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Photos by Amy Veneziano<br>A firefighter continues to set fire while a ponderosa pine burns up in a crown fire behind him. Crown fires can send flames as much as 300 feet into the air.

Prescribed fire a necessary forest tool

TONASKET – Fire.

It’s the dirtiest of the four-letter words for many home owners, farmers, ranchers, recreation seekers and others across the dry, arid west.

It’s the summertime worst case scenario, an out-of-control blaze that eats up miles of forest, towns and homes.

But firefighters and others entrusted with protecting both the backcountry and private lands know that the best way to fight it is with another form of fire, a cleaner version, controlled by those around it.

“We’re emulating what Mother Nature would do,” said Tonasket District Ranger Mark Morris. “If Mother Nature’s happy, we’re happy.”

Last week, the Tonasket Ranger District of the Okanogan National Forest completed work on a 1,000 acre swath of the Upper Aeneas, lighting a fire by hand and chemical-infused ping-pong balls dropped from a helicopter.

But the flames are the result of a long effort in preparing the area for burning.

The Forest Service first arranged a commercial logging effort in the area to be burned, Morris said.

Commercial loggers remove small-diameter trees and logs, a boost for the economy. Once they’re done, the forest service continues to remove “ladder fuels” or the piles of discarded branches, weeds and brush deemed unusable by loggers. At this point, the forest is much less dense.

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Melissa Fry

Fry awarded memorial scholarship

The Okanogan County chapter of the Washington State Music Teachers Association (WSMTA) has awarded its yearly Elma Curry Memorial Scholarship to Omak graduate, Melissa Fry. It will be presented at the chapter’s Variety Recital, 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 18 at the Ellisforde Church of the Brethren, at which Melissa will perform.

This fund is named in memory of Elma Curry, longtime member and encouraging supporter of Okanogan County musical endeavors. To qualify, Fry must have studied with a chapter teacher(s) for a minimum of three years, entered adjudications, performed at chapter events and displayed a consistent attendance and practice record.

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Tonasket student wins national art contest

TONASKET – Some are leaping, diving, guarding eggs. Others are artistic representations, Pacific Northwest Indian art interlaid on their sleek bodies.

One piece showed a bear and a waterfall, mountains in the distance and the salmon leaping up stream to spawn.

That piece is a watercolor by Katelyn Antuna, a seventh-grader in the Tonasket Outreach Program.

Antuna and more than 300 other students across the country submitted artistic pieces depicting wild salmon to Save Our Wild Salmon, a national coalition of organizations ranging from commercial and sport fishing associations to clean energy advocates dedicated to restoring wild salmon on the Columbia and Snake River runs.

SOWS held an art contest for students across the country. The top 20 art pieces will be displayed at the Capital and the four age group winners will go to D.C. to a SOWS reception.

Antuna is one of those winners.

“I was very surprised when I won,” she said. “I can’t wait for D.C.!”

SOWS pays for the winner and a parents to head to the “other” Washington in June. Katelyn’s mother, Wanda, will likely accompany her.

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May well have been another way

Dear Editor,

Why was no one hugging that very old, very big tree that has been a landmark on Highway 20 since anyone around here can remember?

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Old pine tree was a historical landmark

Dear Editor,

This last week we lost a landmark…the “Old Pine Tree” on Highway 20.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) had it cut down and removed. I did some calling and according to the DOT a tree specialist determined the age of this historic Landmark tree to be 163 years. They also told me that the reason for cutting this Landmark tree down was traffic safety. But folks, we all know that there have been many accidents near the Landmark “hangin’ rock.

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Field trip apositive motivational tool

Dear Editor,

I would like to respond to the letter in last week’s paper over the concern about “wasted gas used by our school, for a field trip to Spokane.”

All year long, a volunteer group of parents has been in place to help support the staff and students, and help raise funds for educational activities for our Oroville Elementary students, it is called E.P.E.C. Our goal is to bring awareness of just how important being involved in our student’s education really is. Students do better when they have the support from parents and their community.

We all would like to be recognized for our hard work, and rewarded for it. Why should our students feel any different? This particular field trip was used as a motivational tool to give the children a goal, because of their hard work in math, reading and science. Every class had a certain goal to achieve, and given a reward for it.

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Found a sense of community in Tonasket

Dear Editor,

To our friends: On May 1, about 100 Lutes – just a few of the many in our PLU community that would have liked to come – traveled to Tonasket to honor the life of one of our own, Brady Cooper Freeman. What we quickly learned was that Brady was not ours alone – but Brady was a beloved member of a large family,

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Outraged over tree being cut down

Dear Editor,

As I was coming home from Tonasket, I was dismayed to see that the big pine tree that I grew up with was gone, leaving nothing but an ugly stump and a memory. That tree has been a historical landmark for as long as I can remember, which is a very long time. My mother and dad used to tell me stories about the Indians that used to camp under it and that it was known as a birthing tree.

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May Festival is ‘nostalgia onparade’

Dear Editor,

The wind was barely blowing but the cloud gray skies told us an extra coat would be the order of the day.

I wish someone would have told all our young teen royalties that it was not going to be a day of open shouldered evening gowns on a float on a street that runs north with a light south breeze. My bet, some are still shivering and drinking warm liquids to dissolve the goose bumps!

It’s hard to imagine from a far place how many can cram this little Hamlet to see the same sights they’ve seen for the last umpteen years. When you think of it. Sure the newer designs of the floats may change some. But the folks and their grandkids are the same as reflected in the looks of their faces and body structures of generations that began in this new place in the mid-1800s. And there is a lot to be said for tradition and remembrance of what has preceded us.

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Consolidation is not an option!

Dear Editor,

I am rather disappointed, Mr. Billing, that you did not claim ownership to your title as Administrator of Mid Valley Hospital in last week’s editorial in the Omak Chronicle titled “Consider Consolidation.” The readers would then have more clearly recognized that the article was written from the competitive edge point of view rather than having consideration for the medical needs of the communities in the North Okanogan Valley.

Statistics reflect the fact that for every six miles between the patient and the hospital the risk of death increases by 1%. For those patients who live in Oroville, Chesaw, or Loomis and even Tonasket, consolidation decreases their chance for survival in an emergent situation.

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