Long-form

Weeks after Canyon Creek Complex fire, many weighing whether it’s worth it to rebuild

CANYON CITY — Driving up Canyon Creek, south of John Day toward Burns, the devastation is dramatic.

The Canyon Creek Complex fire tore through the canyon in mid-August, leaving the woods and community forever changed.

“This was so awesome in here before this,” Grant County Judge Scott Myers said as he drove his pickup along U.S. 395 through the canyon. For about 8 miles the highway cuts through where the wildfire burned and destroyed homes. Around each turn comes a shocking sight, remnants of once proud homes or homes that were somehow spared from the flames. Full story

Death on Steens Mountain – The Mystery of Dustin Self

What exactly drove an Oklahoma teenager to travel to Oregon, leave his truck and survival gear behind and disappear on Steens Mountain will remain a mystery.

But at least friends and family of Dustin Self know what happened to the 19-year-old after he was last seen in March 2013.

A hunter, trying to cut through an aspen thicket to pursue a deer, found Self’s remains Oct. 7 on a remote section of the mountain southwest of Burns. His remains showed the young man had hunkered down in the trees and stripped his clothes before he died. The find ended the hope his parents held that Self had slipped “off the grid” and would someday reach out to them again. Full story

‘Get out of there’

Twenty years ago an elite group of firefighters from Prineville went to Colorado to fight just one of many wildfires burning on the western slope of the Rockies. Four hours later, nine of those firefighters were dead.

The blaze had erupted into a firestorm, killing more than a dozen firefighters in all, scarring the small Central Oregon town and leading to changes in how wildfires are fought.
The South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain in Colorado on July 6, 1994, trapped and killed the Prineville nine, along with three smokejumpers and two members of a helicopter firefighting crew. The death toll was the largest in modern wildland firefighting history until a similar blowup killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots on the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona a little more than a year ago.

Hotshot crews typically have 20 members. Training, living and working together, the firefighters become a family. This was true with the Prineville Hotshots. The group killed ranged in age from 21 to 28, hailed from around Oregon and included some unique characters. Levi Brinkley was the firstborn of a rambunctious set of triplet brothers who made themselves locally famous in Burns. Bonnie Holtby ran cross country and track and played hoops at Redmond High before turning her athletic skills to firefighting. Jon Kelso was born and raised in Prineville. Full story

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