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Kamiah-area fires impact power, school levy, may delay CV schools start

Clearwater Complex 2015

Sign on Glenwood Road.

Credit: Free Press photo / Jolene Rupp
Sign on Glenwood Road.

School levy vote precinct changes

Kamiah-area fires have caused minor changes to local polling places for Idaho County voters in the upcoming Aug. 25 Kamiah School District 304 levy election.

For the Kamiah precinct, the polling place will be at Valley View Church of the Nazarene, 102 North Front Road at Kamiah (across from Life Center).

At this point, polling places remain the same for the Woodland Precinct (Woodland Friends Church) and Glover Precinct (Glenwood School). However, if these are closed due to a fire emergency, voters in these precincts will use Valley View Church of the Nazarene.

“We wanted an alternative if something changes in the next week and these precincts are closed,” said Idaho County Clerk Kathy Ackerman.

Power: 20 percent of ICLP customers affected; final time for full restoration unknown

Idaho County Light and Power Cooperative reported almost 20 percent, 670 consumers, were out of power as of 8 p.m. last Friday, of which 71 were restored by 10:30 p.m. Sunday. As of press time Tuesday, 460 services had been restored.

ICLP crews, augmented by contract personnel, will be working in excess of 16-hour days, according to general manager Jake Eimers, until all services that can be restored are restored.

“Certainly, for a few the wait will be within hours, but for the many they will need to prepare for and expect the power to be out for an extended period,” Eimers said. With damage assessments ongoing, the co-op is unable to predict when specific areas or individual services will be restored.

The Aug. 14 fires compromised ICLP’s main feeder lines serving Woodland, Glenwood, Caribel and Kidder Ridge, along with tap lines serving from the main feeders. As of press time, ICLP personnel identified more than 50 poles needing to be replaced, and they expect that number may easily double once they reach areas that are currently inaccessible.

ICLP efforts are concentrated on main feeder lines first, followed by tap lines with multiple services not burned out and finally single-tap services. Those services closer to Kamiah and served from the main feeders will see power restored sooner, according to Eimers.

Due to the scope of the damage and potential of continued expansion of fires, ICLP on Saturday morning brought in contract crews with Wilson Construction Co., of Canby, Ore., which had personnel working jobs in Hayden Lake and Grant County, Wash. Despite fire-related disruptions, ICLP did maintain power to its customers west of Kamiah, Lewis Clark RV and Lewis Clark Pines Subdivision.

ICLP members can receive an update by phone on when power will be restored to their service by providing their contact information to the office, 983-1610.

For Avista Corp, 100 customers were affected by fire-related outages Friday night – in the Woodland, Beaver Slide and Frasier areas -- and services to those homes not destroyed were restored the following day by 7:30 p.m. Damage estimates for materials and time, according to Dan Austin, operations manager for Avista’s Grangeville office, are around $50,000.

So far seven poles have been replaced to restore power to accounts, and at this point another 20 are left to go. About 21 Avista personnel from Grangeville, Clarkston and Spokane were deployed starting Friday night, during which crews tackled pole fires, saving 15 structures in that effort.

While the fires were burning, Austin said two Avista linemen tackled a difficult task of opening up fuses on lines so were the poles to burn through there would not be energized wires lying along the ground.

No reported looting but extra patrols deployed

Regarding concerns for possible looting in the Kamiah fire area, according to the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office it has received calls from concerned residents about “outsiders” seen in the area but no reports of actual incidents.

“We’re doing extra patrols in the affected areas,” said ICSO administrative assistant Trudy Slagle.

Kamiah fire “most significant” incident

“This is most significant,” said Jerry Zumalt, coordinator, Idaho County Disaster Management, on the scale of this incident compared to what he’s experienced in his 10 years in the position, “due to the loss of private property and to the public.” An estimated 50 residences were lost in the fire, which he added, doesn’t include the destruction of other property including outbuildings and hay barns, water systems, fences, equipment, as well as livestock.

“And it’s not over with yet,” Zumalt continued, “and it won’t be potentially over for some time.”

Declared Idaho County and state disaster proclamations will open the way to seek resources to fund additional wildfire suppression efforts. However, Zumalt added, a problem here is limited resources due to all the fire activity in the West, so communities will be competing for availability that will be decided at the national level. Idaho and Lewis counties jointly were awarded a FEMA fire management assistance grant to cost-share (75 percent federal, 25 percent state and local) on ground-based structure protection resources.

For those left homeless as a result of the fire, the county worked with the American Red Cross (ARC) and Mt. View School District 244 on an emergency shelter at Clearwater Valley Elementary School (CVES), which at its height served more than 80 people, according to Zumalt. Kooskia City Hall also set up a secondary shelter as well.

“Community people have been great to one another,” he said, with – apart from $149 spent by the county on food -- most of the meals to the CVES shelter provided by local entities.

However, for the displaced, no short- or long-term housing is available through either the county or state, Zumalt said, and at most ARC can supply up to three days max in a motel. Options could open up were a presidential declaration made, but he explained this would require a minimum of 50 primary uninsured residences were destroyed in the fire: “We’re not going to get there.” So, right now, those seeking housing are recommended to contact area social services such as Community Action Agency, local community organizations or churches. Homeowners can contact their bank or credit union on negotiating low-interest options for rebuilding.

For the public wanting to help in relief efforts, they are encouraged to contact shelters for donation items most in need. Zumalt said cash donations can be made to the Kamiah Fire Disaster Relief Fund at the Kamiah Community Credit Union, 935-0277. He also advised residents to be wary and not be victimized again by scam artists posing as contractors offering recovery help assistance.

CV schools may see delayed start

KOOSKIA -- Due to the fire conditions in the Clearwater Valley area, the Mountain View School District 244 board has authorized the possibility of a delayed start to Clearwater Valley schools due to the use of the facilities by the Red Cross and the Forest Service fire fighting services. School is scheduled to start Wednesday, Aug. 26. This delay will be announced as soon as possible to let students and parents know.

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