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Ready to Roll

Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally 

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald A 500-horsepower V-8 engine from a Corvette motor moves this Harley-Davidson Boss Hoss motorcycle owned by Frank and Debra Saniti of Boring, Ore. They spent Thursday morning cleaning and polishing the bike at Baker High School in preparation for Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally, which continues through Sunday. Usually touring on two wheels, the Sanitis traveled by motor home and a trailer for their first-time participation at the Baker City event. “This is a great town. We love it!” Frank says. People are friendly, the city and streets are clean and the historic aspect is incredible, he said.

The number of motorcycles might not be the only record set this weekend in Baker City.

How about tents?

The grassy fields around Baker High School resemble nothing so much the camp firefighters assemble when a big blaze is going.

Steve Folkestad, who with his brother, Eric, started the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally, expects as many as 8,000 riders to converge on Baker City this weekend.

A goodly percentage of that number was already here this morning, based on the frequency of Harley V-Twin reverberations bouncing off downtown buildings.

Although motorcycles will be parked along Main Street (closed to other traffic) all weekend, the official show starts at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Police arrest suspect in several vehicle prowls

Baker City Police on Wednesday arrested a local man who they believe stole items from several vehicles in Baker City over the past several days.
Patrick Cleveland, 33, who recently moved here from Montana, is charged with five counts of unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle and four counts of theft, one of which is a felony charge.
Police are investigating several other thefts of items from cars that have happened over the past two months.
See more in Friday's issue of the Baker City Herald.

Lightning sparks at least one blaze

Lightning ignited a small forest fire west of Unity Wednesday afternoon, and firefighters are patrolling the woods near Dooley Mountain this morning looking for any other blazes that might have been sparked.

Thunderstorms spawned lightning strikes in both areas, said Willy Crippen, fire management officer for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest's Burnt-Powder Fire Zone.

One bolt set fire to a couple of dead trees near Pole Creek, about eight miles west of Unity. The Forest Service lookout atop Table Rock, southwest of Unity, reported the fire.

A fire crew built a control line around the blaze Wednesday night. The fire covered about one-tenth of an acre, Crippen said. 

Firefighters were unable to find another possible blaze reported near the 1210 Road, a couple miles west of the Pole Creek blaze. Crews resumed their search for the fire this morning, Crippen said.

Another storm brought lightning to the area between Dooley and Black mountains, about a dozen miles south of Baker City.

Firefighters will search that area this morning from the ground and from an airplane, Crippen said.

The storms delivered rain as well as lightning, so it's possible fires are smoldering and will produce more smoke this afternoon when temperatures rise. 

Focus on a Fence

City Council Inspects Watershed Near Elk Creek 

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald New fencing around the Elk Creek diversion dam in the Baker City Watershed, and last summer’s cryptosporidium outbreak, are issues discussed by City Council members, staff, news reporters and others who attended Monday's meeting in the mountains about 10 miles west of town.

By Pat Caldwell

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To label Monday’s tour by Baker City Council members and city officials of the Elk Creek watershed diversion point as anti-climactic might be an overstatement but the expedition did put to rest some lingering questions regarding fence work around the area.

Ostensibly the tour was about dispelling criticism of lack of progress on a city-built fence around the area where the city diverts water from Elk Creek into its supply pipeline.

But the excursion also centered on demonstrating that city leaders consider the safety of the town’s water to be vital.

The Elk Creek fence issue sprouted into a flash-point matter last month after Mayor Richard Langrell asserted portions of the fence were in disrepair.

At the time, City Manager Mike Kee avowed that city crews had been working on the fence area since last autumn and huge swaths of it were, in fact, rebuilt.

Monday’s half-day tour showcased portions of a newly-built fence that protects the Elk Creek diversion on three sides. Elk Creek is one of several streams the city taps in its watershed and it became the epicenter of concern last summer during the city’s crypto crisis. One water sample acquired from Elk Creek during the crisis contained levels of crypto sufficient to trigger sickness.

Cattle had crossed the fence and entered the watershed near Elk Creek. A few samples of cattle feces were tested but did not contain crypto.

See more in Wednesday's issue of the Baker City Herald. 

Family thankful of safety after house burns

By Chris Collins

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Members of the Fine family counted their blessings and mourned their losses as they watched firefighters mop up the remains of their charred home Tuesday morning.

Allan Fine had just left for work at his job at Marvin Wood Products about half an hour before the fire department was dispatched to 1130 Broadway St. at about 5:30 a.m.

Allan, 32, said the house had been his home for the past 20 years. He shared it with his 62-year-old mother, Virginia.

Council ousts Langrell as mayor

The Baker City Council has removed Richard Langrell as mayor and elected Councilor Clair Button to replace him.

Councilor Barbara Johnson will replace Button as vice-mayor.

Langrell, who was elected by voters as a councilor in November 2012, was elected by his colleagues as mayor in January 2013.

He will remain as a councilor. His four-year term continues through the end of 2016.

In Baker City's form of government the mayor is largely a ceremonial position, and the mayor has no special authority beyond setting meeting agendas and signing official documents.

The City Council met tonight in a regular meeting.

Button had asked that a discussion of Langrell's performance be added to the agenda.

Langrell this spring filed a lawsuit against the city claiming it owes him more than $9,000 in water and sewer fees he paid for his motel, the Always Welcome Inn.



Haines Dusts Off Its Independence Day Spirit

The Fourth of July Haines Stampede Rodeo finds Jake Herskin hanging on above the dirt and dust during bull riding competition Friday. Herskin didn’t make it to the end of the eight-second ride and received a no score.

Bentz: Timber gridlock annoys

The state legislator who represents Baker County says Baker City has advantages in the effort to create jobs 

By Pat Caldwell

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Oregon Rep. Cliff Bentz said last week that the path to success in the future for small towns that dot the high desert steppes of Eastern Oregon really boils down to two key concepts: Patience and hard work.

Bentz, a Republican from Ontario, represents Malheur, Baker and Harney counties and portions of Grant County in the Oregon Legislature.

He said the relationship between local governments and state and federal agencies and general economic development continue to be the key themes expressed by voters when he tours his district. 

“So I’ve been doing a lot of work trying to figure out how to improve the means of strengthening the amount of say folks up there (in Baker County) have,” Bentz said. “Or, at least, clearing up misconceptions that may exist about how much a county can really do when negotiating with the federal government.”

Bentz said easy answers to such complex problems as land-use and federal and state regulations simply do not exist. The critical element, he said, is developing a sturdy line of communication between state and federal agencies and local governments.

“I believe it is a question of how we more effectively communicate with the folks that are charged with managing the land, the Forest Service and the BLM. How do we do a better job of making our position clearer,” he said.

See more in Monday's issue of the Baker City Herald. 



Blustery storm propels canvas carport 120 feet

No major power outages in Baker County 

S. John Collins/Gaylord Baggerly looks at the canvas carport that ended up draped across the fence at his south Baker City home. Wind from a thunderstorm Wednesday night propelled the carport about 120 feet.

The blustery but mainly dry thunderstorm that swung through Baker City Wednesday night made a delivery to Gaylord and La Donna Baggerly’s backyard.

A carport.

Wind propelled the canvas structure about 120 feet, crossing a couple of properties between owner Ron Edison’s house and the Baggerlys’ yard at 230 Second St., between Colorado and Miller avenues in south Baker City.

La Donna Baggerly found the carport about 6:30 this morning.

The carport didn’t cause any damage when it ended its flight draped across the Baggerlys' fence.

Nor did the storm result in any widespread power outages in Baker County, said Jim Horan of Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative.

OTEC crews worked all night removing limbs that had fallen across power lines in several places, Horan said. But in most cases fewer than 20 customers lost power for less than half an hour, he said.

The biggest outage happened in Imbler, northeast of La Grande, when lightning struck a power pole, cutting electricity to about 250 customers from 10:21 p.m. until 3 a.m.

Wind gusts toppled a tree across Highway 7 about a mile and a half east of the Sumpter junction, and left willow limbs strewn across the highway through Bowen Valley just south of Baker City, but there were no major problems on local highways, said Bill Durflinger, who works at the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Baker City maintenance station.


BLM restricts campfires, smoking, chain saw use

The BLM's Vale District enacted restrictions on campfires, smoking and other activities on the district effective Tuesday.
“The restrictions are going into effect due to extremely dry fuels and high temperatures returning for the Fourth of July and remaining after the holiday," Bob Narus, the district's fire management officer, said in a press release. "We constantly evaluate conditions in the District. The indicators show it is time to take the extra precautions of fire restrictions.”
The following restrictions are specified in the Fire Prevention Order:

You must not build, maintain or attend a campfire, or stove fire, including charcoal briquette fire, except within the existing metal fire rings located at the following recreation sites; Spring Recreation Site and Carters Landing in Baker County and Chukar Park in Malheur County. NOTE: Liquefied and bottled gas stoves and heaters are permitted. When used outside of developed recreation sites, they must be used within an area at least ten (10) feet in diameter that is barren or clear of all flammable materials.

You must not smoke outside of a vehicle, trailer, or building, except within areas barren of all flammable materials for at least a 6-foot diameter, or aboard boats on rivers and lakes.

You must not possess, discharge, or use any type of fireworks or other pyrotechnic device, to include exploding targets. 

You must not operate a chainsaw.

You must not park your vehicle or operate any type of internal combustion engine (generators, weed eaters, etc.) in an area that is not clear of all flammable material.

You must not operate a motorized vehicle outside of existing roads and ways. This prohibits cross country travel until this order is rescinded.

You must not operate an automobile, pickup, truck, or any other motorized equipment that is wider than 50 inches or has a dry weight of 800 pounds or more, on public lands without a shovel not less than 26 inches in overall length, with a blade not less than 8 inches wide, and a container with at least one gallon of water, or a fully charged 2.5-pound fire extinguisher.

Individuals who violate restrictions not only endanger themselves and others, but they may be subject to penalties including fines and imprisonment. For further information, or to report wildfires, please contact the Vale BLM Dispatch Center at 541-473-6295 or 1 (800) 982-0287. Additional information about the Vale District can be found at www.blm.gov/or/districts/vale. 

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