Celtic Festival is back


New drone business takes off, 1B Liberty director leaving, 2A

?Fantastic Four? set For drive in showing Now playiNg: page go 15

aye laddies

Kilts, bagpipes, tradition part of annual Celtic Festival youth set to ?Blow your house down?



August 19, 2015


$1 CurtaiN Call: page go 3

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Good day to our valued subscriber Jeffrey Rollins of La Grande

Resources stretched thin


As wildfires rage across 7 western states, Oregon finds itself competing with others for limited resources

The Associated Press file photo Firefighting resources, which are in increased demand, include 20-person hotshot or hand crews who scratch out fire lines with their hands and chainsaws, air tankers that lay down ribbons of red retardant, helicopters to douse hot spots, and two- and three-person engine crews who often respond when fires first break out. By Stuart Tomlinson The Oregonian The perfect storm of lightning strikes that crashed last week across Oregon?s droughtstricken forests, range and grasslands started dozens of wildfires. Then the winds blew, turning small fires into raging infernos. Air tankers couldn?t fly. Firefighters on the ground had to retreat. More than two dozen homes burned to the ground near John Day on the Canyon Creek complex of fires. And just that quickly, Oregon?s fire season ? which had started relatively calmly ? shot to the top of the list of national priorities along with Washington state, where the wildland fire season started early and has stayed hot. That list is long: About 95 large wildfires are burning approximately 1.1 million acres in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada and Colorado. Resources are stretched so thin that for the first time since 2006, national fire officials are mobilizing 200 active-duty military troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Tacoma to fight the fires. So the question national fire bosses ask one another during a conference call each morning at the National Incident Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, is simple: Where are the worst fires burning and where do the resources to fight those fires need to go? As of Monday, the Pacific Northwest, the Northern Rockies and Northern California were all at their highest priority levels, a See Resources / Page 5A

Locals authorities take over Elgin blaze


Phillips Creek Fire handed back to local authorities

By Dick Mason The Observer ELGIN ? Monday was a red letter day in the saga of the fire that terrified the Elgin community earlier this month. The Phillips Creek Fire, seven miles northwest of Elgin, was turned back over to the Umatilla National Forest and the Oregon Department of Forestry on Monday. Control of the fire was handed back from a federal and state interagency firefighting team to federal and state agencies at the local level. The turnover was made because the Phillips Creek Fire has been contained to the point that it no longer poses a threat to people or structures. ?We feel that the entire perimeter of the fire area is secure,? said Amber Mahoney, a public affairs specialist for the Umatilla National Forest.

More inside

HIGH TEMPS WILL POSE ISSUES FOR FIREFIGHTERS A week of intense wildfires has left managers concerned about heat-related illnesses among crews as temperatures in Eastern Oregon pressed into the 90s on Tuesday. Page 6A RELIEF EFFORTS FOR BAKER COUNTY With eight structures lost and several houses previously on a Level 3 evacuation notice, the Cornet-Windy Ridge Fire has wreaked havoc. Local individuals and organizations have taken it upon themselves to gather and provide resources to those affected by the fire. Page 6A The Umatilla National Forest is responsible for protecting the national forest land the fire is on, and ODF is responsible for protecting the private land it is on. The Phillips Creek Fire today is a far cry from what it was two weeks ago when it posed a serious threat to homes on the northwest edge of Elgin and in an area north of Summerville. Level 1 evacuation notices were issued to a number of residents in these areas Aug. 2-3, telling them to be ready to leave on a moment?s notice. See Change / Page 5A Observer file photo Firefighters line Highway 204 earlier this month to keep the flames from jumping the highway. The Phillips Creek Fire today is a far cry from what it was two weeks ago when it posed a serious threat to homes on the northwest edge of Elgin and in an area north of Summerville.

Group moves closer to goal


Citizens for Good Government discusses term restrictions for commissioners

By Cherise Kaechele The Observer Union County Citizens for Good Government is almost ready to submit the petition that would go to the voters to limit a commissioner?s term to eight years. When the grassroots group met for the second time on Tuesday to discuss the wording to use on the petition, there were a few new faces. It?s the aim of Jim Mollerstrom, the chief petitioner and one of the people who formed the group, to get community members from every town in Union County to participate in the group. So far, there is representation from every town except Summerville, Imbler and North Powder. See Petition / Page 5A


Police search for Joseph man after assault

By Chuck Anderson For The Observer JOSEPH ? Police continue to search for a Joseph area man after he reportedly assaulted his ex-girlfriend and set her house on fire before fleeing Monday night. Law enforcement officials are seeking Jon Howells, 35, who police say set the house at 61099 Ski Run Road and a nearby car on fire. Firefighters and officials, including Wallowa County Sheriff Steve Rogers and Joseph Fire Chief Jeffrey Wecks, were still on the scene investigating at midday Tuesday. See Search / Page 5A

Getting signatures

The members of Union County Citizens for Good Government are hoping to gather more than 650 signatures from registered voters on the petition requesting that term limits be on the ballot.

Who to contact

Wallowa County Sheriff Steve Rogers asked that anyone with information about Howells? whereabouts call 541-426- 3131.


Business ........1B Classified .......4B Comics ...........3B Crossword .....6B Dear Abby ...10B Horoscope .....6B Lottery............2A Obituaries ......3A Opinion ..........4A Record ...........3A Sports ............8A State .............10A Sudoku ..........3B Wallowa Life ..6A Wonderword ... 3B


Full forecast on the back of B section Tonight Thursday




Mainly clear Sunny and nice



Issue 98 3 sections, 36 pages La Grande, Oregon


Call The Observer newsroom at 541-963-3161 or send an email to More contact info on Page 4A.




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