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A red flag warning indicating critical fire weather in Lincoln County on April 16 signaled fire season has arrived early this year. Fire recovery efforts continue as Lincoln County Emergency Management works to improve fire readiness and emergency response.

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In the April 19 regular meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, County Counsel Wayne Belmont reported on Echo Mountain Fire recovery efforts, expressing amazement the county was under a red flag warning in mid-April.

The critical fire weather alert was in effect from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. April 16 — something usually seen much later in the year, Belmont said..

“While we’re continuing to do all the recovery mode,” Belmont told the commissioners. “We have to be vigilant for the next fire season.”

Belmont reported, “There is a variety of continuing efforts around dealing with water, roads, septic systems and wells, housing issues, mental health. The long-term recovery group appears to be coming together, and we’re seeing some volunteers from north county stepping up and ready to do a process that will get people ready for long-term recovery.”

Jenny Demaris, county emergency manager, echoed Belmont’s concern regarding the windy dry conditions creating fire danger so early in the season. “It is a concern for us here on the Oregon Coast because that means our weather conditions are most likely permanently changing.”

Demaris cited a fire in Klamath County the day before, evidence that fire season in Oregon already underway. “What that also means for us, as we did experience in the Echo Mountain Fire, is we may not be able to rely on the resources that we would hope to be able to have at a moment’s notice to come to our aid,” she explained. “This means our local fire resources have to be more resilient and ready to go.”

The landscape is changing, Demaris warned. “While we’re continuing to do all the work in the recovery mode, we have to be vigilant for the next fire season.”

Commissioner Katey Jacobson, who leads a team in efforts to secure funding for a variety of county programs, reported on a contract awarded to the county from Business Oregon. Indicating $724,000 in funding to the county was waiting on Governor Kate Brown’s signature, she said, “That, hopefully, will happen soon.”

Funding through the Oregon Department of Forestry will be available for wildfire-affected counties for communications infrastructure for fires or emergencies in the future, Jacobson added.

Public Works Director Roy Kinion provided an update on the ongoing debris clean up efforts. “They completed cleaning up the Salmon River Trailer Park, that portion north of Highway 18,” he said. The south side will be completed next.

“The clean up is starting to wind down,” Kinion reported. April 15 was officially the last day for ROE (right of entry) submittals. Kinion made a last call for those seeking help with fire debris. The Wildfire Debris Cleanup Hotline number is 503-934-1700.

Jacobson indicated she recently visited the RV park. “It’s hard to believe that just 3 or four weeks ago it was essentially in a post-burn state, and now it’s essentially cleaned up,” she said.

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