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.