Chelan Fire Commission concerned about current fire conditions going into July 4

by Richard UhlhornChelan_1200px_280px

FIRE… Illegal fires and fire concerns were a part of the discussion at the Chelan Fire Commission meeting on Wednesday, June19.

On Saturday, June 22, an individual(s) thought it would be fun to shoot bottle rockets at some bicyclists participating in the annual Century Ride. This happened on Boyd Road and created a brush fire that Chelan 7 was able to put out rather quickly.

According to Fire Commission Chairman, Russ Jones, the car involved in the incident has been located and the Sheriff’s Department is looking for the owner.

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Commissioner Russ Jones

This brings up the major concern that all agencies have regarding local fire conditions. It should be noted that fireworks are banned in Chelan County including the City of Chelan. So if you enjoy fireworks, plan on attending the fireworks shows being put on by Manson and Chelan.

Commissioner Phil Moller stated that there is a Red Flag Warning regarding current weather conditions. “I don’t see a big focus on our fire conditions. I don’t think the public gets it.”

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Commissioner Phil Moller

Chelan Fire is seeking ways to get the word out, particularly to the traveling public who in many cases do not understand how dangerous and dry our conditions are. This past winter’s snowpack fell way short of normal and very little rain fell to augment the water content.

In Stehekin, the water levels are already at July levels and Nick Davis at the Stehekin Log Cabin said the Stehekin River will be at September levels in August. “There should be some good fishing.” Unfortunately, most agencies are very concerned about this fire season’s chance of being the worst in years.

Everyone needs to be aware of just how explosive the fuels are in the region. No one wants a fire in the area and especially the smoke that is associated with fire situations.

The other topic at the Commission meeting concerned Illegal Fires. These include orchard burns that are unattended and other potential illegal burns.

Jones opened the discussion with a statement that there is a RCW that allows Fire Districts to bill for their services on illegal fires after the burn ban is in effect. Chief Tim Lemon said, “Bill them all or not at all.” Commissioner Jay Witherbee said, “If we are going to charge people, we have to charge everybody.” Lemon added that the District should bill for the actual time and for the apparatus.

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Deputy Chief Mark DonnellDSC05130

Commissioner Jay Witherbee

Deputy Chief Mark Donnell added that it’s not like these people don’t know the law. “We know who’s burning,” he said regarding the Department of Ecology’s permit program for agriculture burns. “It’s the people who are pushing the envelope.”

Witherbee said he would feel more comfortable about charging if the District would bring the subject up at the Regional level. “We need to have that discussion regionally,” he said. Jones tabled the discussion until other Districts could be reached.

In other business, Chief Tim Lemon reported that this year’s Memorial Day was pretty average regarding callouts. “It was more family oriented,” said Lemon. “There was nothing of real significance.”

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Chief Tim Lemon

He also reported that two fire fighters were sent to a State Mobilization brush fire for four to five days and that would generate about $4,000 above and beyond expenses.

Donnell reported that a class for Rescue Swimmers would be held on July 13 and 14. “There will be 10 to 12 attending this class including members of the Chelan County Sheriff’s Department also.”

Assistant Chief Brandon Asher reported that a questionnaire asking potential recruits “Why they were Joining” and “What they Expect” from the fire service as volunteers. “I think it will do a lot of good.”

Asher also said there is an operational guide on how District’s get paid on fires. Both the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Forest Service have adopted its guidelines. Apparently after 12 hours on a fire, it is discussed who and how it gets paid for.

The Fire Fighter Association reported that it has revised the amount given to victims to $500 with a chance to revisit if more is needed. In May the Association gave out two $500 checks to fire victims.

The maiden voyage of the Chelan Fire and Rescue Boat was a success. “The Rescue Boat needs to get on the Water. Apparently there was a head on collision between two personal watercraft that were jumping other boats wakes and the Sheriff’s boat did not respond. “We need a place to park it.”

Regarding the lack of community attendance at the recent Fire Town Hall, Jones said the District needs more meetings. Witherbee added that the District needs open public dialogue regarding the future plans. “We put together what we thought was a good plan,” said Witherbee. “We have to get better at communicating to the community.”

Donnell suggested that opening the floor with the commissioners up front to answer questions would work. “It is important that we listen to them (the public).” Moller said the District needs to be more transparent. “The information is not getting out.” He suggested a Facebook page.

Jones suggested adding a Public Comment period at the end of their commission meetings so the public can ask questions of what was covered in the meeting. Witherbee was supportive of this.

The public is invited to attend the Fire Commission meetings every third Wednesday at 3 p.m. The next Commission meeting is on July 17 at the Fire Hall in the upstairs meeting room.

Be careful out there.

 

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