Scott Faas of Gold Beach is hosting a Burned Timber Salvage Rally and protest of what many in the community say was the U.S. Forest Service’s mismanagement of the Chetco Bar Fire last summer.
The rally will be held in the parking lot of the former Ray’s Market at Fifth Street and Chetco Avenue starting at 2 p.m. May 5. Faas will provide 20 booths nonprofit organizations can use to show how they were affected by the 191,125-acre mega fire.
The rally will also address wildfire prevention, protection and suppression, reforestation and fuel reduction endeavors.
Curry County Commissioner Court Boice, who was active in disseminating information during the fire and continues to be vocal about getting mitigation efforts underway immediately, will speak at the rally. Faas said he hopes U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, who recently spoke at a town hall in Brookings, can attend the event, as well. Other speakers have yet to be named.
Although the fire was extinguished when seasonal rain began in October, people are still trying to figure out how to recover.
Curry County recently learned it didn’t qualify to receive federal emergency funds from the wildfire. A study is just getting underway to evaluate the impacts to business and tourism in the busiest part of the year.
And others, including Faas, aren’t happy with the U.S. Forest Service’s draft environmental assessment that calls for removal of just more than 4,000 acres of burned trees for salvage, saying that number should be substantially higher.
Many citizens expressed their frustration and anger during and after the fire, saying the U.S. Forest Service shouldn’t have taken away jurisdiction of the fire from state firefighters. They have also complained that the forest service failed to put out the fire when it was small, brought in fire commanders unfamiliar with the local terrain, refused to listen to local input and underestimated the power of the Chetco Effect winds that blew the fire from 6,011 acres on Aug. 16 to 102,304 in eight days.
Among the critiques of the forest service was the agency’s decision to not use a “supertanker,” a converted Boeing 747 that carries 19,200 gallons of fire retardant that was successfully used in other wildfires throughout the west last summer.
This year, it might not be as difficult.
State Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, said Monday the state has signed a “call when needed” contract with Global SuperTanker Services of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“We sincerely appreciate your support and no nonsense approach to the issues,” company CEO and President Jim Wheeler wrote in an email to Smith. “Devastating fires like the Chetco Bar impact lives, property, the environment and people’s health.
“We hope this fire season is less virulent than last, but we are proud to be a tool available to assist if needed,” he continued. “Hopefully, one call is all you will now need to bring in the biggest, fastest, most effective aerial firefighting tool in the world.”
Last month, Congress passed legislation that ends the so-called “fire borrowing” that allowed the forest service to spend fire prevention money on wildfire extinguishment. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, R-Oregon, announced Tuesday he was demanding to know from the new interim chief of the forest service what he planned to do in regards to fire mitigation, fuel reduction and other preventive measures.
“That will liberate funds for much-needed wildfire prevention,” Wyden said. “But it is not a blank check. Now that Congress has passed the funding fix, the forest service needs to get back to work in the woods and start getting ahead of these infernos that are threatening our communities.”
Nonprofit organizations interested in showing the public how they were affected by the Chetco Bar Fire can reserve a booth by calling Faas at 541-698-0743 or 541-373-7219.
Reach Jane Stebbins at firstname.lastname@example.org .