Friday, July 26, 2013

Behind the scenes of an air attack

Contributed by Shawna Hartman, Type 2 PIO

The job of Air Tactical Group Supervisor in the firefighting world is somewhat like a traffic policeman at a busy intersection. In Orofino on Thursday, the Air Tactical Group Supervisor, James Grasham, Zone Assistant Fire Management Officer from Idaho Panhandle National Forest stationed in Grangeville, with pilot Dave Parker coordinated the air support on the Braun Road Fire, which greatly assisted in putting that fire out. Air support working the fire in Orofino, included 4 helicopters, 4 single engine air tankers (SEATS), 2 heavy air tankers, and a lead plane. With 11 aircraft over the fire, one could imagine the chaos that could ensue, hence the need for someone to coordinate the effort.

Due to effective regional communication and local pre-positioned air resources, aerial attack was immediate for the Brown Road fire. The terrain in that area makes on the ground firefighting difficult, and the aerial attack allowed the local firefighters to respond directly to the homes for structure protection. Circling above the fire, Grasham, is able to talk with firefighters on the ground as well as the air craft supporting the fire. In coordination with the ground Incident Commander, the Air Tactical Group Supervisor sets objectives for the fire and directs each retardant or water drop on the fire.

In Orofino last week, the helicopters were able to dip from nearby ponds and cool hot spots while the SEATs returned to Grangeville Tanker Base where they reloaded with retardant. The heavy air tankers were flown in from Missoula to assist with the Braun Road fire also. The “heavy” tankers are larger planes that may carry up to 2,000 gallons of retardant and also require a lead plane. The lead plane identifies the line in which the air tanker will drop their retardant load. While identifying that line the lead plane leads the tankers in and “checks the air.” These larger planes returned to Missoula to be refilled and one of them returned with another load to Orofino.

The SEATs hold up to 800 gallons of retardant per load; however, for safety reasons each load is usually only 725-750 gallons. The SEAT pilot can control the amount or coverage of retardant on each drop. If the fuel on the ground is heavy timber the pilot will likely release their complete load to ensure that it will reach the ground and coverage is good. The pilots stationed in Grangeville are highly qualified for wildfire and each year attend training and are re-certified to continue to pilot SEATs.

When the SEATs get to the Grangeville Air Base, support personnel on the ground manage the safety of the “ramp,” the site of the retardant reloading station. SEAT managers keep track of flying time, safety, roll times loading and compliance with contract standards. There are at least five interagency dispatched personnel at the base that assist with the tanker base. As fire activity increase in the area, the more aircraft are called in and in turn more support personnel will arrive to help manage the Tanker Base.

The Idaho Department of Lands and the U.S. Forest Service work closely together and share use of the SEATs. The Idaho Department of Lands holds the contract with the SEAT companies while the US Forest Service provides the airport support and staffing to maintain the Grangeville Tanker Base. This mutual aid agreement allows both entities use of this valuable firefighting resource without carrying the financial burden alone. The SEATs usefulness and efficiency of all personnel involved was exhibited on the Braun Fire.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy update

By Carmen Syed

Derek Newland, Director of the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy (IDYCA) of Pierce, spoke to attendees at the recent Pierce-Weippe Chamber of Commerce meeting, held on July 10 at the Pierce Community Center.

Mr. Newland gave an update on the progress of getting the Academy property ready for receiving students in January 2014. Ground is being moved and prepared for the modulars that will house the students. These modulars will begin arriving in mid-August. In addition, the interior and exterior is in the process of being painted, and new carpet will be installed in the next week. A new sign was printed by Express Name Tags and More of Weippe, and Logistics Manager, Harv Nelson installed it in front of the school grounds this last week.

In addition, the IDYCA has advertised for 20 new positions recently, including Cadre Team Leaders, Case Managers and Counselors. Interviews have begun for the Cadre Team Leaders, which will be on-staff in the next couple of weeks. There were many that are interviewing from the local area, but housing will need to be secured for those from out-of-town.

The Academy’s Administrative Assistant, Carmen Syed, is taking over the City of Pierce’s efforts in developing a detailed list of rental properties in the area for these new hires. She has made personal contact this week with those on the existing list, to update the availability. However, any rental property owners that have not been contacted are encouraged to call the Academy at 208-464-1253 to be included on the rental list. The new Human Resource Assistant, Cheryl McIntosh of Pierce, has also recently been hired, and will start work soon. She will be assisting in the housing effort for the new hires.

Things are rapidly moving forward with the Academy, and it is an exciting time for our town, county and the youth of our great state!

Head Start seeks our support

By Elizabeth Morgan

Lewis Clark Early Childhood Program (LCECP) has been serving the community of Orofino for over 20 years. Presently, a group of devoted community members who call themselves Friends of LCECP Orofino Head Start Project are asking the community for support in raising $30,000 to be eligible for other grants needed to purchase and place a classroom on the elementary school site.

LCECP has applied for a supplemental funding grant from Head Start to cover the site development costs associated with development of the center including the playground and parking areas. It is hoped to bring the project to the school site within the next year.

Friends of LCECP strive to raise $30,000 from the Orofino business and private communities. The remainder of the $91,000 is to be earned through private grants and foundations.

Years of monitoring and research confirm that children who attend the Head Start program, have immediate positive effects on cognitive and social/emotional development. In addition, it was discovered that there was significant influence on the health of the child as well as his/her family. This typically improves the entire family’s emotional and economic social status, which in turn benefits the community.

Head Start’s present location is on the county’s road maintenance complex. Immediately behind their playground, heavy equipment travels back and forth, through a parking lot that floods during the storm season. Costs for ongoing maintenance for flooding and dated heating cut deeply into a budget that is already stretched to afford only the absolute necessities.

The building is small, and is not in compliance with the American Disabilities Act, Classroom size may accommodate no more than 14 children at a time and lacks space for supplies.

The center’s size and location limits activities, access, class size and instruction, and presents numerous safety issues of serious concern. Besides being located somewhat inconveniently in an industrial area, there is no connectivity to other education programs or schools.

In the past, the school district has absorbed the cost of transporting students who qualify for Head Start services to and from Orofino Elementary School.

Keeping the kids on school grounds will save money and provide less interruption to their school day. The transition from Pre-School to Kindergarten is made easier, less intimidating because the child is more comfortable and familiar with their surroundings.

Moving the Head Start to OES would allow children to attend preschool in a high quality modular classroom manufactured by Northwest Building Systems in Boise. large enough to accommodate an office separate from the classroom. The building would not interfere with the additional parking area that OES intended to create. The new location will create a seamless unison between Head Start and OES.

Clearwater County is one of the most economically depressed counties in Idaho, with over 36% of children aged 0-4, living in poverty.

Parent intensive programs such as Head Start draw parents to school early in the child’s academic career, promoting greater participation as the child progresses through grade school and beyond.

Research indicates: “Parent involvement promotes a healthy and consistent learning environment by establishing mutual goals between parents and educators and developing activities that bridge home and school.” (Christenson, S.L.; 1995).

Furthermore, children who attend Head Start earn significantly more than their siblings who did not attend preschool. Those that attended Head Start are nearly 30% more likely to have completed high school than their siblings and are more likely to attend college, less likely to be assigned to special education classes; and less likely to commit crimes. It is estimated that society receives nearly $9 in benefits for every dollar invested in Head Start children.

Joint School District #171 Superintendent, Bob Vian believes the program will benefit both students and community. He fully supports the efforts of Friends of Lewis Clark Early Childhood Program to find a way to move the current facility to the Orofino Elementary School grounds.

Seeking additional funds from the community for education is a sensitive issue, especially in light of the school district requesting and receiving the supplemental levy which passed in May. But there is much taking place within the district to maximize the quality of education available for our children. As a former teacher, I see many wheels in motion that will encourage lifelong learning and well being throughout the community. The education our children receive will be relevant to the needs of tomorrow, and become more efficient as the district’s future goals are realized.

Friends of LCECP are planning a bake sale for starters on Friday, Aug. 2. The time and location has yet to be announced. Watch for details in next week’s Clearwater Tribune. Please show your support; Head Start works, and our children deserve whatever it takes.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Jumpers flock to Orofino skydiving event

By Dennis Gray of ChangePoint

This weekend’s Sober Skydive, July 6-7, sponsored by ChangePoint, was a huge success. People from Orofino and surrounding communities came to jump or to enjoy watching the skydiving event. SkyDown Skydiving out of Caldwell provided the jumps. Skydivers leaped out of the planes at 10,000 feet and landed at the Orofino Municipal Airport. Jumpers were from Orofino, Kamiah, Kooskia, Grangeville, Cottonwood, Lewiston, Clarkston, and Peck. Sober Skydive was started to help promote sobriety and to encourage recovery for those who want to change their lives.

The skydivers tried to describe the joy of free-falling at 120 miles per hour, followed by the parachute opening and slowing to brisk glide through the most beautiful landscape a person could view in their lifetime. A nearly universal comment from the skydivers was simply that the thrilling experience was so wonderful it was virtually indescribable.

Of the 35 people who jumped (mostly novice skydivers), they took their first big leap right here in Orofino. A few would-be-spectators could not take just watching and signed up themselves. Some had not flown on a plane before so the experience was even more exhilarating.

Other parachuters were experienced. Several began jumping at the first Sober Skydive a few years ago. Ages of the jumpers ranged from 16-year-olds to people well into their 70’s.

Most of the tandem jumps were friends or family members jumping in pairs. One of the old-timers who had jumped several times in the past took his grandson for this life-changing experience. Moms jumping with their sons and dads jumping with their teenage daughters described their experience as a gift of a lifetime.

The expert pilots and skydiving instructors from SkyDown Skydiving helped new jumpers to reduce the fear, relax, and feel confident in order to better enjoy the experience. These highly skilled instructors had logged from over 4,000 to more 14,000 jumps.

Veronica Miracle, KLEW TV reporter, straps up for her first parachute jump at Orofino Airport on July 6. SkyDown Skydiving of Caldwell provided the jumps. Photo by Charlie Pottenger

 Veronica Miracle is pictured landing after her parachute jump with SkyDown Skydiving July 6 at Orofino Airport. Photo by Charlie Pottenger

Lucas Walker of Lewiston was among several individuals who participated in a parachute jump at Orofino Airport July 6-7, courtesy of SkyDown Skydiving, a sport parachute jumping organization out of Caldwell. Upon landing, Lucas declared, "I definitely am doing that again!" Photo by Charlie Pottenger
Jessi Noah of Orofino is all harnessed for a skydive at Orofino Airport July 6, courtesy of SkyDown Skydiving of Caldwell. Photo by Charlie Pottenger

Friday, July 5, 2013

Will Orofino share the road with megaload haulers?

The Orofino Chamber of Commerce invited business owners and merchants of Orofino to a presentation held by the Omega Morgan Corporation at the Ponderosa Restaurant, June 26.

Omega Morgan specializes in transportation of heavy rigging and machinery, industrial construction and architectural services. The company was founded in 1991 in Hillsboro, OR, and has become a leader in their field throughout the Pacific Northwest. Their slogan is “Doing the Impossible Daily.”

The megaload haulers are anticipating being given the okay to haul water purification vessels via U.S. Hwy. 12 to Canada, which could begin late in July of 2013. Omega Morgan has committed to working with Forest Service and the Idaho Transportation Department to minimize any negative impact to the area.

The loads are 250 feet long, 20 feet in diameter and weigh 600,000 to 640,000 pounds. If approved, the company would like to make 10 such trips between now and January of 2014, with additional projects proposed for 2014.

The company is requesting to transport between the hours of 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. The rigs are required by law to pull over every 15 minutes. The team usually consists of six people, accompanied by a bevy of support personnel. The company will utilize local pilot cars and law enforcement. The transport team will use local hotels, restaurants, fueling stations, grocery and hardware stores and auto supply stores.

John McCalla, CEO and President of Omega Morgan personally greeted each and every person in attendance. He claimed that his company would like to be part of the community as opposed to just passing through.

Most of those in attendance of the meeting were enthusiastic as they listened to the prospects of potential business, but not all were as optimistic.

It would be safe to say that Exxon did not score the highest of ratings locally when they attempted their transport through the corridor of Hwy. 12 in the past. Power lines were accidentally brought down and no one from Exxon was available for answers.

McCalla listened carefully to objections and answered questions as they came.

There are the pros and the cons as in most every decision. In this case the good news is that none of the transport material is toxic, no fuels, nuclear waste, etc. and everything is manufactured within the United States, the community and those up and down our river stand to make a few dollars in the agreement.

However, there are some who wonder where we can draw the line. If we let one company through, does it open the door wide for others to follow? Will they all be as careful and as conscientious as Omega Morgan claims to be?

No one knows the answer to that, but it sure is a valid question.