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Firefighters climbing for a cure

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Local firefighters will use their lungs and legs to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society during the 23rd-annual Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle on March 9.

Travis Fields, Jason Jacobs, Ben Decker, Mike Downing, Ryan Downing, Derral Thomas and William Schlaich will race up the Columbia Center — 69 flights, 1,311 steps and 788 feet elevation gain — in full firefighter gear, including a breathing apparatus.

“It’s hard — we have an additional 50 pounds of gear,” said Fields, who participated in the event last year.

There will be 1,800 firefighters racing to the top this year — they take off in groups of about 20, Fields said.


Sage grouse plan: ‘mind-boggling’

Male sage grouse/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife photo

By Jayson Jacoby

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Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett has devoted the better part of four days to the BLM’s sage grouse study.

To describe his grasp of the document, the tip of the iceberg analogy seems appropriate.

“It’s just mind-boggling,” Bennett said of the 900-page draft environmental impact statement (EIS).

Bennett said he, along with fellow commissioners Fred Warner Jr. and Tim Kerns, and County Planner Holly Kerns, have strived to attain a “conversive grasp of the document, not a deep understanding.”

Bennett understands that his constituents have many questions about this chicken-size bird which has often been compared, in its potential to affect the way public lands are managed, to the spotted owl.


Fire destroys home near Huntington

By Chris Collins

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A Huntington-area home was destroyed by fire Sunday afternoon after an outdoor turkey fryer flared and sent flames lashing against the house.

The home of John and Lisa Miller at 28839 Langley Road, off Interstate 84 near Lime, was fully involved when Huntington firefighters arrived, said Fire Chief Eric Bronson. 

The Huntington Fire Department was dispatched at 3:15 p.m. and firefighters spent about seven hours at the scene.


Rep. Bentz lays out his agenda for 2014

By Pat Caldwell

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Oregon District 60 representative Cliff Bentz is going to be busy during the next nine months.

 Not only will the Oregon House of Representatives member work to address a number of critical issues for voters in Eastern Oregon but, as one of two GOP assistant minority leaders, Bentz, a Republican from Ontario, will also toil to help fellow Republicans secure or hold contested seats as election season dawns.

Bentz represents Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur and Lake counties in the Oregon Legislature. He is also a member of a number of key legislative commissions and is the vice-chairman of the Transportation and Economic Development Committee.

Bentz’s role as assistant minority leader is critical in terms of helping fellow Republicans get elected. During the next year, Bentz must juggle his responsibilities to his constituents while working to generate support for viable GOP candidates at the state level.


Analysis Of An Aircraft Tragedy

Ice likely culprit in Dec. 1 crash

By Pat Caldwell

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On the first day of December death hovered beyond the line of mountains at the edge of the Baker Valley.

There are a multitude of items that can spark an aircraft tragedy but on this day, over some of the most rugged and secluded timberland in the West, it was ice that killed.

And while ice is the primary suspect in the disappearance of a Beech Bonanza in the thick forests and deep snow of Idaho wilderness north of the town of Cascade, plain old bad luck also conspired to turn a routine flight into a tragedy. 

The story of pilot Dale Smith, 51, and the passengers in his Beech Bonanza is still very much a tale without a final ending. The conclusion to this saga, most likely tragic, may not arrive until spring when the snow melts.

Smith left Baker City and was on the way to Butte, Mont., with four other people in his plane. Smith’s children, Daniel and Amber, along with Daniel’s wife, Sheree, and Amber’s fiancé, Jonathan Norton, were on board when the plane disappeared.


4 damp days kept 2013 out of record book

Those four days — June 19, and Sept. 3, 4 and 29 — accounted for almost one-third of the total rainfall in 2013

By Jayson Jacoby

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2013 started dry and ended parched in Baker County.

In between wasn’t all that soggy, either.

Except for four days.

They made up barely 1 percent of the year, but those four days had an outsized effect.

Had all four been rain-free, 2013 would have ranked as the second-driest year at the Baker City Airport since at least 1943.

Instead, those four days accounted for 2.57 inches of rain — almost one-third of the year’s total.


Baker City's first baby of 2014

Kristy and James Park with their daughter, Aeris Areyah Park, who was born at 6:03 a.m. on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of St. Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City.

Baker City’s first baby of 2014 didn’t wait long to arrive.

Barely six hours, to be exact.

Aeris Areyah Park, the daughter of Kristy and James Park, was born at 6:03 a.m. on Wednesday at St. Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City.

Aeris weighed 5 pounds, 9.9 ounces and measured 18 inches long.

Both mother and baby are doing well, according to a press release from the Baker City hospital.

The Parks received a basket filled with baby clothes, diapers and blankets.


Crypto Control

Baker City officials expect to have a temporary UV treatment plant operating by March 1

Kathy Orr/Baker City Herald This site near one of the city’s reservoirs is where a temporary ultraviolet light treatment system will be installed later this winter. City officials hope to have a permanent treatment plant operating by the end of November 2014. UV light inactivates cryptosporidium.

By Jayson Jacoby

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Baker City Manager Mike Kee still winces slightly when he sees the email in his inbox each week.

Water test results.



For more than four months now that initial trepidation has been replaced by relief when Kee reads the email and sees the phrase “no cryptosporidium detected.”

But relief is not confidence.

Kee is eager for the day, about two months from now, when a worker turns on the machine that will infuse the city’s drinking water with crypto-inactivating ultraviolet light.


Scouts to pick up Christmas trees Saturday

Local Cub Scouts and Boys Scouts will be picking up Christmas trees in Baker City this Saturday, Jan. 4, between 9 a.m. and noon. 

Please leave your tree by the curb or street.

Donations are appreciated. 

In most cases one of the Scouts will knock on your door to ask if you’d like to donate.

If you won’t be home Saturday morning but would still like to contribute you can put your donation in an envelope and attach it to the tree.

Alternatively you can call Cody Hansen at 541-403-0288 to arrange to make you donation.


2013 has a near-record dry conclusion

Kathy Orr / Baker City Herald Bare slopes on the south side of Hunt Mountain are conspicuous in this scene from Hunt Mountain Lane west of Haines.

By Jayson Jacoby

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The brown swathes on the shoulder of Hunt Mountain tell the troubling tale.

Snow is scarce.

Slopes that typically are bright white from Thanksgiving until April or May are conspicuous in their dullness.

With only a slight chance of snow the rest of 2013, it’s all but certain that the final three months of the year will rank as the fifth-driest autumn on record at the Baker City Airport, where records date to 1943.

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