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Barry Point fire discussed at May 1 hearing

May 15, 2013 by

State Rep. Gail Whitsett recently reported on a May 1 informational hearing on the Barry Point fire of 2012 hosted by the senate Committee on Rural Communities and Economic Development.

Details of the hearing were provided in her May 8 legislative update.

Chairing the hearing was Sen. Herman Baertshiger of Grants Pass and was attended by representatives Gail and Doug Whitsett, Cliff Bentz and Mike McLane.

Ed Shepherd of Shepherd & Assoc. provided an overview of a summary report the firm prepared in the aftermath of the fire event.

Issues raised by the report included communications breakdowns, bulldozers arriving on scene that could not be used due to maxxed out hours, periods up to four hours of no one manning fire lines and no firefighters on hand and backfires started without advance notice to neither firefighting teams nor civilians.

Rep. Whitsett’s report included notations on the devastation affected to Collins Pine Company, with 24,300 acres of privately owned forestland destroyed in the blaze, which encompassed more than 93,000 acres in total.

Testimony from local officials as well as affected landowners was presented during the hearing, with accounts from Sheriff Phil McDonald, Ace and Rosa Felder, Sharon Harvey, James and Dally Evans, Bill and John Albertson, Jarod Bruce, Matt Morris, Jerry Evans and Lake County Commissioners Dan Shoun and Ken Kestner.

Questions from legislators representing three House districts and two Senate districts also requested written answers from the state Department of Forestry for specific questions.  These questions included reasons for 60 percent of the forest burned as a result of man-made backfires, for the lack of communications, for extended periods between shift changes in which the fire was left unattended, for claims of backfires set in the middle of the night with drip torches and why the Ruby Pipeline was not utilized to stop the fire, given its non-vegetative presence.

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