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Fire crews in short supply

And with widespread lightning forecast this week, more blazes are likely

By Jayson Jacoby

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With a new 50-acre fire burning on the west side of the Elkhorns, and widespread thunderstorms forecast to batter the region with lightning, firefighters are bracing for a hectic week.

And for the possibility that there won’t be enough crews to handle every new blaze.

With more than a dozen major fires burning in several western states, most fire crews are already spoken for.

Read more...
 

Water Worries

Baker County Commissioners Approve Drought Emergency Declaration


S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Cattle along Chandler Lane in Baker Valley hang close to water as summer heat continues.

By Pat Caldwell

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Baker County Commission Chairman Fred Warner Jr. said the drought declaration inked Wednesday at the Courthouse will help local agriculture producers secure faster access to any federal or state relief programs.

The Baker County commissioners signed off on the drought declaration at its regular meeting, an administrative action that resonates in terms of the impact of drought across the state and the western Great Basin.

Searching for a viable method to battle drought conditions is now nearly a yearly challenge, Warner said.

“We’ve been in and out of drought the last four or five years,” he said.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor index in Lincoln, Nebraska, a large swath of Southeastern Oregon — including most of Malheur County — is currently in either “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. Much of Baker County has waded into either “moderate” or “severe” drought — the more severe conditions prevailing in the southern part of the county.

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

 

Wallowa-Whitman tightens fire restrictions

Chain saws for firewood cutting prohibited; campfires restricted 


Due to persistent hot, dry weather and increasing fire danger, starting tonight at midnight, campfires on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest will be allowed only in designated campgrounds and recreation sites, and using chain saws for firewood cutting will be prohibited.
 
Campfires are still allowed, however, in the following wilderness areas: Eagle Cap, North Fork John Day, Monument Rock and Hells Canyon.
 
Year-round restrictions on campfires — for instance, they're not allowed within 1/4-mile of some lakes in the Eagle Cap — remain in effect. 
  
No off-road travel on motor vehicles is allowed, including on roads blocked by a gate, barricade, log, boulders or earthern berm.
 
A full list of of restrictions is available at: www.fs.usda.gov/wallowa-whitman and also by toll-free phone call at 541-523-1234.
 

Travels In China

Award-Winning Teacher Nanette Lehman


S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Nanette Lehman, 2013 Oregon Teacher of the Year, talks about her recent return from an education-based trip to China.

By Chris Collins

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Nanette Lehman’s life has been changed in ways she never expected over the past year and a half.

Lehman, 46, traveled across the country during 2013 as the Oregon Teacher of the Year and this summer, though her reign as the state’s top teacher ended in January, Lehman traveled around the globe en route to a 10-day visit to China as part of the honor.

The adventure began in November 2012 when the Haines second-grade teacher was named the Oregon Teacher of the Year. Her term officially began in January 2013.

Along the way, Lehman got to know other teachers who were selected for the honor from their states. She was asked to speak to other teachers and in other school districts, her counsel was sought on matters of school reform and she even attended Space Camp in Alabama with her fellow award-winning teachers.

In April 2013, the teachers traveled to Washington, D.C., where they were recognized for their expertise in a ceremony at the White House where they met personally with President Barack Obama.

Lehman was one of eight Teachers of the Year who were among 34 educators chosen to participate in the 2014 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellowship, which culminated with the trip to China this summer.

The fellowship recipients were recognized in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 7 during the annual NEA Foundation Salute to Excellence in Education Gala. 

 

West Nile virus confirmed in mosquitoes trapped in Keating Valley


West Nile virus was detected in two pools of mosquitoes collected on July 21 in Keating Valley.

This is the first detection of West Nile virus in Baker County in 2014.

Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Corvallis confirmed the positive mosquito pools, Matt Hutchinson, manager of the Baker Valley Vector Control District, announced in a press release.

The virus has not been found in any birds, horses or people in Baker County this year.

Hutchinson said the Vector Control District, which receives its operating money from a pair of property tax levies, "will increase surveillance and control measures within the district in response to the positive mosquito pool."

Read more...
 

County Commissioners declare drought emergency


The Baker County Board of Commissioners ratified a declaration of a drought emergency in the county during their meeting this morning.

The local drought disaster declaration is the first step in potentially obtaining state and federal disaster aid.

Last year county commissioners declared a drought emergency much earlier — on June 5.

The county will forward its declaration to Gov. John Kitzhaber, who will decide whether to add Baker County to the list of Oregon counties under a state disaster declaration.

Baker County commissioners also approved drought declarations in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

 

Eastern Oregon counties object to Blue Mountains forest plan revision


By Katy Nesbitt

WesCom News Service

ENTERPRISE — Representatives from the Eastern Oregon Counties Association voted Friday in John Day to object to the forest plan out for public comment until Aug. 15.

The draft document, known as The Blue Mountain Forest Plan Revision, is a guide to managing the Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman, Malheur and part of the Ochoco national forests.

“Too many things are wrong, including the basic tenet, and we don’t think it’s fixable,” Wallowa County Commissioner Mike Hayward said.

Read more...
 

Farmers Market at different spot this Wednesday only


The Baker City Farmers Market will be at a different location this Wednesday, Aug. 6, due to the Baker County Fair.

The market will be at East and D streets, just north of its normal spot.

Next Wednesday the market returns to its regular place at the Baker Event Center, 2600 East St.

 

 

Storms bring fire & ice

Depending on where you were during the weekend you might have been pummeled by hail, drenched by rain or rattled by lightning that sparked lots of wildfires


By Jayson Jacoby

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A relentless barrage of thunderstorms during the weekend brought hail and torrential rain to parts of Baker County as well as hundreds of lightning bolts that ignited more than two dozen wildfires.

Most of the new blazes are less than one acre.

But a group of fires ignited Friday night or early Sunday in the North Fork John Day Wilderness northeast of Granite prompted the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest to close a pair of hiking trails and part of a forest road.

Dubbed the Mount Ireland Complex, the fires are mainly in the Baldy Creek area north of Mount Ireland, which is topped by a Wallowa-Whitman fire lookout station.

The biggest of the blazes has burned about 20 acres.

Both trails leading to Baldy Lake — one follows Baldy Creek for six miles from a trailhead off the Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway, the other trail starts at a ridgecrest about a mile west of the lake — are closed to the public.

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

 

Four slots but so far no takers

Baker City Council Election This November 


By Pat Caldwell

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Four slots on the Baker City Council are up for grabs this November but so far there hasn’t been much interest from the public.

“Not one application for the city council turned in. We’ve given two out but not had any returned,” City Manager Mike Kee said Tuesday.

Kee conceded that often individuals wait until he last moment — in this case Aug. 26 — before turning in council applications. Four positions, now held by Dennis Dorrah, Roger Coles, Barbara Johnson and Clair Button, will be open for the autumn election.

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

 
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