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Jackson retires from CCFR board


He has been a board member since 2005

It’s a strange phenomenon.

Perfectly normal, responsible citizens routinely pull up their tent pegs and forsake all they’ve known for decades, including friends, hobbies, and even that favorite hunting camp or fishing hole, just to be close to their grandchildren.

Such was one reason given by John Jackson for his recent move to Deschutes County, Now, since he’s no longer a resident of Crook County, he was obligated to resign from his long-held board position for Crook County Fire and Rescue (CCFR), as announced by CCFR on October 22. Jackson had served as a board member since 2005 and a member of the budget committee since 1999.

It was his family’s gain, but most definitely Crook County’s loss.

“Without question he’s been extremely valuable to the board, and the direction we've taken with the department,” said Mark Nyman, a CCFR board member who’s known Jackson for nearly two decades. “It’s a big hole to fill.”

Jackson has been involved in some aspect of fire suppression or management for nearly all his life, beginning right out of high school in 1965, when “a guy I knew” from the Oregon Dept. of Forestry (ODF) offered him a seasonal job.

“Why not? I’ll give it a try,” Jackson said his response was. Plus, it held the promise of steady summer work during his tenure at Oregon State University, where he was pursuing a degree with an emphasis on Marine Biology.

Upon graduation, Jackson said he received a congratulatory letter from his uncle — Uncle Sam — resulting in four years of service in the U.S. Navy.

“When I got out, the jobs in my field were few and far between,” he recalled. “There was an opportunity to come to Prineville for a (ODF) position over here.”

That was in 1974, and that seasonal forest officer job turned out to be the beginning of his career with ODF. In 1976, after a couple of years in western Oregon, he returned to Prineville as a permanent forest officer, where he remained for the next three decades until he retired in 2005 as a unit forester.

Jackson said it was this time as a unit forester that led to his involvement with CCFR, beginning in the mid-1990s when the Prineville Fire Dept. was deep into the process of transitioning from a city fire department to a rural fire protection district (RFD).

“I was involved with citizen discussions about forming a RFD because one of my responsibilities was managing the fire response for the Department of Forestry in the area,” he said. “It was just a logical step, initially, to get involved with the (CCFR) budget committee. After I retired, then I ran for a board position.”

Serving as a board member allowed Jackson to apply perspectives he gained during his many years with ODF.

“My background in coordinating wildland and rural structural fire responses — the coordination piece with ODF — I had a pretty good sense of the realities of tactical operations,” he said. “Not even so much the tactical, but the support, the perspective for providing support to the fire department for those kinds of things. My fire arena background gave me a perspective to share some of that in the board role.”

Jackson has been a strong supporter of CCFR, according to Fire Chief Matt Smith, including during the transition from a city department to a RFD, and the construction of outlying stations in the Juniper Canyon and Powell Butte areas.

“John has been very instrumental in not only supporting the fire district in Crook County, throughout its existence and creation, but has also been very instrumental outside the fire district in wildland fire prevention,” said Smith.

“He dedicated much of his time to Crook County Fire Ready, a grant program supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” added the CCFR news release. “The program provides fire safety information to Crook and Deschutes County residents, and supports the establishment of defensible space around their homes.”

Yet, the value of Jackson’s efforts with Crook County Fire Ready isn’t readily apparent. This is a good thing, according to Nyman — a very good thing. It’s what hasn’t happened that makes Jackson’s efforts successful.

“He took on singlehandedly the fuels reduction program,” Nyman explained. “He got grants for that. I don’t think people realize what has been averted due to those efforts, because he was ahead of the curve.”

Nyman said that if fuels (flammable vegetation) in a rural subdivision aren’t properly maintained, all it takes is a spark to cause a catastrophic fire. Jackson was able to orchestrate fuels reduction projects so that homeowners had all the help they needed to create defensible space. If they were physically unable to do it themselves, a crew did it for them.

“You don’t have the tragedy, and that’s because those efforts have made that a reality, that a fire, if it does take place, it’s not going to destroy the whole subdivision. They’re enjoying the benefits of his foresight. Lives and homes are saved.”

Jackson said he’ll continue to be involved in Crook County Fire Ready as a contractor through his consulting business, Singletree Enterprises LLC.

“When our third grant comes on line, hopefully next spring,” he said, “I’ll be coordinating that grant. And of course, I’ll be coordinating it closely with the fire department, because they're the jurisdictional fire agency.”

It’s the people he’ll miss most, he said.

“Really good people. Some real hard-charging fire medics coming on board, and they’re there now. It’s (CCFR) got a good esprit de corps, good morale. Anybody would enjoy being a part of a successful organization like that.”

“He’s been a valued member of the board,” concluded Smith. “I hate to see him go.”