10 May 2008, 10:59am
2007 Fire Season Federal forest policy
by admin

Long Valley Voices

The incineration of the Payette NF (and the Boise NF) did not go unnoticed by the local residents. The following words and photos are excerpted from Discover McCall Idaho, a local promotional website, and the McCall Star-News. Special thanks to Joe B. for providing the links. Satellite photo courtesy NASA.

July 19, 2007 [here]

Loon Lake Fire marches toward vacation homes — Secesh residents advised to evacuate

by Tecla Markosky, The Star News

Residents of Secesh Meadows northeast of McCall were advised to evacuate their homes on Wednesday in the face of the growing Loon Lake Fire. …

About 80 people attended a community meeting Tuesday night. Estimates says between 40 and 50 buildings are in the area occupied by between 50 and 100 part-time residents.

The atmosphere was congenial at the beginning of the meeting but immediately switched when the fire management team began its presentation. …

Bob Frye of the fire management team said firefighters can work to protect a home from igniting, but do not have the training to fight a house fire.

“If a house is on fire, it’s gone,” Frye said.

Elsewhere on the Payette, the Krassel Complex includes four lightning fires being allowed to burn through the forest where they can improve forest health, managers said.

These fires started on June 17 and may burn throughout the fires season as long as they continue to be beneficial, said Jack Horner, public information officer for the California team watching those fires.

July 26, 2007 [here]

Secesh residents breathe easier as Loon Fire quiets

by Tecla Markosky, The Star News

… Vern Peterson, a 20-year fulltime Secesh resident, said he is frustrated with the Forest Service over the management of the local lands.

“As thick as that forest is, the Forest Service knows that if they don’t de fuel it, we’re going to continue to have this problem,” said Peterson, a retired logger.

“Yet they don’t have timber sales,” he said. “This is totally out of control. It was a time bomb waiting to happen.”

Last weekend, Peterson had especially good visibility of the encroaching flames.

“My neighbors a few homes down could see the trees go off like roman candles,” he said.

Sept. 20, 2007 [here]

Acres burned this year blow away previous records

by Michael Wells, The Star News

This year’s forest fire season has shattered previous record years for both the Payette and Boise national forests.

Fires have burned 394,313 acres on the Payette forest as of Tuesday, Payette forest spokesperson Denise Cobb said.

The previous record on the Payette forest was 343,347 burned acres in 2000.
Fires have burned 243,316 on the Boise forest this year, Boise forest spokesperson David Olson said.

The previous record on the Boise forest was 207,000 acres in 1992.

This year’s burned area represents 16 percent of the Payette forest’s 2.3 million acres and 9 percent of the Boise forest’s 2.6 million acres.

Oct 11, 2007 [here]

Hunting: Forest fires shoot season down

by Michael Wells, The Star News

Jack Kummet had campsites, a new corral and 450 bales of hay in place on the Payette National Forest in preparation for this year’s hunting season.

That was before the East Zone Complex of forest fires this summer burned through those areas. “All my stuff is a pile of ash,” Kummet said. …

He expected some protection in return for the money he has paid to Payette for his right to lead hunting trips.

He pays the Forest Service $10,000 a year so he can guide hunters seeking elk, deer and bear in the South Fork canyon area.

He estimates his losses to be at least $8,000 to $10,000, not counting the labor costs it will take to rebuild his campsites. Four of his five campsites have burned.

“I’m not saying, man you should have saved my hay pile, I’m saying, save the forest,” Kummet said. “I’m not saying just look out for me; stop the fires.”

He would like to see the forest thinned through selective logging practices and believes fire managers are allowing the forest to burn.

“If my house burns in Grangeville, does the fire department come over and back burn my two neighbors’ houses?” he said. “Do some logging; create some jobs, and not burn it up.”

Kummet wonders where the wildlife will go and what will happen to the elk and deer since the wintering grounds along the South Fork of the Salmon River burned this year.

“The sad part is that there are no wintering grounds left,” he said. “The river corridor is burned all the way down.”

He wants a wildlife-feeding program put in place due to the fires, but does not believe it will happen.

“It’s unfortunate. They are going to starve them to death,” Kummet said. “It’s sad: it really is.”

Oct 11, 2007 [here]

Recreation Lost

by Michael Wells, The Star News

Butch Cooper, owner of the Winter Inn in Warren, has lost 2-1/2 months of business during his normal peak season due to this summer’s fires.

“I’ll be able to continue, despite the Forest Service,” Cooper said. Cooper, 60, has operated the business for two years, taking over from his late sister Shirley Winter, who owned the business for 18 years.

“They (fire managers) basically destroyed my summer business,” he said. “They’ve created one hell of an ecological disaster, and this is just the beginning of it.”

Cooper lamented the damage to the roads and to the salmon spawning grounds. He blames the Forest Service for not putting out the fires and poor forest management.

“Since we’ve done away with logging, now we are a recreational area,” he said. “Now that they are destroying the recreation part of it, where does it stop? Do they want to just get all the people out of the forest period?”

Cooper knows that the federal government has made low interest loans available through the Small Business Administration, but he is not interested. “Why would I want to pay interest on my losses?” he asked.

He believes the Forest Service is endangering more people by allowing the fires to burn.

“People who use the forests are in danger now,” Cooper said. “They (Forest Service) are endangering a hell of a lot more people than the firefighters.”

Cooper wants the forest to allow selective logging.

“Trace down how many people one log out of here employs,” he said. “It employs people all the way down to Home Depot to carpenters, and they need screws and nails which employs miners.”

Thinning the forest through logging would limit the severity of the fires, Cooper said.

Oct 11, 2007 [here]

Change in the Landscape — Residents in path of East Zone fires say their lives, businesses have been altered

by Michael Wells, The Star News

This summer’s wildfires that burned through the national forests near McCall have forever changed the lives of Tom Roberts and Janette Shaffer.

The couple live along the South Fork of the Salmon River at the Barkell Ranch. When the East Zone Complex of fires threatened their home, back burns were set by firefighters.

The back burns removed all the vegetation that held the rocks in place above the home, and an 800-pound boulder crashed into it.

Another boulder hit their propane tank.

Roberts, 48, who has lived there since he was 12, has seen his health decline due to the smoke from this year’s fires, his wife said.

“How much damage is being done to the people from the smoke?” said Shaffer, who has lived with her husband at the ranch for 18 years.

“It was toxic. We have poison ivy and poison sumac burning down there,” she said. “The smoke just settles down in the bottom of the canyon. There was no relief from it. I even had to start taking medication.” …

While she was grateful for the help from firefighters protecting their homes, Shaffer has complaints about how the fire was managed.

“It’s not so much what happens to us; it’s how we are able to cope with what happens to us,” Shaffer said. “I really think the Payette National Forest is not coping very well with its responsibilities to the public.”

Shaffer and others at the Winter Inn believe the fire managers intentionally allowed the fires to burn. She is concerned with how the forest will be restored and what will happen to the wildlife.

“No one is safe in Trail’s End (subdivision),” she said, referring to the subdivision at Barkell Ranch along the South Fork. “The whole watershed has burned up.”

Oct 4, 2007 [here]

Yellow Pine wants payback for losses — Loss of tourism battered local business owners

by Michael Wells, The Star News

Yellow Pine Corner Bar owner Vicki Martineau wants compensation for the hardship the small backcountry town suffered this year due to the fires that burned 600,000 acres in the Payette and Boise national forests.

“I don’t know what I am going to do,” Martineau said. “I don’t need a loan, I think the county owes us for pulling the trigger way too fast.”

She did not have exact figures for what she thinks the county should pay, but is pursuing the idea.

Valley County Clerk Archie Banbury said the only financial help available to residents come from low interest loans guaranteed through the federal Small Business Administration. Residents of Yellow Pine felt as though they were more under siege this summer from their government than the fires that raged around the small town, Martineau said.

This year’s Harmonica Festival and Labor Day Weekend festivities were cancelled due to road closures from the fires. The area’s hunting businesses have also been hurt by the fires.

Warm Lake Road was closed the day before the Harmonica Festival was to begin due to the North Fork Fire that had moved four miles in one day toward the highway. …

Willie Sullivan, an association council member, was frustrated with the local government’s response to the disaster occurring several miles away from Yellow Pine.

Communication between the town residents and local government was lacking, Sullivan said. Much information they said they received was false. …

Both Martineau and Sullivan wanted to be a part of any decisions being made about the town.

They wanted their local government officials to take information from the residents of Yellow Pine and factor it in to the decisions.

Oct 4, 2007 [here]

Secesh residents say fire could have been stopped — Forest Service thinning practices were too little to keep Zena Loon fire from threatening community.

by Michael Wells, The Star News

During an interview with The Star-News Saturday, several residents want the forest to be managed to keep the forest healthy and to recreate a lost forest economy as state lands are managed.

They would like the forest thinned to remove fire fuels. They also want the fires extinguished immediately and believed this year’s fires were allowed to burn.

Residents acknowledged the thinning program that began in the Secesh area two years ago, but it was not enough to keep the community out of harm’s way.

“Our swath of destruction is well over 700,000 acres,” Secesh resident Becky Johnstone said. …

Full-time Secesh resident Vern Peterson agreed that the forests needed to be thinned. However, Peterson believed the Payette forest’s thinning plan was too small.

“These small acreage amounts are not enough,” Peterson said. “If they would put out timber sales for large amounts of acreage up to 100,000 acres, they would have loggers from all over coming in here because this timber is marketable.”

“I think there’s a constant danger that they are going to have one of these fires hit heavy fuels and there is going to be a town downwind of it,” Peterson said. “Then we are going to get a 60-70 mph wind and the thing is going to get out of control … and kill everybody in there; the firefighters included.”

Flames approaching Secesh this summer reached as high as 500 feet as they topped the ridge behind Peterson’s house, he said. …

Brian Wanner’s home was threatened from all sides by fires. Backfires set by firefighters ended up burning on his property.

“I think it was an unorganized process considering the information they had available to them,” Wanner, a six-year resident of Secesh, said.

” ‘Let it burn’ is crazy,” Lisa Wisner said. “They like to talk about how much money is spent to fight the fires,” Wanner said. “Let’s talk about the amount of money that is lost in property values when they don’t put these fires out.”

Oct. 25, 2007 [here]

Fires hurt McCall Airport, flight operations

by Michael Wells, The Star News

The McCall Municipal Airport and related businesses felt the brunt of this summer’s record fire year.

Tax revenues from fuel sales at the airport were down 50 percent when compared to 2006, airport manager John Anderson said.

The forest fires primarily affected backcountry flight because of flight restrictions put in place over the fires on the Boise and Payette national forests. …

Lori MacNichol of McCall Mountain/Canyon Flying Seminars lost 40 percent of her normal income during the fires.

MacNichol blames fire managers for creating an unworkable restricted area over a 157-mile swath of the forests and up to 11,000 feet. …

“It was clearly a misuse of airspace,” she said, noting she had to shut down her business from the first week in August to the second week in September.

Nov 1, 2007 [here]

Forest Service crews get to work to restore areas burned by fire

On the Payette forest, Fire crews cleared the South Fork Salmon River Road of burned snags and fallen rocks and found more than 150 polyurethane culverts were burned or damaged by the fires.

Nearly 300 20-foot long 6-by-6 inch pressure-treated timbers used in lag walls to stabilize road cuts were burned.

A total of 41 wooden inlet retaining walls above the culverts and 50 plastic outlet downspouts at the end of culverts also were destroyed.

The Payette requested about $1 million in fire-restoration funds to replace the culverts, lag walls, retaining walls, and downspouts.

Rehabilitation measures along the road also included application of seed, fertilizer and mulch to minimize and control erosion.

More than 100 tons of wheat straw and 100 tons of wood fiber mulch were ordered to make the mulch.

“The major concern is to repair the damaged infrastructure along the South Fork Salmon River Road,” said Dave Kennell, coordinator of the Burned-Area Emergency Response team, or BAER.

“It is critical to re-establish water management and erosion control features before winter to prevent additional road failures and to maintain winter access to Yellow Pine,” Kennell said.

In addition, aerial mulching of about 400 acres of severely burned areas above the road and river is being done to stabilize the soil.

The Price Valley Helitack base has sent firefighters to protect the road, water quality, and spawning habitat for Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout.

On the East Zone Complex, the focus is on communities, ranches, private residences and water system, Kennell said.

Fires crews have already installed silt fences and mulch above the domestic water spring development in Copenhaver Subdivision, where two cabins burned during the fire.

Also, restoration has been completed on nearly 100 acres in severely burned drainages that are prone to natural landslides above homes in Trails End Subdivision.

The Gray’s Creek Fire, which burned west of Tamarack Resort, burned more than 24,000 acres of Forest, BLM, private and Potlatch Corp. lands. …

On the Boise National Forest, specialists have recommended more than $4 million of work to be completed before winter. …

Also, important fish habitat in the South Fork Salmon River and within the Johnson Creek drainage are at risk from mudflows and blowouts. …

There are several areas that have an increased hazard of erosion for several years, forest officials said.

The water source at the Paradise Valley summer home area at Warm Lake may be threatened due to increased ash flows.

Also, water sources for Yellow Pine and along Johnson Creek may be affected by sediment.

Loss of shade could increase water temperatures and hurt fish, and recreational trails and roads within the South Fork Salmon River drainage will see erosion.

12 May 2008, 11:30am
by Bob Z.

Does Michael Wells still write for the McCall Star News? It seems as if he has developed a network of local individuals with far more capability and insight than the USFS forest and fire managers in his area.

Thanks, Mike, for bringing these voices to a wider audience. Is there talk or potential of a class action suit by Wells’ interviewees? Is the USFS even subject to such approaches?

Something needs to be done about the continued destruction of western US forests by wildfire, and to the blase indifference, incompetence, and arrogance being displayed by responsible USFS employees. Maybe these interviews are a start.

I hope that Michael Wells efforts don’t go unnoticed, and that he is able to continue his excellent discussions and insights via the Star News to gauge last year’s wildfire damage to this year’s natural, cultural, and economic environment.

12 May 2008, 12:20pm
by Mike

I cannot answer about Michael Wells. The McCall Stars News is subscription only.

Some residents were very upset and did contact me regarding a class action lawsuit. But as the Bitterroot case showed [here], the USFS is fully indemnified against suits for negligence, incompetence, and even deliberate incendiarism.

What the residents can do is petition the Government for redress of grievances. That’s in our Constitution. Congress does have the power to make payments to whomever they wish (usually themselves). The residents can also petition to remove offending USFS functionaries who show no remorse for their negligence, incompetence, and deliberate incendiarism. The Executive Branch has the power to reassign and even fire Federal employees who have destroyed good relations with the local community.

I have not heard whether the citizens of Yellow Pine, Warren, Secesh, etc. decided to create such petitions. If they do, I will certainly post them.

8 Sep 2009, 7:09pm
by scott

I’m from Yellow Pine and we’d love to see Clim Pope, Jim Egnew and many others fired for their incompetence and disgust for our community. I’ve been investigating their deliberately setting private property on fire, including Stibnite, Fern Creek, Thunder Mountain, Big Creek, South Fork and Johnson Creek. These guys have no regard for the public interest and only want to forward their extreme environmentalist views. They and many others have led to the destruction of 45 or more historical landmarks, only claiming responsibility for 3. They have either deliberately set or intentionally burned them, including the last residence at Stibnite, set afire in 1998 after kicking Jim Adkins, the owner, off private land to do so. Joe Harper, lead forester admitted on camera to destroying Thunder Mountain historical landmarks [here].



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