Community voices concern in Chetco Bar Fire meetings

Fire management teams that worked the Chetco Bar Fire are holding Q&A sessions around the region this week.

Those sessions are marked with plenty of complaints and concerns from people who think the fire should have been handled differently.

But also a lot of support.

The spokesperson for the Chetco Bar Fire team, Kale Casey, says there’s been a lot of mixed reactions at these meetings.

He says there are plenty of supportive people who understand firefighters work long hours and put their lives at risk.

But there’s also a lot of concern that the Chetco Bar Fire was left to burn.

Casey says that’s a misconception.

The truth is the U.S. Forest Service decided within 15 minutes of the lightning strike to make it a full suppression fire.

However, Casey says the skepticism is appreciated as it inspires communities to push policy for a reduction of fuels.

“You see a lot more folks looking to get involved and looking toward Washington and the region and saying ‘hey, let’s get more funding to remove these fuels that are not viable commercially’ so that our communities have better fire protection around them and so the large fires that will start in the wilderness in the future don’t have as much of a chance,” Casey said.

According to Casey, higher temperatures, Chetco wind events and the abundant amount of winter rains led to a forest choked with fuels.

Casey says fuels are being reduced now, but it’s not happening at a pace people would like to see.

Therefore, he says more funding is needed from congress for the thinning of non-commercial timber.

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