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Looking For a Way to Serve the Public? Baker City Police, Fire Want to Hear From You

Fire ‘volunteers’ actually earn a real paycheck


A nationwide decline in volunteer firefighters is igniting a need in Baker City.

Lt. David Blair, the fire department’s training officer, said there are 10 volunteer firefighters in Baker City.

That’s fewer than half the 25 volunteers the department relied on in 1985.

Blair said the more volunteers the fire department has, the better prepared the department is.

“Twenty is a really good number,” he said.

An open house on Thursday was designed for people who want to visit the fire hall in unintimidating circumstances.

“It’s very daunting to come into the fire station because firefighters tend to be very mystic, so to speak,” he said.

Although volunteer firefighters are described as such to distinguish them from the department’s 13 paid professionals (one of those 13 positions is vacant), the volunteers don’t actually work for free.


Fire Department running low on volunteers, and Police Department’s Citizens on Patrol program has

Police eager to sign up extra eyes, ears on patrol

Serving Baker City through police work doesn’t necessarily require a badge.

Rick Forrester has more than 40 years experience in law enforcement. He began his career with the Bremerton, Wash., Police Department in June 1966. He then worked for the Washington State Criminal Justice Department training students in the academy.

After retiring from Washington, Forrester moved to Baker City and worked as an investigator for the Baker County District Attorney.

Now he volunteers with the Baker City Police Department, training citizens who have volunteered to help the community through the Citizens on Patrol (COP) program.

COP volunteers patrol public areas such as Geiser-Pollman Park, as well as doing office work.

They’re valuable liaisons between the community and visitors, Forrester said.

“COP is a way in which the city of Baker can welcome tourists and visitors from out of town,” he said.


Need goats? Baker’s got ’em

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A Rocky Mountain goat from the Elkhorn Mountains is released into its new home near Mount Jefferson. (Photograph by Jim Yuskavitch)
Baker County’s mountain goat population is so bountiful these days that we can afford to share with Oregon’s biggest mountain range.

A group of 45 goats that were born and reared in the Elkhorn Mountains west of Baker City today ramble across the volcanic slopes of the state’s second-tallest peak.

That’s 10,495-foot Mount Jefferson, in the central Cascades between Mount Hood and the Three Sisters.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife trapped the goats last week at Goodrich Lake, about 12 miles northwest of Baker City, then trucked the animals a couple hundred miles west to the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs reservation near Madras.

The goats were released along Upper Whitewater River on July 27.

Mountain goats were extirpated from the Cascades south of the Columbia River Gorge more than 100 years ago, according to ODFW.


Schools show mixed results

No Child Left Behind progress report

The Baker School District has many things to celebrate as administrators review the academic progress students have made over the past year, Superintendent Walter Wegener said Tuesday.

But a preliminary report issued by the Oregon Department of Education Monday shows that for the third year in a row, the district failed to meet standards for adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the federal school reform law.

(Formerly known as No Child Left Behind, the law has been renamed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, identified by the acronym ESEA.)

Although the district was rated high in most categories of the report, economically disadvantaged students at Baker High School fell short of meeting the math standards. Just 52.2 percent of students met benchmarks. That’s below the AYP target of 59 percent.And not enough Baker Web Academy students participated in the testing for that program to meet AYP, Wegener said. The participation target is set at 95 percent, but 86 percent of Baker Web Academy students were tested, according to the report.

Wegener said he and Web Academy Principal Nate Williams will be working with the charter school’s diverse population to try to ensure that more students are tested in the future.


15 juveniles charged in vandalism

A Baker City Police investigation of vandalism at the former Churchill School building has led to the arrest of 15 juveniles ranging in age from 9 to 15.

The building at 3451 Broadway St. was entered multiple times between May 28 and June 25 by at least 20 juveniles who intentionally caused extensive damage inside the building, Police Chief Wyn Lohner said in a press release issued Tuesday.

Windows were broken, interior siding was damaged and graffiti was painted on the building, Lohner said.

Office equipment and interior doors also were damaged. The estimated cost to repair, replace and clean up the damage is $26,210.

The school, which was built in 1923, has stood vacant since the district closed it in 2002 to save money. It is owned by architect Jim Van Duyn and Pamela Van Duyn, a Baker City attorney. The Van Duyns bought the building from the Baker School District in 2006 for $205,000.


Former Bulldog duo felt right at home in Shrine game

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Former Baker players Dekker Smith, No. 46 above, and Trace Richardson, not picutured, had strong outings at Saturday’s East-West Shrine all-star football game. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr)
Baker graduates Trace Richardson and Dekker Smith closed out their high school football careers on a strong note Saturday at the East-West Shrine all-star football game at Bulldog Memorial Stadium.

Both former Bulldogs were members of the East squad that lost 14-6 in the 58th annual Shrine game. But both gave the Baker fans something to cheer about.

Smith, who has already enrolled at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, started at linebacker for the East. And in his usual hard-nosed style Smith led the defense to a strong showing.

“It took a few plays in the first half to get back to speed, but after that it felt good,” Smith said.

“It obviously had that hometown feeling. But the Shrine game is a different breed. It’s a lot different than the playoffs or the regular season. But it was fun.”

Smith intercepted a West pass early in the first quarter and returned it deep into West territory. However, as he was tackled the ball slipped away and was recovered by the West.

Smith made sure West quarterbacks Nick Paxton and Jake Moore, and running back Nick Turner had close looks at the stadium turf on numerous occasions.


Fire closes forest trails

Three lightning-caused fires merged into a single blaze Friday in the Elkhorn Mountains north of Granite, forcing a group of campers to evacuate a wilderness lake and prompting the Forest Service to close three hiking trails.

Crews contained the 30-acre Drinkwater Complex, which burned near Baldy Lake, on Sunday evening, Debbie Wilkins, information officer with the fire-management team, said this morning.

The fire burned on the west side of the Baldy Creek valley, about seven miles northeast of Granite.

A small section of the fire is inside the North Fork John Day Wilderness.

The Forest Service fire lookout atop Mount Ireland, just south of Baldy Lake, reported the three fires Thursday evening.All were sparked by lightning bolts from the same thunderstorm, Wilkins said.


Walker’s goal: End domestic violence

A Portland woman who wants to raise awareness to help end domestic violence, including physical and emotional abuse of children, will visit Baker City with her own children and a Umatilla County court mediator Tuesday.

Virginia Jones has been walking across Oregon to the theme of “Stop Abuse, Heal the Wounds” since 2008. This is her first visit to Baker City and the trip will coincide with National Night Out, which is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Geiser-Pollman Park.

The 51-year-old Jones said she prefers to drive to communities and then walk around the town to allow time to talk with residents rather than setting an athletic pace to cover the state.

“When my children were with us (on past walks) they taught us a valuable lesson,” she said in an e-mail announcing her Baker City visit. “We couldn’t set an athletic pace with kids. We had to feed them and make sure they were happy.


Husband charged in murder of former Baker City woman

Springfield Police arrested the husband of a former Baker City woman Friday on a charge of murder in connection with her March death at the couple’s Springfield home where they had lived for the past seven years.

William Murray “Bill” Wiggins, 61, was arrested at 7 o’clock Friday morning by Springfield Police detectives, according to Sgt. David Lewis.

He pleaded not guilty to one count of felony murder during an arraignment at the Lane County Jail in Eugene, Lewis said today. Wiggins is represented by Eugene attorney Shaun McCrea.

Wiggins is accused of killing his wife, Andrea Nicholson Wiggins, 62, who died March 5. An autopsy conducted by the state Medical Examiner’s Office determined Andrea Wiggins died of strangulation and drowning, Lewis said in a telephone interview Friday from his Springfield office.


Action!

Powder Valley grad Joseph Nelson filming a movie here

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Collin Clifford, left, plays the hero against villain Ammona Cunningham in a short film by Joseph Nelson about a young boy’s imagination.(Baker City Herald/S.John Collins)
Madi Oldroyd perches on the rock, her wrists bound in thick rope and her face a perfect picture of boredom.

Suddenly the hero sprints into the frame, glancing a foot off a cottonwood tree and landing in fighting stance to take on the villain who tied up the Fair Maiden.

Cameraman Thor Wixom captures the action with his fancy Red One camera, which is connected to a nearby screen where Director Joseph Nelson is watching with a smile on his face.

“I get to stand in front of this screen and watch my imagination come to life,” he says.

Nelson, who graduated from Powder Valley High School in 2001, is busy this week filming a short he’s titled “Then I Shall Reign Supreme.”

Local scenes were shot near the Elkhorn Wildlife Area west of North Powder. Nelson’s plan is to finish the film, a short about 7 to 10 minutes long, by September to enter it in the Sundance Film Festival.


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