Angry Citizens Demand Answers On Chetco Bar Fire
At a public meeting in Brookings, Oregon Thursday evening, officials with the US Forest Service explained why they decided to the fight the Chetco Bar fire the way they did.
But many in the audience remained unconvinced the Forest Service did all it could do to prevent the spread of what become a huge and costly fire.
The meeting at Brookings High School was the first of four public meetings scheduled by the Forest Service to explain how the fire was handled. Craig Trulock, with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, denied accusations that managers had allowed the fire to burn for weeks in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness before attacking it.
"The decision to suppress this fire was made within 15 minutes of it being reported to the Forest Service," he said.
Trulock and other fire managers said the fire started in backcountry terrain too rugged to put fire fighters on the ground without risking their lives. They said water and fire retardant drops were made repeatedly in the fire's early days, but that such air attacks are rarely successful by themselves.
But many community members believe officials dropped the ball. Cecelia Worlton lost her home to the fire about 14 miles outside Brookings. She says fire crews repeatedly refused to help her family and their neighbors protect their properties.
"Why were we ignored?" Worlton demanded. "Why? We now demand a full investigation as to why we weren't given any protection."
Curry County Commissioner Court Boice said he's seeking a congressional inquiry into how the fire was handled and how similar fires could be prevented in the future.