is closed to vehicle traffic, except for homeowners and emergency vehicles, said Vince Mazzier, public information officer for the Great Basin Incident Management Team.

Mazzier said there have been reports of structures lost, but no information is available until an assessment is made.

Residents in portions of Prairie City were told to leave immediately early Saturday morning as fire threatened the town.

Some are making their way to Mt. Vernon, where the Red Cross has set up a shelter in the Mt. Vernon Grange.

“I drove down from the forest service office and saw a convoy of pick-ups and trailers heading toward Mt. Vernon,” Mazzier said.

The fire has burned 87,145 acres so far, about 258 acres more than Friday. It remains 44 percent contained.

An evacuation Level 3 alert has been given for:

• 62 Road North from Forest Boundary to Prairie City

• All of Strawberry Road

• The south side of Prairie City, from the John Day River south

Level 2:

• The north side of Prairie City, from the John Day River north)

]]>
‘Leave immediately’ order issued for much of Prairie City http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150829/leave-immediately-order-issued-for-much-of-prairie-city http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150829/leave-immediately-order-issued-for-much-of-prairie-city#Comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 09:04:39 -0400 Sean Ellis and Tim Trainor http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829933 PRAIRIE CITY — Prairie City residents began pouring out of town early Saturday morning after Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer issued an evacuation order.

A steady stream of vehicles was heading west, as rain mixed with ash fell on the city. Severe winds pushed the fire toward Prairie

As residents left the city, a bevy of resources, including local firefighters, headed east, into Prairie City, to combat the blaze.

“There’s quite a few people moving into that area,” said Vince Mazzier, a fire public information officer for the Office of Wildland Fire in the Department of the Interior. “The fire came off the hill last night, and in some spots it’s already down into the flats in some of the grassy areas” around the city.

Mazzier said fire officials are mobilizing a sizable contingent of firefighters and equipment to the area.

“There’s quite a few people moving into that area,” he said. “Any of the available resources we have on the fire are being pulled away from the job they were doing in other parts of the fire that we feel secure about, and (we’re) moving them toward Prairie City.”

A “leave immediately” evacuation order was issued for homes on the south side of Prairie City, south of the river. Evacuatio 3 notices also were given to homes south of County Road 62, also known as Summit Prairie Road, as well as Upper Strawberry.

Residents north of County Road 62, including the town of Prairie City and as far east as Dixie, were put on a Level 2 evacuation notice, which means they should be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

A Red Cross evacuation center has been set up at the Mount Vernon Grange Hall.

High winds — gusts reached 49 mph — changed the nature of the fire, Mazzier said. The strong winds lowered the relative humidity “so it picked up fire activity really quickly,” he said. 

Fire officials prepared for the strong winds by shifting additional resources to where they were expected to be needed, Mazzier said.

“It’s a real heads-up day for firefighters,” he said. “People are very alert to what’s going on.”

Mazzier said the rain that started falling Saturday morning isn’t expected to be strong enough to change the fire activity.

He urged anyone evacuating to remain calm and be alert for equipment that is moving toward the fire.

He said fire officials are doing everything they can to try to protect the area, with their highest priority being on protecting lives.

]]>
7:30 a.m. update: Prairie City empties as fire approaches http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_News/20150829/new-evacuations-issued-as-fire-barrels-toward-prairie-city http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_News/20150829/new-evacuations-issued-as-fire-barrels-toward-prairie-city#Comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 06:00:21 -0400 Tim Trainor http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829934

Severe winds, above 45 mph, have fueled another advance of the Canyon Creek Complex, putting the town of Prairie City in danger.

At 7:30 a.m. Saturday, a steady stream of residents both in the Level 3 mandatory evacuation areas and the Level 2, be ready to move evacuation areas, were leaving in a steady stream. Many were headed to John Day.

The wind was blowing strong, but rain poured briefly and a light drizzle was felt for more than 30 minutes. Ash is falling on Main Street and throughout the city.

Evacuation updates thus far:

Level 3 evacuation:

* 62 Road North from Forest Boundary to Prairie City

* Upper Strawberry

* The south side of Prairie City (south of Highway 26)

Level 2 Evacuation

*The north side of Prairie City (north of Highway 26)

The Mt. Vernon Middle School parking lot or the Mt. Vernon Grange Hall are assembly areas until the Mt. Vernon Community Hall opens at 4 p.m.

This is a developing story. Check back at bluemountaineagle.com throughout the day.

]]>
Rare wind storm threatens to push fire out of wilderness http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_News/20150828/one-more-stand-against-canyon-creek-complex http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_News/20150828/one-more-stand-against-canyon-creek-complex#Comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 19:57:02 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829935 By Tim Trainor

Blue Mountain Eagle

Fire officials are being forced to make another stand against the destructive and unpredictable Canyon Creek Complex fire as a rare August wind storm is set to arrive Saturday.

Weather forecasters are calling for wind gusts of 35 mph through the valleys and 45 mph over fiery ridgetops as a low pressure system pushes from the west, over the Cascades. The wind is expected to impact the 86,889-acre fire around 11 a.m. Saturday.

The weather team at fire headquarters at the Grant County Fairgrounds called the forecast a “very atypical event” that hasn’t been seen in the area in decades.

That has fire officials on the defensive and attempting to push the blaze into safer terrain that has already been burned by large fires in previous years, thus reducing the amount of fuel there now.

Great Basin incident management team operations Chief Jeff Surber said his crews are looking to create a pinch point near Road’s End, where they are attempting to turn the fire and stop its advance out of the wilderness area and into more populated country.

Crews backburned the forest there earlier in the week to try to remove fuels and stop the fire’s progress. But unfavorable conditions forced them to halt that work over the past two days.

“The Catch-22 is that we have green vegetation between us and the fire,” said Surber. “But, because of weather, we’re concerned about lighting it now and having the wind catch it. We’re also concerned the wind will catch the main fire and do it anyway.”

Oregon Fire Marshal engines are working to protect structures in the upper areas of Dog, Indian and Pine creeks west of Prairie City and on the edge of the fire complex. About 60 residents have been evacuated from the their homes in the area since Wednesday, said Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer. Palmer also said 11 structures were burned and destroyed there, mostly hunting cabins and outbuildings. None were permanent residences.

The fire marshal crews had left the area Wednesday morning, thinking the Canyon Creek Complex would stay confined to the wilderness and continue to smolder but not grow. However, high winds arrived Wednesday afternoon, and the fire erupted, growing by 15 percent in just a few hours.

The fire is now about seven miles from downtown Prairie City. Citizens at a public meeting Friday night at the Prairie City Grange worried about the projected winds pushing flames over bulldozer lines and onto the prairie and grazing land that sits between their city and the fire currently blazing through the forest.

“I just don’t know how you are going to stay in front of it (if that happens),” one woman asked at the packed house meeting, with more than 100 people in attendance.

Fire crews made no promises, but emphasized that they are doing everything they can. Firefighters are working 16-hour shifts, said Surber, and some are working more than that.

It’s not just the cities that are in danger. The outdoor mecca that is the Strawberry Mountains are being ravaged. The area is a favorite recreation place for hunters, anglers and backpackers.

Spot fires are being fought in the Strawberry basin, including the well-traveled wilderness lakes of Strawberry, High and Slide. The fire has breeched the ridgeline directly above High Lake, but crews have continued to attack it.

“We’re hopeful, but it’s got a lot of fire in it,” said Surber of protecting the Strawberry basin.

Level 2 evacuation orders were given for the first time Friday to residents of Strawberry Road from the forest boundary to Oxbow Ranch Headquarters.

]]>
National Guard crews head to the hills http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150828/national-guard-crews-head-to-the-hills http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150828/national-guard-crews-head-to-the-hills#Comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 15:56:33 -0400 Tim Trainor http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829936 For the first time since 2002, Oregon National Guard crews are working fire lines in the state.

About 120 men and women split into six crews to pound through ground that had already been scorched by the Canyon Creek Complex fires more than a week ago. They were looking for hot spots and other dangers, such as damaged trees that could drop onto roads or onto future forestry and logging crews.

For many, Wednesday was their first time in the field after limited classroom training.

But not all.

Erik Coffey, of Salem, is a soldier in the guard and a student at Chemeketa Community College, currently in between semesters. Coffey, who has a wildland firefighting background, said he may choose to follow that career path in the future.

That made him a leader on the crew Thursday that was doing mop up work on the north edge of the fire. Their work was slow, but steady.

“We’re just trying to do whatever we can,” said Coffey. “A lot of us don’t have much experience, but we’re finding ways to be useful.”

They arrived Wednesday and received brand new yellow and green wildland firefighting uniforms, the only clean ones in fire camp.

Their axes, shovels and Pulaskis were out-of-the-box new, and had never been swung.

Initially, there was some confusion on a lack of supervisors and a clean game plan, but once they got marching orders, the progress was made clear.

Phillip Raby is one of those supervisors giving marching orders. He is an employee of the U.S. Forest Service based in North Carolina but was dispatched West to deal with the growing number of wildfires in the region.

The National Guard troops, he said, are quick learners.

“The discipline and the motivation are already there,” he said. “That’s key. That’s a big part of the job out here.”

They have good communication skills, he said; they listen to orders and work hard. They’re so good at that, he has to sometimes remind himself how new they are to the field.

“I’ve been with a lot of my crew for 15, 20 years.” he said. “I can point them in a direction and they know what to do.”

It’s not the same with the fresh-out-of-the-box crew, Raby said. Yet.

“They just don’t know the tactics and the techniques yet,” he said. “They need a little more explanation on how best to accomplish what I tell them.”

But day two was much better than day one, said Coffey. And he thinks by the end of their minimum 14-day deployment, his crew will reach their potential. At that time, they could be joined by another 250 National Guard troops currently going through expedited firefighting training, or they could be shipped to another fire, according to the Oregon National Guard.

]]>
County cannot afford mistakes http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Letters/20150828/county-cannot-afford-mistakes http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Letters/20150828/county-cannot-afford-mistakes#Comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 15:09:45 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829937 To the Editor:

On behalf of Ricco Ranch, I would like to thank all the crews, equipment operators and air support for their quick response and hard work on the Jerry’s Draw Fire.

Special thanks to Yazzie Voigt, John Sanowski, Jared Lemcke and his crew for going above and beyond and working tirelessly to get this fire contained. We are also extremely grateful for everyone who came to help, especially Lynn McCormick, William Gibbs, Cody Cole and crew, Brian Hueckman, Leroy Titus, Sam Workman, Travis Bennett and Jonathan Bartov. We cannot thank all the firefighters enough for saving our ranch.

The cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, structure protection agencies and landowners led to the quick and successful suppression of this fire. However, I am disappointed in the actions of the Oregon State Police troopers in converging on the vehicle I was traveling in, grabbing the wheel to steer us off the road and physically preventing us from getting to the fire through Dixie Creek.

Meanwhile, the troopers allowed reporters and spectators to flood the other route to the fire, through Ricco Ranch Lane. Despite the fact that the fire posed no imminent threat of danger along the Dixie Creek route, we were forced to detour around the troopers’ barricade of patrol vehicles and unnecessary traffic on Ricco Ranch Lane, eventually coming out just yards above the roadblock. Valuable time was lost, during which my parents desperately needed assistance to move cattle to safety, put out spot fires and provide crews with directions around the area.

The next morning, an Oregon State Police sergeant informed me that the order to keep landowners out came from the Grant County Sheriff’s Office. After speaking with the undersheriff, I learned that the order was to close Dixie Creek but not to restrict landowners’ access. Maybe it was a miscommunication or lack of training, but with resources stretched thin, and fires burning out of control, Grant County cannot afford these mistakes.

The next time OSP’s assistance is sought in firefighting efforts, I hope the troopers will follow directions and work in cooperation with local agencies and landowners.

Riccola Voigt

Prairie City

]]>
How many owls? http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Letters/20150828/how-many-owls http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Letters/20150828/how-many-owls#Comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:57:54 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829938 To the Editor:

How many spotted owls are deceased during the current raging forest wildfires?

Maybe the remaining live ones should be shipped to Pennsylvania, along with a few forest service technicians and robots.

W. Toop

Canyon City

]]>
We deserve complete disclosure http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Letters/20150828/we-deserve-complete-disclosure http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Letters/20150828/we-deserve-complete-disclosure#Comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:57:51 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829939 To the Editor:

In the past 20-plus years, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service have been reducing cattle grazing and logging on federal lands to “protect” various supposedly “endangered” species (spotted owl, bull trout, sage grouse, etc).

How many of these “endangered” species managed to live through this current inferno? We have seen photos of deer burned alive and reports of herds of elk and wild horses that didn’t manage to escape the fires.

The article in the Blue Mountain Eagle, “Forest Service defends Canyon Creek Response” (Aug. 26), provides more questions than answers, in my opinion.

The Canyon Creek Complex was originally two separate fires, miles apart, and separated by Highway 395 and paved county roads. The newspaper account lumps both the Berry Creek and Mason Spring fire together and lists all of the heavy equipment, air tankers deployed, as if they were not two separate fires. No mention was given of the exact timeline for initial attack on each separate fire, even though they remained individual fires until Friday, Aug. 14.

The Berry Creek fire reportedly was ignited first by lightning in the Strawberry Wilderness area in the early morning hours on Aug. 12. What equipment and/or tankers, helicopters, etc. were assigned to the Berry Creek fire in the Strawberry Wilderness and when?

The article also supplies us with the info that “Beverlin signed off on an order granting special permission to use chainsaws for fire suppression in the wilderness area.” Just when was this order signed? After the fire was already out of control or when it was merged with the Mason Spring fire?

The Mason Spring fire was reportedly contained by Wednesday afternoon. Was there a crew and water tenders there when the Mason Spring fire jumped the containment lines? Why was this fire only contained and not put out?

The Eagle reported last week that, during the informational meetings, there were “whispers” blaming the homeowners for their loss because they didn’t maintain a “defensible space” around their homes. What if the Malheur National Forest had been managed to maintain a defensible space between the forest boundary and private land?

I do know, in my small community, we have at least 39 HOMES burned. Families lost a lifetime of memories and are left with rebuilding their lives — because of mismanagement by federal entities. These homeowners and the community deserve complete disclosure.

Elaine Smith

Prairie City

]]>
Fire crews worry about stronger southwest winds due tonight http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150828/fire-crews-worry-about-stronger-southwest-winds-due-tonight http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150828/fire-crews-worry-about-stronger-southwest-winds-due-tonight#Comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 10:02:12 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829940 Canyon Creek Complex fire crews are worried about stronger southwest winds beginning this evening and into tomorrow.

Hot and dry conditions, along with an unstable air mass, will persist. Residents should anticipate smoke columns and active fire movement.

The number of acres burned is 86,889 — up 921 acres from Thursday — with 44 percent contained. The number of fire personnel totals 759.

A community meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. today in the grange at Prairie City.

Resources include two Type 1 crews, 12 Type 2 crews, nine helicopters, 67 engines, 16 dozers, 23 water tenders and 11 skidgines.

Level 3 evacuations remain on:

• Upper Pine Creek from Berry Ranch Lane

• Dean Creek/Baldy Mountain

• Upper Dog Creek south of Little Dog Creek

• Gardner Ranch Lane

• Upper Indian Creek Road from the Y (71 junction) south

• The area west of County Road 62, south of the forest boundary.

Level 2 evacuations remain on:

• Lower Dog Creek

• Lower Pine and Lower Indian Creek

• From J-L south to the end of County Road 65.

The Oregon Fire Marshall’s Team left Wednesday but returned to the scene Thursday to protect structures after the Canyon Creek Complex grew. They remain on scene today with 50 engines.

After re-assessing the burned out areas, Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer said 11 structures were destroyed Wednesday, but none were primary residences. They were cabins, sheds and camp trailers located high in Upper Pine Creek and Indian Creek.

Firefighters and other resources worked throughout Thursday constructing fire line to protect structures in the Upper Pine Creek and Indian Creek areas. Repairs were made on the western side of the fire; those repairs consisted of repairing fences, breaking up berms from dozer lines and installing water bars to help minimize erosion impacts.

Aerial resources reinforced the dozer lines and pre-treated areas Thursday. Similar air resources will work over the fire area Friday.

Six Oregon National Guard units are stationed at Lake Creek Organizational Camp. They are working the western and southern perimeters of the fire, patrolling and securing control lines and ensuring that hot spots 150 feet in from the line are out.

Fire managers have been doing strategic planning since they arrived to identify early on actions and possible alternatives for a variety of situations, including trying to keep the fire out of the Strawberry Creek Drainage.

Thursday night, crews continued efforts in the northeastern portion by enhancing dozer line and pre-treating around structures. Resources conducted burnout operations from the 1640 road to Roads End to secure the southwest portion of the fire.

The intent of the burnout operations is to reduce fuel (burnable vegetation) between the main fire and the road in an effort to stop the fires spread at the 1640 road and from moving south. Seneca residents may see smoke in the afternoon from the burnout operation.

Varying levels of smoke lingered over the complex and the surrounding communities. Prairie City received steady smoke throughout Thursday, while areas south and west of the fire had less smoke.

Two portable smoke monitors arrived Aug. 24 and are now deployed; one monitor was placed in Prairie City and the other in Seneca. Real-time smoke readings are available at http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com.

]]>
Strawberry Lake, campground within three miles of fire lines http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150827/strawberry-lake-campground-within-three-miles-of-fire-lines http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150827/strawberry-lake-campground-within-three-miles-of-fire-lines#Comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 14:49:09 -0400 Tim Trainor http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829941 The Canyon Creek Complex fire is less than three miles from the Strawberry Lake basin, but Oregon National Guard troops are working to keep it away from an iconic piece of Eastern Oregon’s wilderness.

Stefanie Gatchell, a public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said Thursday afternoon that the fire is 2.5 to three miles southeast of Strawberry Lake, its nearby waterfalls and the normally heavily used Strawberry Lake Campground.

Gatchell said guard troops, deployed by Oregon governor Kate Brown, are stationed on the south and southeast edge of the fire.

“Definitely one of the goals is to protect that basin and that campground,” said Gatchell. “We know what that means to people.”

She said guard troops have cut a fire line and are monitoring the area.

Firefighting on the ground in wilderness areas is heavily restricted. So while skies are relatively clear, crews are doing most of the proactive work from above, Gatchell said. She said there was one small flare up in the basin, but that fire was attacked and put out.

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer confirmed that six structures — cabins that weren’t full-time residences — were destroyed.

Still, a red flag warning is in effect in Grant County. High winds and warm temperatures mean that fires can start to “create their own weather,” said Gatchell, so crews remain on guard.

Winds were blowing south and southeast on Thursday afternoon, a lucky break for now for the often-visited piece of wilderness they are trying to protect.

The campground, which has no permanent buildings except for a pit toilet, is closed because of the fire.

]]>
Canyon Creek Complex fire jumps 11,311 acres, one building lost http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150827/canyon-creek-complex-fire-jumps-11311-acres http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150827/canyon-creek-complex-fire-jumps-11311-acres#Comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 08:45:11 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829942 The Canyon Creek Complex fire jumped to 85,960 acres, an increase of 11,311 acres from Wednesday.

The 134-square-mile fire is 44 percent contained.

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer confirmed this morning one building, not a main dwelling, on Indian Creek was lost yesterday. They are still trying to notify the owner. The burned area will be inspected today to determine if any other structures were lost or damaged in the Pine Creek and Indian Creek areas.

The fire burned very active Wednesday night, and flames were visible for miles. Fire personnel said Thursday morning that the fire burned mainly to the east, mostly into the wilderness. Resources were shifted and staged in both areas of Pine Creek and Indian Creek. Dozer and hand lines were built around the Johnson Ranch for protection.

Late afternoon winds, along with dry conditions, caused long range spotting north of Indian Creek. The fire moved down Pine Creek, triggering evacuations. Resources responded quickly, and additional aircraft arrived on scene.

Fire activity also became very active in the Indian Creek Butte area, adding to the large smoke column that appeared in the afternoon.

Nearly 100,000 gallons of retardant were dropped by 10 air tankers on the Pine Creek and Indian Creek areas Wednesday night. Helicopters were unable to assist in this area due to turbulence and heavy air tanker activity. However, they were used on Canyon Mountain hot spots.

The weather forecast for Thursday is similar to Wednesday’s weather. A red flag warning is in effect for Thursday, with winds expected from the southwest, gusting 20 to 25 mph. The Haines Index has been adjusted to a 5, and humidity is expected to be critically low again, in the single digits. Wednesday’s humidity was 9 percent.

Three structural tasks forces from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office arrived Thursday to assist with structure protection. The National Guard unit will be on the southeast corner of the fire, near Roads End.

Evacuation levels remain the same as last night.

Level 3 Evacuations:

• Upper Pine Creek from Berry Ranch Lane and Dean Creek/Baldy Mt. Upper Dog Creek

• South of Little Dog Creek Gardner Ranch Lane

• Upper Indian Creek Road from the Y (51 Junction) south

• The area west of County Road 62, south of the forest boundary (mile post 12) and north of the 16 to the junction of Forest Roads 15/16

* County Road 62 and the 16 are open for through travel, at this time. Forest closures remain in effect.

Level 2 evacuations:

• Lower Pine Creek

• Lower Dog Creek

• Lower Indian Creek

• From J – L south to the end of County Road 65.

Road Closures:

• Homeowners on the lower Little Canyon Mountain Trail area can access their homes.

• The 15 road remains closed.

• South from Dog Creek to Little Dog Creek is open for residents and fire traffic only.

]]>
Hay help is here for local livestock http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/People/20150826/hay-help-is-here-for-local-livestock http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/People/20150826/hay-help-is-here-for-local-livestock#Comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:21:48 -0400 Cheryl Hoefler http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829947 JOHN DAY — Help is pouring in for the largest populace in Grant County — livestock.

“Hay for John Day” is a venture striving to provide ranchers with hay for horses and cattle that either have been displaced and moved to other locations or whose hay storage burned during the wildfires.

Kristin Currin, of La Grande, and Jim Hamsher, of Prairie City, are the hard-working pair behind the donation effort.

Early on in the disaster, Currin, who was trying to get some hay down to John Day, and Hamsher, who was looking for hay donations, met via social media and coordinated their efforts into one force.

Hamsher is handling the local end of things — coordinating inquiries from people who need hay, those who have hay to donate and people who have equipment and vehicles to help get all the bales moved accordingly.

Deliveries can also be arranged. Displaced horses corralled at the fairgrounds in John Day are already benefiting from meals of donated hay.

Grant Western Lumber Company in John Day is serving as the hay storage location. The hay is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People should contact Hamsher in advance to make arrangements, and, if needed, he can arrange manpower and vehicles for loading and unloading.

According to Hamsher, donations have come from several Grant County locations and as far away as Baker, Bend, Redmond, Prineville and the Burns area. More loads are coming later from Sandy and Salem.

“The Lord is just guiding all these people to me,” said Hamsher.

He said many ranchers won’t be allowed to let their cattle back on the land for a long time, making this a longterm need and donation drive, possibly as long as three years.

Don’t have hay or equipment? Monetary donations are also welcome.

Hamsher has set up an account at Old West Federal Credit Union — account number 031, “Hay for John Day” — to raise money for the endeavor. Funds will be used as needed to purchase trucks full of hay, and may be used to insure the stored hay.

For more information, visit Hay for John Day on Facebook, or call Hamsher at 541-620-2861.

]]>
County Court minutes 08-19-15 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/County_Minutes/20150826/county-court-minutes-08-19-15 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/County_Minutes/20150826/county-court-minutes-08-19-15#Comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 14:11:39 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829943 IN THE COUNTY COURT OF THE STATE OF OREGON IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF GRANT

Access the County Court Agenda and approved Minutes on the Commissioner’s page at www.gcoregonlive2.com

AUGUST 19, 2015

Pursuant to notice made to the newspaper of general circulation throughout Grant County, the radio station, county website, and e-mail distribution list, a regular meeting of the County Court was held at the County Courthouse in Canyon City OR.

9:00 am -- Call to Order. Present were Judge Scott W. Myers, Commissioners Boyd Britton and Chris Labhart, Secretary Mary Ferrioli, Jim Sproul, Frances Preston, Public Forest Commissioner Brooks Smith, News Reporter Nancy McCarthy, Mark Pengelly, Senator Ron Wyden’s Eastern Oregon Field Staff Kathleen Cathey, Ron Phillips, Sally Bartlett, Sheriff Glenn Palmer, and Prairie City Public Works Chris Camerena. A Pledge of Allegiance was given to the US flag. The invocation was given by Commissioner Britton.

CLAIMS. The court had reviewed and approved claims and Extension District Warrant Nos. 18 - 25

AGENDA. MSP: Myers/Labhart -- to accept the agenda with a (Labhart) suggestion to draft a proclamation to honor Phil Gray for his years of service to this county and a (Britton) suggestion to start a discussion (involving the Sheriff) about rapidly contacting regulatory agencies about restoration of the Canyon Creek Complex.

ANNOUNCEMENTS.

Myers attended countless fire meetings over the past five days. He provided information about the Canyon Creek Complex, the influx of back-up Emergency Managers from Oregon Emergency Management and other counties, and the loss of homes. He will attempt to attend at least a portion of the Coordination 101 Workshop in Baker City. Myers has been on the Courthouse roof to remove the debris that’s accumulated there. He reported that the Governor will be arriving in John Day later today by ground transport from Baker City, since lack of visibility has closed the airport. Myers commented on the regular delivery of Jet A and Avgas supplies to support air combat of the fire complex.

Britton remarked on fire activities being performed by the Sheriff, Forest Service, various government officials and local volunteers. He felt if BLM had not treated Little Canyon Mountain a few years ago the fire damage would have been much worse. Britton added that we’re fortunate to have had no fatalities. He reported that Undersheriff Todd McKinley had reportedly removed a live power line from across the road with two shots from a shotgun to allow traffic to safely pass.

9:20 am – Judy Kerr entered

Labhart provided an update on the process for making donations to the Community Relief Fund and the status of maintaining electric power to the area. He attended a Health Evidence Review Commission meeting in Wilsonville last Thursday. Yesterday he attended the Canyon Creek Complex morning briefing at the fairgrounds, participated in a live radio interview with KPAM / Portland, toured the Canyon Creek Complex with Chief Ron Smith, and attended a public meeting on the Canyon Creek Complex at the Junior-Senior High School. Today he participated in a live radio interview with KPAM / Portland. Tomorrow he will attend a Blue Mountain Hospital board meeting. Next Tuesday Labhart has an EOCCO board meeting in Enterprise.

COMMUNITY COUNSELING SOLUTIONS. This week Community Counseling Solutions Director Kimberly Lindsay provided the 4th quarter report for the Grant County Health Department / Primary Care program. The report notes that the health department would still have posted a deficit without the removal of administrative costs.

EMERGENCY DECLARATION. Friday, August 14, 2015 Resolution 2015-17 Declaring a State of Emergency was signed due to the Canyon Creek Complex wildfire that has created a critical situation which is beyond Grant County’s ability to fully respond.

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT. Sheriff Glenn Palmer spoke with the court about his ideas for the emergency management program. He reported on the after-briefing report about the recent hazmat incident in which he was involved. He said he was not here to criticize, but wants to say some things that may help. Palmer feels the county needs fully coordinated emergency management and thought the county could do better for our citizens. His opinion was that EM belongs nowhere else but the Sheriff’s Office. Palmer asked the court to equip, train and fund the EM Coordinator position, and that he and Undersheriff McKinley share that role. He asked that each be compensated at $10,000 per year to start. Palmer didn’t know how he could accept that responsibility without training, equipment and funding. Palmer also talked about the unmet need for water trucks and potable water for citizens. Palmer hoped to sit down with the court and discuss this proposal in the near future. Other discussion took place about the need for NIMS training for elected officials and others within county government. Myers wholehearted agreed that we’ve been lacking in EM for many years. He pointed out that at one time the Sheriff’s Office was responsible for EM, but gave it back to the court. Palmer reported on all of the activities that he has been conducting during this fire event. Myers noted (in an event like now) the county’s EM Coordinator would probably be fourth in the line to administer this emergency. Myers did not know how shared EM responsibility could work and was afraid one person would end up with most of the work. He said he knows Undersheriff McKinley likes to get out, so he’d like to ask him about his interest. Myers thought further exploration is needed to see what would work best for our county. Myers commented about the county’s experience a few years ago having a shared EM / HR position. Britton thanked Palmer and his entire staff and praised them for all of the dedicated, hard work that’s being done for this emergency. He said the EM situation needs to be better and can be addressed.

9:40 am – King Williams, Larry Blasing, Alan Hickerson, and Kathy Gillam, Werner Arntz, and Doug Ferguson entered

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. Economic Development Coordinator Sally Bartlett agreed that better coordination of emergency management was needed. Bartlett said the computer purchased several years ago has failed and cannot be fixed. She had submitted a request to purchase a 15.6” Touch Screen Convertible Laptop Intel Core computer with Windows 8.1 and a 25” diagonal monitor that included quotes from Amazon, Best Buy and ESD. However, she asked for and was given permission to take more time to look at more cost comparisons at no more than $1,200.00. It was noted that funds are available within General Fund, Capital Outlay. It was the consensus of the court to approve Bartlett’s request for a laptop and monitor as described.

Bartlett asked to be able to use the 208 sq ft office space (No. 7) recently vacated by Blue Mountain Forest Partners. She said people who are working with potential investments and business plans expect confidentiality and her office is not an appropriate place for business owners and developers to meet. MSP: Myers/Labhart -- to allow Economic Development Coordinator Sally Bartlett to use office space No. 7 in the L-Building complex as requested (until and if there’s a more viable use for it) recognizing that the rental loss is minimal.

Bartlett asked to receive the standard $51 monthly stipend for using a personal cell phone for county business. Most business associates have her cell number so she receives calls, emails, and texts all the time -- and doesn’t want to carry two phones. MSP: Myers/Britton -- to authorize payment of a monthly cell phone stipend to Sally Bartlett for use of a personal cell phone for county business.

COMMUNITY DONATIONS. Economic Development Coordinator Sally Bartlett said the community donations group at the fairgrounds has done a remarkable job accepting donations. However, there will soon be an abundance of items and there’s a legal process for appropriately storing and handling donated items. She wanted the court to be aware that a formal plan is needed for equitably administering the large amount of donations coming to the county. Myers said the Red Cross has run into this problem before and would have a method for administering the donation process.

CANYON CREEK. Commissioner Britton asked Ferguson about his ability to develop a plan for restoration and repair of roads and bridges in the Canyon Creek Complex. Discussion followed about the importance of immediately assessing needs and developing a plan for adequately rebuilding infrastructure, and dealing with state and federal agencies. Ferguson thought the first thing is to inspect bridges right away. Myers pointed out bridges will need to accommodate fire fighting equipment, not just homeowner access. He said we would likely have to deal with DSL and others, so a model would probably be necessary. Myers asked Ferguson to keep track of expenses for FEMA reimbursement. Britton suggested that Ferguson start an immediate assessment of those bridges and the Canyon Creek Watershed to see what’s needed to fix them -- then come back with a report on how to restore them.

10:00 am – Kathy Stinnett entered

Labhart questioned giving permission for government to circumvent private property owners’ bridges and pointed out the difference between fire protection and access to homes. He added that the Forest Service is now in the process of getting their rehab program ready to go. Britton was mainly referring to bridges involving the county, and suggested that costs be documented and given to Judge Myers to help reach the threshold needed for possible FEMA reimbursement.

ROAD DEPARTMENT. Bids were opened for Grant County Bridge End Panel Construction: Fox Creek Bridge, Wall Creek Bridge, and Widow’s Creek Bridge estimated to cost from $50,000 to $80,000. Road Master Alan Hickerson and Ferguson Surveying & Engineering representatives Werner Arntz and Doug Ferguson were present. Both of the bids described below were turned over to the Road Department for compliance review and subsequent recommendation for award.

Dice Construction / Schedule A $19,500; Schedule B $34,525; Schedule C $21,466; Schedule D $14,210. Total bid amount $84,471. First Tier Subcontractors (none). Iron Triangle / Schedule A $10,010;

Schedule B $33,084.96; Schedule C $21,459.39; Schedule D $16,343.22. Total bid amount $80,897.57. First Tier Subcontractors (none)

Hickerson requested approval to purchase a 16” chain saw to use for trimming trees out of the bucket truck. Cost quotes were provided from JD Rents for a Stihl MS 170 @ $170.95 (sale price) or a Husqvarna 240 @ $210.00. Online, the Stihl.com price is $299.00. Hickerson recommended buying the Stihl at the local sale price from JD Rents paid from the Road and Shop Equipment line. MSP: Labhart/ Myers -- to approve the Road Master’s request to purchase the 16” Stihl MS 170 chain saw from JD Rents on sale for $170.95.

COMMUNITY ADDICTIONS AND MENTAL HEALTH. The court reviewed and signed 2015-2017 Oregon Health Authority IGA No. 147789 for the Financing of Community Addictions and Mental Health Services. Labhart declared a conflict of interest because his son manages the local Community Counseling Solutions office. MSP: Myers/Britton -- to authorize Judge Myers to sign the 2015-2017 Oregon Health Authority IGA No. 147789 for the Financing of Community Addictions and Mental Health Services. Now, the county must receive pass-through funding for Community Addictions and Mental Health Services like it already does for Public Health Services.

SPECIAL USE PERMIT. The court reviewed and signed a Malheur National Forest Special Use Permit for the continued use and maintenance of a geological marker on the Blue Mountain Ranger District. The new permit expires December 31, 2023. MSP: Myers/Labhart -- to authorize Judge Myers to sign USDA Forest Service Special Use Permit BMD36 on the Blue Mountain Ranger District with an expiration date of December 31, 2023.

VICTIM ASSISTANCE. As recommended by the Victim Assistance Program Director, the court reviewed and signed a 2015-2017 VOCA and CFA Non-Competitive Grant Application to provide $72,704 for VOCA and $26,831 for CFA. Funds are used to support a portion of the Victim Assistance Program Director position, provide emergency services (clothing and shelter) to victims of crime, recruit volunteers, allow for attendance at trainings, and provide various office supplies for the program. MSP: Myers/Britton -- to authorize Judge Myers to sign the 2015-2017 VOCA and CFA Non-Competitive Grant Applications as presented.

MINUTES. MSP: Britton/Myers -- to approve the August 12 minutes as amended.

PUBLIC COMMENTS. Public Forest Commissioner Brooks Smith remarked on detour routes around Hwy 395 to Seneca. He said motor homes are traveling through Murderers Creek and Laycock Creek is an issue because it’s really bad at the crest. He recommended having it graded, if there’s an opportunity.

Frances Preston announced a meeting this evening at the Prairie City School District about retirement of the culturally historic Bates building that was moved from Bates to the school. She will be talking about the process the school district can use for an historical designation. Preston voiced support of the Sheriff’s earlier request for additional funding and resources for emergency management.

Jim Sproul announced all of the Maintenance Level 1 roads that were closed at the start of the Mason Creek fire. He felt the county has graders and water truck tenders that could be and should be used. Jim Sproul thought the county could send road resources to the Seneca community to provide additional fire safety. He complimented the Sheriff and deputies, and fire fighters from out of the area, for being very professional during the Canyon Creek Complex disaster.

10:40 am -- Zach Williams entered

Fire lines being cut around the Oliver ranch were discussed, as well as other fire activities being conducted this morning.

Labhart informed attendees that Red Cross is no longer accepting donated items, but money donations are being accepted by Old West Federal Credit Union.

Myers mentioned the Canyon City Planning Commission would hold a public hearing on September 21 regarding the county’s zoning application for property at 313 S. Humbolt.

10:45 am – Adjourned

Respectfully Submitted,

Mary R. Ferrioli

County Court Secretary

]]>
Aug. 26 editorial cartoon http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/be/editorials/20150826/aug-26-editorial-cartoon http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/be/editorials/20150826/aug-26-editorial-cartoon#Comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:24:32 -0400 Nancy McCarthy http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829945

]]>
A ‘miracle’ house for a birthday present http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150826/a-miracle-house-for-a-birthday-present http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150826/a-miracle-house-for-a-birthday-present#Comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:14:26 -0400 Cheryl Hoefler http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829949 CANYON CITY — “It was like something out of a horror movie.”

That’s what Amy Hoppe said the Canyon Creek area resembled when she, her brother and a cousin drove through Saturday morning, Aug. 15, to check on the home of her 90-year-old grandmother, Dortha Hoppe.

At least they knew the home was still standing.

And Dortha was safe at that point, too, staying in John Day with her son and his wife, Wayne and Barbara Hoppe, Amy’s parents.

When the area went on a Level 1 evacuation the morning before, Amy went up to her grandmother’s house to get her and some of her clothes, and take her to her parents’ house in John Day. But when Amy went to get a few more belongings, the police told her the area was at a Level 3 evacuation. She needed to leave immediately.

“I rushed into the home, shaking, grabbed a bunch of photo albums and snapped a picture out the window,” she said.

Later that night, they were told the house was gone, but Amy said she learned from Julie and Gordon Larson, who went up to get horses, that it was the only home in the area not destroyed.

Just exactly what they found upon arrival however, took them by surprise.

The property surrounding the home and right up to its base was blackened and charred. A couple of windows were blown out and vinyl siding melted in places, Hoppe said, but otherwise, it was intact.

The next day, Sunday, while she and another cousin were at the house, firefighters from the North Lincoln Fire Department stopped by to ask a few questions and told them it was a local Oregon Department of Forestry crew who had worked that area.

According to the North Lincoln fire crew, Amy said, the forestry department crew moved brush and stuck sprinklers around, hoping to save it. They had to move on before they themselves didn’t make it back out, but asked later about the houses that were still standing and about “the yellow one on the hill.”

“The North Lincoln guys said they named it the ‘miracle house,’” Amy said.

Ever since Dortha’s husband, Buck Hoppe, died in May 2011, Amy said her parents have tried to help her grandmother stay in her home, where she has lived for over 50 years. “We all to this day have no clue how it is still there,” she added.

It was also an early birthday present for Dortha, who turned 90 on Aug. 17.

“My family and grandmother are grateful, but our hearts are heavy for those who did lose homes,” Amy said.

“We are beyond thankful for what they did,” she added.

]]>
Canyon Creek Complex update, timeline http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150826/firefighters-work-to-contain-canyon-creek-two-other-fires/1 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150826/firefighters-work-to-contain-canyon-creek-two-other-fires/1#Comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 10:44:12 -0400 Nancy McCarthy http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829951 This is the timeline for the days following the initial outbreak of the Canyon Creek Complex fire:

  • • Number of homes destroyed: 36. More than 50 other structures were damaged and more than 500 were threatened.

• Number of acres burned: 48,201, with 0 percent containment.

• Personnel fighting the fire: 649, including two Type 1 crews, trained to handle massive wildfires.

• Evacuation Level 3 remained South from Dog Creek to Little Dog Creek, as well as the upper end of Pine Creek. Canyon Creek, from the fire perimeter north at Canyon City, south to the 15, 16 junction also remained under a Level 3 evacuation.

• Gov. Kate Brown met with firefighters that afternoon. She announced that the Oregon National Guard would be called in to help.

• Firefighters braced for 35 mph wind gusts and dug in to protect the fire from spreading to Seneca, which was placed on a Level 1 evacuation.

• Number of acres burned: 53,876 acres, with 10 percent containment.

• The fire had jumped Road 1530 and headed toward Butterfly Springs, about two miles north of the old Parrish Cabin burn.

• A Level 3 evacuation was placed on the area west of County Road 62, south of milepost 12 and north of Forest Road 16 to the junction of Forest Roads 15 and 16.

• Highway 395 remained closed.

• The number of homes destroyed: 39.

• The number of acres burned: 61,631, with 13 percent containment.

• The Jerry’s Draw fire on Dixie Mountain, four miles north of Prairie City, broke out and burned 150 acres. Some residents were put on Level 2 evacuation; others were on Level 1. Cause of the fire was under investigation.

• The Level 1 alert was lifted for Seneca and others were decreased.

• The Level 3 evacuations involving the Jerry’s Draw fire remained in effect for Ricco Ranch Road, Standard Creek, Dean Creek Road and Dixie Creek.

• Number of acres burned: 67,456, with 17 percent containment.

• Number of fire personnel: 902, down from a high of 941.

• Firefighters were able to complete a fire line around the Jerry’s Draw fire, suppressing several spot fires as they arose.

• Evacuation levels were reduced or lifted in some areas.

• Highway 395 opened, with pilot cars leading vehicles out of the fire zone during the day only.

• Number of acres burned: 69,606, with 23 percent containment.

• Number of fire personnel: 832.

• Drop in national fire priority: From No. 1 to No. 10.

• Number of structures threatened: 150, down from 700.

• The Jerry’s Draw fire was contained.

• Immediate evacuations ordered for another 22 homes from Upper Pine Creek and Upper Dog Creek as winds shifted out of the southwest, pushing the blaze back northeast where firefighters had already established a fire line.

• Number of acres burned: 73,210 acres, with 29 percent containment.

• Number of fire personnel: 665.

• Firefighters spotted another fire 13 miles northeast of Prairie City. The Frog Pond fire was estimated at 15 acres, about 3.5 miles south of Greenhorn.

• Highway 395 opened unrestricted day and night.

Tuesday, Aug. 25

• Number of acres burned: 74,744, with 37 percent containment.

• Number of fire personnel: 707.

• Frog Pond fire contained at 15 acres.

• Jerry’s Draw fire contained at 161 acres.

Wednesday, Aug. 26

• Number of acres burned: 74,649, with 42 percent containment.

• Number of fire personnel: 699.

]]>
Couple find memories in fire’s rubble http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/People/20150826/couple-find-memories-in-fires-rubble http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/People/20150826/couple-find-memories-in-fires-rubble#Comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:23:52 -0400 Angel Carpenter http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829946 CANYON CITY — Only the chimney is left standing in the rubble where their home once was.

Mike and Sherry Dress’s 5,400-square-foot home, destroyed by the fury known as the Canyon Creek Complex fire, used to be a gathering place for family and friends, including exchange students.

The home where their six children grew up was one of the 39 homes destroyed in the canyon south of Canyon City on Aug. 14, the day two fires merged and blew out of control.

Those two fires became the Canyon Creek Complex fire, which has so far scorched 74,700 acres — nearly 117 square miles.

Known as “Eagle’s Nest,” the 2 1/2-story house, on 97 acres of timbered land, was built in 1954 and was originally owned by Drs. Jerry and Martha van Der Vlught.

“There’s not a stick of wood left in the place, and the windows melted,” Mike said.

Sherry pointed out the areas where her now grown children had their bedrooms. The boys stayed downstairs where their loud music could be at a distance, she said with a smile.

In what was the room where Sherry, who has delivered 2,900 babies in her career, stands a blackened, metal portion of a birthing chair. She also owns the Naturally Yours health food store in John Day. A clinic, library and pharmacy, where she stored 5,000 homeopathic remedies, were also lost to the fire.

A new $9,000 walk-in bathtub was purchased and placed in the basement the day before the fire, to help care for her elderly and cancer patients who would visit. It, too, was destroyed.

The day the fire broke out, Sherry was in La Grande to deliver a baby.

Mike, who was at home, said he saw a puff of smoke, across Highway 395 South from their house, on the ridge north of Berry Creek. It was the Berry Creek fire.

He climbed a hill to take a picture that day, and by the time he descended and reached his house, he felt a hot wind blowing; it was the Mason Spring fire, and flames were coming down the hill above his home.

Mike said he’d known about the Mason Spring fire but thought it was only 10 acres and a safe distance away.

The day’s forecast called for south to southwest winds, gusting to 35 mph.

“I remember thinking, ‘I hope they get that out,’” he said.

He took his first picture at 11:32 a.m.

“The winds always pick up around 11 a.m.,” he said.

He had a plan to start the sprinklers that were on the roof and run down to their large fish pond.

But while Mike was on the roof, Grant County Sheriff reserve deputy Ken Olson pulled up and yelled at him to leave.

Later, from the safety of the John Day home where Sherry’s sons, Chad and Bret Lauer, live, Mike heard it was only five minutes from the time he left that his home became engulfed in flames.

Sherry said Chad, a wildland firefighter, was first to tell them the house was gone, and he was devastated. He wished he could have helped, but he had been assigned to a different fire.

Besides their home, the Dresses lost many possessions in the fire, including collectors coins, vehicles and a couple of travel trailers.

However, Mike’s metal shop building and the tools inside are intact, and red peppers are still growing in Sherry’s garden.

All of their cats and dogs survived, but they are still searching for their older Persian cat, Fluffy.

Although they’ve lost so much, Sherry said they have family and friends to support them, and they were insured.

Sherry said they’re less concerned about themselves and more worried about others whose financial situation forced them to choose between health insurance and home insurance and who won’t be able to rebuild.

Mike and Sherry found a rental on the west side of John Day for now.

“I don’t want to go back,” Sherry said. “The reason we lived up the canyon was because it was so beautiful.”

They thought about moving out of the area but decided against it.

“We’ve been here for 30 to 35 years in this community,” she said. “We’re going to stay here.”

]]>
Donations pour into Fairgrounds Relief Center for victims of wildfire http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_News/20150826/donations-pour-into-fairgrounds-relief-center-for-victims-of-wildfire http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_News/20150826/donations-pour-into-fairgrounds-relief-center-for-victims-of-wildfire#Comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:27:05 -0400 George Plaven http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829944 Judy Dunn was in Michigan when she heard about the ferocious wildfire bearing down on her home along Canyon Creek south of John Day.

Miraculously, the blaze missed Dunn’s house — inherited from her late father — by mere inches, though others weren’t as lucky. At least 39 homes have been destroyed in the Canyon Creek Complex, leaving families with nothing but a pile of rubble and questions about where to turn next.

Stories of tragedy have led to donations pouring in from across the state as Oregonians dig deep for ways to help. The result is a massive relief effort now organized at the Grant County Fairgrounds Pavilion, which volunteers have transformed into a kind of one-stop shop for fire victims to get back on their feet.

Shelves are carefully stocked with everything from macaroni and toothpaste to dog food and pillows. There are extension cords, lamps, books, dishes, water, toasters, paper towels, bug spray and more donated clothes than can possibly fit one location.

Though the fire spared Dunn’s house, it did destroy an outbuilding and pump house that left her without running water and electricity. She and her husband, Jim, are staying at a friend’s place in Canyon City until they can rebuild.

Saturday, Aug. 22, Judy Dunn and her friend, Lena Redheffer, stopped by the Fairgrounds Relief Center to pick up just a few odds and ends.

“This is just beyond anything I can imagine,” Dunn said. “This is amazing, the effort of everybody who’s come together.”

Dunn said the community has always managed to pull together during hard times, but the Canyon Creek Complex was unlike anything she’s ever experienced.

“Canyon Creek going up looks like a bomb went off,” she said. “Our hearts just go out to the people who lost everything.”

Beyond Grant County, good Samaritans have loaded their cars, trucks and horse trailers with donated goods driven down from Pendleton, Portland, Bend and even as far as Boise. A truck rolled in Saturday from Big R Oregon out of Redmond, carrying pallets of donated horse tack, feed, hoses and even a chainsaw.

Mike and Hilda Allison made the 70-mile drive from Hines with a special delivery of food and water. The couple used to own a logging business together and still know plenty of locals in the John Day area.

“We woke up this morning, and Mike said ‘Let’s go do some good things,’” Hilda Allison said. “It’s amazing how these small communities rally.”

Volunteers help unload and find shelf space for all the new items, while, behind the scenes, another group of volunteers updates a 10-page list of businesses and individuals offering services such as health, housing and financial assistance.

Jennifer Mooney said it is impossible to know exactly how much has been donated so far. Items keep coming in every day, more than they could ever give all away.

“All this is love for the ones who need it,” Mooney said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

Mooney, a retired justice court clerk in Canyon City, has worked at the Fairgrounds Relief Center since it opened Aug. 15 at the peak of the fire’s intensity. Her job is to greet families at the door, make sure they sign in and help them figure out what it is they’ll need to take with them.

“Most of them are so numb, they can’t think,” she said. “So we think for them, and try to pick out the things they’ll need.”

Mooney said she has no idea how people think to donate the things they bring in; things as simple as fingernail clippers that are so basic they’re easy to overlook.

There are bigger things too, like furniture, beds and a spare generator. It’s all needed and all going to good use, Mooney said.

The relief center keeps an updated list of things victims need on its Facebook page, Fairgrounds Relief Center, which is now followed by 709 people.

“As long as there is a need, we will stay open at the fairgrounds,” said Mindy Winegar, office assistant at the Grant County Fairgrounds, who has been helping organize the donations being brought to the pavilion.

Mooney said they plan to keep taking donations until the need is no longer there.

“We’ve done this out of love,” she said. “We’re all helpers, and we want to help.”

Dunn still tears up when she thinks about everything that’s happened the past week, and especially how her husband’s childhood memories have essentially gone up in flames. They might be in limbo now, she said, but they will rebuild. And they will make it better.

“It’s just going to take time,” Dunn said. “It’s been a rollercoaster.”

To reach the Fairgrounds Relief Center, call 541-575-1900.

]]>
Firefighters join 6-year-old’s celebration http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/People/20150826/firefighters-join-6-year-olds-celebration http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/People/20150826/firefighters-join-6-year-olds-celebration#Comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:15:49 -0400 Angel Carpenter http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829948 JOHN DAY — Several Canyon Creek Complex firefighters sang “Happy Birthday” to 6-year-old Dalia Nicodemus last Tuesday night as she shared 240 cupcakes at their fire camp dinner.

The birthday girl said her favorite part of helping her mom make the cupcakes was pouring in the mix and licking the bowls.

The whole family helped distribute the cupcakes, including Dalia’s mom. Sophia; her dad, Gary; and younger brothers, Duke, 4, and Khler, 3.

Firefighters were all smiles at the gesture.

The Nicodemus kids also set up signs thanking the crews for their work on the local fire.

Sophia said the family has had a view of the fire, which has destroyed at least 39 homes, from their Canyon City residence — at a safe distance.

“Seeing the fire was pretty scary,” she said. “We feel horrible for the people who lost things, but we’re also very glad for these firefighters.”

]]>
Old West fund swells to nearly $50,000 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150826/old-west-fund-swells-to-nearly-50000 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150826/old-west-fund-swells-to-nearly-50000#Comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:12:05 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829950 JOHN DAY — Donations to Old West Federal Credit Union’s fund for Canyon Creek Complex fire victims have been pouring in.

According to Ken Olsen, Old West CEO, the Community Fire Relief Fund total was “just shy of $50,000” as of Aug. 24.

Money has been coming in not just from throughout Grant County and Oregon, but from all corners of the country, Olsen said, as people open their wallets, checkbooks and credit cards to donate to the account.

Olsen said he is organizing a committee to help determine people’s needs, and on that note, the committee needs victims to reach out for help.

“Our top priority is to get the word out to people that the help is here,” Olsen said.

They don’t need to have lost their home; any fire victim who had damage to home and/or property is urged to come forward.

A form is available where donors can designate their donation to go to the general fund, or to a specific person, family or agency, so getting names of those impacted is critical.

Olsen said advocate groups also will be created to be spokespersons for those who don’t know what they need. Vouchers for immediate needs are available at the fairgrounds pavilion, which people can then exchange for VISA gift cards at Old West.

The Old West account is set up in partnership with the Fairgrounds Relief Effort.

Donations may be made in person at any Old West branch, by mail to 650 W. Main St., John Day, OR 97845, or over the phone via credit card by calling 541-575-0264 or 1-888-575-0264.

Old West is administering the account at no charge and will account for all funds it receives to ensure donated funds are used efficiently and effectively.

The fund is a growing collaboration of concerned community individuals, partners and agencies with the goal to provide relief to victims quickly.

]]>
Sports community rallies around wildfire victims http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_Sports/20150826/sports-community-rallies-around-wildfire-victims http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_Sports/20150826/sports-community-rallies-around-wildfire-victims#Comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 10:43:31 -0400 Angel Carpenter http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829952 CANYON CITY — As coaches, it’s easy to make enemies with other teams, coaches and players along the way.

But when the house owned by Grant Union High School coaches Steve and Shae Speth was destroyed in the Canyon Creek Complex fire, other area coaches tossed aside their rivalries to help out.

Basketball coaches Brian Pickard (Weston-McEwen), Mitch Thompson (Irrigon), Jeremy Rosenbalm (Heppner) and Brennan Whittaker (Culver) have teamed up to put together a relief effort to help the Speths get back on their feet.

It included coordinating donation drop-off locations in each of their towns for clothing and other necessities for Steve, Shae and their two sons Eli and Trejan; the Speths also have a grown daughter, Caity Bellamy, of Omaha, Neb.

Steve coaches boys basketball at Grant, and Shae coaches volleyball there.

For a few of the coaches, there was no second thought on what to do after hearing the news.

“I saw Steve’s Facebook post (after the fire), and I immediately thought we should do something,” said Thompson. “I texted Brian (Pickard), and he said the same thing.”

Aside from the clothing and necessities, two Go Fund Me accounts have been set up to gather monetary donations, one at GoFundMe.com/JohnDaywildfire. The accounts have already received more than $7,000.

Donations may also be made to Old West Federal Credit Union, to the Speths and other fire victims.

Pickard said people have been constantly contacting the organizers and wanting to help in any way they can.

“It sorta snowballed into what it is now,” he said. “It’s just one of those things, to do whatever we can to help out.”

Shae said she said her family were grateful for the new clothing. While they received more than enough pants and shirts, etc., they still need some shoes.

They contributed the extra clothing received to the donation center in John Day for fire victims, located at the old Blue Mountain Junior High School library.

The Speth family has found a house to rent in John Day while deciding where to live permanently.

“We’ve just been overwhelmed and humbled by all the support we have received, both material and otherwise. We are just trying to get some sense of home and normalcy for the boys,” Shae said.

To inquire about how to help the family with shoes or other items, contact Shae or Steve at speths@centurytel.net.

]]>
Firefighters work to contain Canyon Creek, two other fires http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150826/firefighters-work-to-contain-canyon-creek-two-other-fires http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/free/20150826/firefighters-work-to-contain-canyon-creek-two-other-fires#Comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 10:40:32 -0400 Nancy McCarthy http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150829953 This is the timeline for the days following the initial outbreak of the Canyon Creek Complex fire:

  • • Number of homes destroyed: 36. More than 50 other structures were damaged and more than 500 were threatened.

• Number of acres burned: 48,201, with 0 percent containment.

• Personnel fighting the fire: 649, including two Type 1 crews, trained to handle massive wildfires.

• Evacuation Level 3 remained South from Dog Creek to Little Dog Creek, as well as the upper end of Pine Creek. Canyon Creek, from the fire perimeter north at Canyon City, south to the 15, 16 junction also remained under a Level 3 evacuation.

• Gov. Kate Brown met with firefighters that afternoon. She announced that the Oregon National Guard would be called in to help.

• Firefighters braced for 35 mph wind gusts and dug in to protect the fire from spreading to Seneca, which was placed on a Level 1 evacuation.

• Number of acres burned: 53,876 acres, with 10 percent containment.

• The fire had jumped Road 1530 and headed toward Butterfly Springs, about two miles north of the old Parrish Cabin burn.

• A Level 3 evacuation was placed on the area west of County Road 62, south of milepost 12 and north of Forest Road 16 to the junction of Forest Roads 15 and 16.

• Highway 395 remained closed.

• The number of homes destroyed: 39.

• The number of acres burned: 61,631, with 13 percent containment.

• The Jerry’s Draw fire on Dixie Mountain, four miles north of Prairie City, broke out and burned 150 acres. Some residents were put on Level 2 evacuation; others were on Level 1. Cause of the fire was under investigation.

• The Level 1 alert was lifted for Seneca and others were decreased.

• The Level 3 evacuations involving the Jerry’s Draw fire remained in effect for Ricco Ranch Road, Standard Creek, Dean Creek Road and Dixie Creek.

• Number of acres burned: 67,456, with 17 percent containment.

• Number of fire personnel: 902, down from a high of 941.

• Firefighters were able to complete a fire line around the Jerry’s Draw fire, suppressing several spot fires as they arose.

• Evacuation levels were reduced or lifted in some areas.

• Highway 395 opened, with pilot cars leading vehicles out of the fire zone during the day only.

• Number of acres burned: 69,606, with 23 percent containment.

• Number of fire personnel: 832.

• Drop in national fire priority: From No. 1 to No. 10.

• Number of structures threatened: 150, down from 700.

• The Jerry’s Draw fire was contained.

• Immediate evacuations ordered for another 22 homes from Upper Pine Creek and Upper Dog Creek as winds shifted out of the southwest, pushing the blaze back northeast where firefighters had already established a fire line.

• Number of acres burned: 73,210 acres, with 29 percent containment.

• Number of fire personnel: 665.

• Firefighters spotted another fire 13 miles northeast of Prairie City. The Frog Pond fire was estimated at 15 acres, about 3.5 miles south of Greenhorn.

• Highway 395 opened unrestricted day and night.

• Number of acres burned: 74,744, with 37 percent containment.

• Number of fire personnel: 707.

• Frog Pond fire contained at 15 acres.

• Jerry’s Draw fire contained at 161 acres.

]]>