Grant County Court received an update on its Community Wildfire Protection Plan earlier this month.
Irene Jerome, the county’s Firewise coordinator, said the CWFP is updated annually.
The program helps organizations and property owners reduce fire danger and has been funded by the Secure Rural Schools payments.
She said she had been the “go-to” about anything that has to do with fire prevention in Grant County.
In February, she said, Oregon Fire Prevention invited her to give a presentation about how Grant County has successfully established Firewise in various communities throughout the county. She said the group was impressed, given the challenges with being geographically spread out.
She said the Firewise program, like everything else in 2020, has been affected by the pandemic.
She said she worked with the National Resource Conservation Service and Grant Soil and Water Conservation District to apply for a fuel reduction grant program. Jerome said the grant would open significant funding for cleanup and other projects, but, she said, due to the pandemic, they have delayed putting in for the grant until next year.
“It’s a lot of work, and as everyone knows with COVID, it’s difficult,” she said, “because you can’t gather in person.”
Jerome said the Grant-Harney Fire Prevention Cooperative was “really robust” until this year “disassembled.” She said she attributed the reasons to both COVID-19 and the departure of Mark Howell, a fire prevention officer with Forest Service. Jerome said Howell could not get a promotion in the area, so he moved on.
“The loss of his assistance has been pretty devastating to the program,” Jerome told the court.
Nonetheless, she said the community worked with the county’s Search and Rescue coordinator Dave Dobler, conducting mock evacuations on Laycock Creek Road.
Jerome said evacuation plans are critical, especially in areas like Ritter and Middle Fork, where there is one road in and one route to get out.
“There are some alternative ways,” Jerome said. “But you have people there that don’t know the country, and they get in there, get trapped. Have they thought about evacuation? Do they know how to get out?”
She said helping communities establish those plans is what Firewise is there for, but community engagement is crucial.
She said Middle Fork and Ritter are starting to lose interest because of the lockdown orders. Jerome said virtual meetings are not an option because of sparse broadband.
Despite the difficulties this year, Jerome told the court she helped establish a Firewise community, Canyon Creek Lanes.
“I am very proud of that,” she said. “They have their official designation.”
She said there is “power of the group” with a Firewise community regarding fuel reductions.
Jerome said funding under the federal Title III Secure Rural Schools to protect homes and properties is only available Firewise communities.
Jerome said she also has ideas, such as seeing about an incentive-based fuel reduction program. She said she plans on attending a Natural Resource Advisory Committee meeting to talk about them.
Jerome stressed how community-driven Firewise is.
“The beauty of it (Firewise) is the communities do it together,” she said. “The CWPP is the overarching document.”
In other county news:
The court made the appointments to the following boards and committees:
Airport Commission Board
Robert Watt, reappointment, to expire Dec. 31, 2022.
Doug Baggett, reappointment, to expire Dec. 31, 2022.
Scott Myers, reappointment, to expire Dec. 31, 2022.
Doug Ferguson, reappointment, Dec. 31, 2022.
College Advisory Board
Didgette McCracken, reappointment, to expire Dec. 31, 2023.
Christie Moore, appointment, expires Dec. 31, 2023.
Sam Palmer seconded the appointment of Moore to the board, but with discussion. He said he did not see Moore’s qualifications and did not know her personally. Myers said he did not know her personally, but nonetheless, she applied. Palmer said he would like to have a summary of an applicant’s qualifications in the future.
4-H Extension Office Board
Beth Spell, reappointment, Dec. 31, 2023.
Doug Cox, reappointment, Dec. 31, 2023.
Courtney Montague, reappointment, Dec. 31, 2023.
Mental Health Advisory Board
Colleen Lindley, appointment, Dec. 31, 2023.
Kathleen Hoffman, appointment, Dec. 31, 2023.
Margie Walton, reappointment, Dec. 31, 2024.
Senior Citizens Advisory Board
Karen Stubblefield, Dec. 31 2023.
Susan Cavender, Dec. 31, 2021.
Southeast Area Commission of Transportation
Doug Ferguson, reappointment, Dec. 31, 2023.
Wildlife Advisory Board
John Morris, reappointment, Dec. 31, 2023.
Kenneth Moore, reappointment, Dec. 31 2023.
Bob Pugh, appointment, Dec. 31 2023.
Natural Resource Advisory Committee
Jim Bahrenburg, reappointment, Dec. 31, 2022.
Dan Becker, reappointment, Dec. 31, 2022.
Billie Jo George, reappointment, Dec. 31, 2022.
County Judge Scott Myers said the court would not fill the other vacancies on the NRAC or budget committee until there was further discussion.
The budget committee has two vacancies.
At Thursday’s NRAC meeting, the members discussed the four applicants for the committee’s two vacancies. The members voted on recommending Brett Morris, a logging contractor, and Howard Geiger, who, according to NRAC member Billie Jo George, is active in Firewise.
Dan Becker, who was reappointed, said it is the county’s role to appoint members.
Myers said the county extends the ability of boards and committees to recommend applicants. He said, for example, that he has asked Community Counseling Solutions Clinic Manager Thad Labhart to put the word out for new members for the Mental Health Board. He said he has done the same with the Planning Commission.
County Commissioner Jim Hamsher, NRAC’s liaison, said the county’s boards and committees have always recommended new members.
Employee appreciation certificates
The county carried on a year-old tradition of presenting employees with more than five years of service certificates of appreciation.
20 years of service
Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer
Corrections Deputy Mike Alley
15 years of service
Planning Director Shannon Springer
County Assessor David Thunnel
10 years of service
Legal Assistant to the District Attorney Jamie McKay
Civil Deputy Anna Marie Kuhn
Five years of service
Road Department Lead Mechanic Joe Bennett
Fairgrounds Manager Mindy Winegar
Human Resources Manager Laurie Cates
Road Foreman John Harper