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Defend your space: protecting your home as wildfire season gets under way

For months, the sounds of log trucks, chainsaws and yarder bells have echoed through the canyons of the areas impacted by the 2020 Archie Creek Fire.

Today, those sounds have been joined by that of cement trucks, the high-pitched spin of circular saws and the melodic rhythm of framing hammers.

The process of rebuilding has already begun in the Glide and Idleyld Park communities, specifically in the Rock Creek drainage, which saw a significant loss of homes due to the Archie Creek Fire. For the past two months, fire officials in Douglas County have been stressing the importance of defensible space countywide.

From Azalea to Drain to Scottsburg to Glide, crews have worked to help homeowners trim up and clear the excess fuels around their homes in anticipation of what has all the markings of another active wildfire season.

A total of 109 homes and numerous outbuildings were lost due to the intensity and speed at which the Archie Creek Fire burned. However, a number of homes were left largely untouched as a result of taking preventative steps to remove fire-prone fuels.

Fire season on most Douglas County lands went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, nearly two weeks earlier than normal, which means time is running out for homeowners to start building or fortifying a defensible space around their homes.

What exactly is defensible space?

The National Fire Protection Association recommends the “5-30-100” rule as a guide to managing landscaping and other foliage that could be prone to wildfire.

The first step is taking a look at the vegetation within 5 feet of the home and outbuildings. While having vegetation — like arbor vitae or other shrubs — provides a sense of privacy from the outside, those and other fire-prone vegetation may put a home at serious risk in the event of a wildfire.

“You really don’t want to see a lot of vegetation within the first 5 feet,” said Kyle Reed, spokesperson for the Douglas Forest Protective Association. “People will want to plant stuff around the windows for privacy, but you really want to have that buffer around the house.”

Next, look at the area from 5 to 30 feet from the home. Make sure any underbrush has been cleared, especially near driveways (a natural fire break), patios, decks and propane tanks. Trees within this 30-foot zone should be trimmed so that the lowest limbs are no less than 6 to 10 feet off the ground, depending on the maturity of the tree. To prevent “crowning,” where fire can pass from treetop to treetop — predominantly in conifers — try to keep treetops as much as 18 feet apart.

In the 30- to 100-foot zone — Reed recommends 200 feet as an outer boundary for many rural homes — have a continued focus on the elimination of fire-prone ground cover, and look to keep a safe distance between treetops in the canopy.

From 30 to 60 feet, treetops should ideally be approximately 12 feet apart, the national association says. From 60 to 100 or 200 feet, a 6-foot gap between trees will help slow crowning before it has a chance to reach the home.

Also, make sure the home has a clear driveway in the event fire personnel are called to provide structural defense.

“We’ve been going from house to house in the areas we’re working doing a fire triage,” Reed said. “How does the ingress look? The egress? What is the water supply?”

Reed was part of a team dispatched to the December 2017 Thomas Fire, a nearly 300,000-acre fire that impacted Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in Southern California. For the first week, his team was working one day in front of the fire’s anticipated spread, performing fire triage for homes.

“That was all we did, triaging homes,” Reed said. “We would find a home that we could do a few things quickly and help keep them protected.”

While another fire like Archie Creek isn’t likely, one can never say never. With low rainfall in Douglas County throughout April and May, and temperatures expected to jump into the 90s to kick off June, any extra work homeowners can do now could mean saving their lifetime investment.

“There is no guarantee that a house is going to survive with defensible space, but it could make a huge difference,” Reed said.

Man accused of stealing land in Elkton cited for scamming Roseburg hotel

A man accused of scamming an Elkton woman out of 30 acres of land was cited by Roseburg police Wednesday after he allegedly defrauded a Roseburg hotel by using a known alias.

Curtis Tyrone Powell, 41, whose last known address was in Cottage Grove, was contacted by police after he reportedly did not pay for an extended stay at the Quality Inn Central, 427 NW Garden Valley Blvd.

Powell reportedly checked into the Quality Inn as John Hope and explained to hotel staff that an insurance company would be covering any bills. Powell was cited for second-degree theft by deception and released.

Powell was originally arrested Feb. 26 and charged with five felonies, including aggravated theft, identity theft and perjury, in connection with the purported theft of the land from Janet Grosz, 66. On March 26, a misdemeanor charge of initiating a false report was added.

On March 31, Powell was released from jail after signing a one-page conditional release agreement in which he agreed to “seek immediate medical treatment.” Under the agreement, Powell also agreed to appear in court when directed. Powell was not required to post a security as a condition of his release, according to the agreement.

A pre-trial conference in Powell’s current Douglas County Circuit Court case was scheduled for Thursday. A three-day jury trial is tentatively scheduled for July 20-22.

Roseburg's Republican candidate for governor Paul Romero pitches Contract with Oregon

Roseburg Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Romero has laid out some campaign promises he calls his “Contract with Oregon.”

Romero said he was inspired by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America.

“It kind of forced Congress, and the people that were there and got earmarks and all that stuff, to kind of straighten up and fly right because with that Contract with America he got a bunch of people elected,” Romero said.

“So he got in there and he followed through with it, and I thought you know, Oregon needs that, because we’ve had plenty of politicians, we’ve had no real statesmen,” he said in an interview Thursday.

A Navy veteran and CEO of Youwalk Today, Inc., Romero ran unsuccessfully in 2020 for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. He lost the primary to Jo Rae Perkins, who in turn lost to incumbent Democrat Jeff Merkley in November.

This time, he’s turned his attention to state office.

In his new contract, Romero has a checklist of about two dozen things he wants to accomplish as governor.

On that to-do list is a comprehensive audit of Oregon’s budget for waste, fraud and abuse.

He also wants to work toward making Oregon an income and property tax free state.

Asked how he’d replace the tax money, he falls back on eliminating the waste, fraud and abuse he believes are included in state spending now.

“The goal would be to figure out what monies we have and to shut off the spigots coming out of the general fund,” he said.

He wants to audit all legislators, too, to see if they are receiving incentives or bribes for their votes.

Another item on Romero’s list is forbidding the state Department of Human Services from removing children from their homes without proof of a crime and a warrant.

“I understand there are children in bad situations that need to be rescued. Sometimes there are bad parents and what have you. But it seems to me that they have been really extending their authority a little bit above and beyond,” he said.

He hopes to reduce the problem of homelessness through job training, tiny homes and other assistance. But he said those who refuse to step up and embrace those opportunities will be dealt with according to the law.

“We can’t allow homeless to just be taking up space on public spaces, streets, sidewalks, parks, etc. That’s not right to allow that to happen,” he said.

Among the laws he said he’d push for in the Legislature are serious penalties for crimes involving rioting.

He also hopes for legislation penalizing municipalities that defund the police by denying them grant funding, and prosecuting officials who take action to defund the police.

Other legislation he wants to push would end welfare to minor mothers, enforce child support and create tax incentives for adoption.

The full list can be viewed at romerofororegon.com. Romero said the list is a work in progress and he’s still taking suggestions.

Despite the more dramatic items included on the list, Romero does not believe it’s controversial.

Romero believes that Oregon’s election outcomes — including his own in the 2020 Senate race — have been altered by Dominion Voting Systems. He alleges that many vote counting systems in the state are being run on Dominion machines.

“More information I’m sure is going to be coming out about that, especially with Dominion being at the heart and the overall control of our voting systems here in Oregon,” he said.

Conspiracy theories about Dominion have caught fire among some supporters of former President Donald Trump since he lost the 2020 election.

Romero believes items on his list that might prove controversial among more liberal voters actually have the support of the majority, and that ties into his theories about Dominion as well.

For example, he does not believe Oregonians really voted in favor of the drug legalization measure on the ballot in 2020.

Romero said the state is in the hands of socialist leaders.

“They have literally choked the life out of the state of Oregon, and what I ask people very simply is tell me this, in the last 20 years is your life better in Oregon?”

The answer, he said, is invariably “no.”