>Directors voice concerns about fighting fires in wilderness areas

   The Crooked River Ranch Club and Maintenance Association Board of Directors recently passed a resolution, and is issuing a position letter opposing the proposed Whychus-Deschutes Wilderness Area.
   The decision was based, in part, on a recent vote by Crooked River Ranch property owners. In a survey, 65 percent of the 658 residents who returned their ballots voted a resounding no to the proposal.
   In concurrence with the positions of the Crooked River Ranch Fire District Board of Directors and Fire Chief Tim McLaren, the board believes the risk to a residential area adjoining a wilderness area is too great to ignore.
   "Of gravest concern is the ability to effectively fight wildfire in areas that border Crooked River Ranch," said Ben Johnson, president of the CRR Club and Maintenance Association board.
   For example, he said, the Alder Springs Fire, which broke out Sept. 22, came within two miles of the western border of the Ranch "and provided a stark reminder of the threat that wildfire poses to Ranch property and lives."
   "Many Ranch residents watched the fire's rapid progress into the night and its reawakening two days later," he said. "The trees were literally exploding."
   For Johnson, the issue is extremely important. "It's very personal, because the fire chief and a couple of deputies were parked in my driveway, and I had a ringside seat as the fire rushed toward Crooked River Ranch," he explained.
   "We have heard the arguments from both sides about limits on fighting fires in designated wilderness areas," he said. "The bottom line is, we are concerned that the timely and robust effort that checked the advance of this threat to Ranch homes and property would not be allowed in a designated wilderness area."
   "I believe that had it not been for the timely and aggressive firefighting techniques, including the retardant drops, we would have been evacuated," said Johnson.
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