Archive for July 30th, 2008

by jhwygirl

USFS and BLM flags are flying at half-staff for two firefighters killed on the Panther Fire, in northwestern California.

One firefighter – 18-year old Andrew Palmer – was killed when a snag fell on him. Andrew was on his first fire.

The other firefighter, 49-year old Daniel Packer, Chief of East Pierce County Fire and Rescue in Bonney Lake, Washington, was killed when the fire made a run up a ridge. One other firefighter with Daniel was able to make the run down the hill, to a road, where he deployed his shelters also – always a last resort to be used when a fire burns over. Daniel was unable to make it down the hill. He had deployed his shelter.

Daniel was a 27 year veteran of firefighting. A father of 4 girls, and grandfather to two. One daughter graduated high school this fall, and two others are in college.

Daniel Packer was born and raised in Havre, Montana. His mother now lives in Billings. He also attended college here – but his friends couldn’t remember which school. True to Montana and his bull riding past, Daniel kept his burly mustache as a reminder.

Packer’s body was brought back to Tacoma today on a USFS firefighting plane. Firefighters met the plane, and bagpipes played as his flag covered casket was unloaded. Friends and family stood and wept.

A full investigation, needless to say, will be completed.

In the meantime, prayers and condolences to his wife, children and friends. His loss is felt by an enormously large group of people. Daniel’s funeral will be August 7th, and firefighters from across America will be there to show their respect.

A memorial fund has been set up at Washington Mutual Bank – Fire Chief Dan Packer Memorial, Acct # 3170484930. Checks may be mailed to:

East Pierce Professional Firefighters
PO Box 7500
Bonney Lake, WA 98391

Some men can’t be replaced. They can only be remembered. Daniel was one of them.

by jhwygirl


by jhwygirl

NewWest’s Rob Struckman posted a piece this afternoon, based on some information that has come his way, that Smurfit-Stone is mulling some tough decisions. He’s spot-on with all of it – their woes over pulp have been widely known for some time.

Sincerely troubling news. Not only does Smurfit employ well over 400 employees, it’s a fantastic community citizen. A huge tax base. If they close, the reverberations will be felt much further than Missoula alone.

Reuter’s has this story on its consecutive quarterly losses.

Struckman’s piece reports that Dick King of the Missoula Area Economic Development Corporation is working hard to try and keep Smurfit-Stone up and running.

Let’s hope that Dick King has some help – everyone from the Mayor and our Board of County Commissioners, to the Governor and his base of economic funding, to Representative Rehberg, to Senators Baucus and Tester…..230 good paying, family-raising, community-benefiting jobs is too much for any Montana city to loose – let alone the state.

If the Governor and the Department of Commerce can find $400,000 for Deerlodge’s Sun Mountain Lumber, surely they can find a solution for Smurfit-Stone.

If the USFS can put together over $600,000 in community grants based on slash, sawdust and small-diameter timber thinning projects, surely they can do something here.

Fact is – any solution must involve local communities and the USFS. The USFS is the only property owner with large enough holdings to sustain this industry. But communities, too, have to work together to realize that bug kill isn’t going to go away, and thinning projects will, in the long run, reduce fire danger to Montana’s sprawling communities. Forestry practices can be sustainable – and the key is to involve the communities and natural resource advocates up front. There are solutions.

And industry is the key word here folks. Unless we Montanans are content to survive on Burger King and hotel jobs, we need to have industry jobs. Tech would be nice, and so would medical – but until our universities start focusing on those types of jobs and drawing those industries to the state, we gotta work to keep what industry we have. Otherwise, huge tax bases are going to be gone, and the burden will be shouldered more and more on individual taxpayers.

by jhwygirl

It’s been a while since I last checked on local Missoula foreclosures, and given The Missoulian’s glass-half-full take on the local real estate market, published last Saturday, I went looking into that deep dark secret place that so many don’t want to address.

Including The Missoulian. What? Not one mention of the foreclosures that now make regular appearances in the Legal Notice section?

So I found a new site,…..and boy, was I shocked at how that list for Missoula County has grown. Of course, this new website lists pre-foreclosures also.

Local sellers, and realtors alike, don’t seem willing to drop their prices. As has been mentioned here before – local prices haven’t dropped by even 1% – yet inventory levels are rising. While realtors are trying to talk up the “lease to own” option, I’m thinking that ’tis still a seller’s season.

Buyers – wait thee until October when selling season has passed, and merchants and buyers alike are wanting to make that move before the snow flies.

And if your real patient, save a little more cash, put a bigger cash payment down, and hold out until early spring.

Ya got plenty of time…..why lock yourself into a price and a lease when prices clearly are still going to fall.

Don’t be fooled by those condos either – you need to calculate not only that mortgage payment, but that HOA fee when considering if it is ‘affordable’ and a good deal. Those HOA fees, too, will go up. Forget the free big screen tv, too – (this choice bit directly from NewWest’s Robert Struckman: Remember – all sellers avoid price drops, which push down future property appraisals.) Pry those realtors and developers fingers from the greedy hold they have on our market.

In other words? Patience grasshopper, patience.

Let me add – for the record – I do not believe that prices are going to drop to where there is a sufficient supply of truly affordable homes on the market to meet the number of people in the 80-120% of median household income range. It’d be nice, but so would winning the lottery. So Mayor Engen and the rest of the affordable housing advocates? Keep on pluggin’ away – which, BTW, some of us would like to have a status report.

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