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Wildfire

Fire chiefs, Klamath County Commissioners and other local leaders are coming together to expand and strengthen fire protection services to residents in districts without a designated fire fighting agency.

At a Wednesday morning commissioners meeting, officials from local fire districts including Klamath County Fire District 1, Chiloquin and Keno came together to advocate for a plan to streamline fire resources. Fire officials told commissioners that when structure fires or wildfires catch in places where no agency has jurisdiction, response can be slow and confusing.

“I’m fielding questions on a regular basis from Chemult, Sprague and other Klamath County community members who are not aware that they have no fire protection,” Chiloquin Fire Chief Mike Cook said.

Every time an agency must respond to a fire outside its territory, officials said they essentially use taxpayers’ funds from their own jurisdiction to remedy a problem where no taxpayer dollars go toward the fire protection efforts.

For example, officials said they spend about $12,000 fighting a Beatty fire in 2018.

“There’s a lot of Klamath County thats unprotected and ultimately Klamath County is responsible for those areas — that scared me considering what we just went through with Paradise and fires in that area,” commissioner Donnie Boyd said in the meeting, referencing a November 2018 Northern California wildfire that claimed 86 lives.

Some fire officials advocated for adopting the Wildland-Urban Interface Code in Klamath County to have a stronger approach for dealing with flames in under protected areas. The national code, used by others states like California, could bring greater clarity and support for fire protection across the county.

They also discussed awareness campaigns and incentives to help residents in non-protected areas keep properties clear of fire fuel debris.

They planned a meeting for March 15 with other leaders like Klamath County Emergency Manager Morgan Lindsay and county code enforcement and planning officials to hash out details of a plan.

“The way to get a good outcome is to get a chance to all sit down, look at the same documents, get on the same page and understand where we’re going with it,” said Keno Fire Chief John Ketchum.