Mayor cited during attempt to protect property from fire

FRIDAY, AUG. 25, 2006

Don Jackson wanted to build a firebreak around his Columbia County farm, but the law got in his way.

When deputies at a roadblock refused to let the mayor of Starbuck, Wash., through, Jackson told them the only way they could stop him was to arrest him, said Capt. Mark Franklin. Jackson was cited Tuesday on a charge of obstruction of police, a gross misdemeanor, and then released.

Jackson was trying to protect his property from a wildfire that erupted Monday in Columbia County near Dayton and has rapidly grown to more than 43,000 acres, according to state fire officials.

Two homes have been destroyed and several more damaged, and hundreds of other structures remain threatened by the blaze. More than 300 people have been evacuated, officials said.

Columbia County law enforcement officials said Jackson wasn’t the only resident to attempt to break through a fire barricade. At least two others have been cited and possibly several more.

Jackson’s daughter, Vicki Butler, said people are passionate about getting past the fire barricades because they are trying to protect their farms, which in many cases are their livelihoods.

“There’s a huge groundswell of farmers who are extremely frustrated,” Butler said. “My heart breaks for them.”

The 67-year-old small-town mayor tried all day Wednesday and Thursday to get to his property, said his wife, Judy.

“Somehow this needs to change,” Judy Jackson said. “He’s a retired volunteer firefighter of 40 years, and he wanted to help other farmers, too.”

Citing people for going beyond the fire line is unusual, said Washington State Patrol Lt. Steve Turcott, who often works with fire personnel during wildfires.

“There are times when once an area has been evacuated we don’t let people back in for good reason,” Turcott said. “But it’s pretty rare that we wouldn’t allow people back to their property.”


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