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Saturday, March 2, 2024
March 2, 2024

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Fighting fires; obfuscation

The Columbian

Cheers: To fighting fires. Making the best of a bad situation, the state Department of Natural Resources has purchased a site east of Kalama to serve as a base for fighting wildfires in Southwest Washington. The move follows the closure of the Larch Corrections Center in Clark County, where inmates were trained as firefighters for decades to provide a quick response to wildfires throughout the region.

“I dragged out fights with leadership above me. But I didn’t have control over that, and they made this decision,” Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said last week while in Vancouver for an event hosted by The Columbian. “I think one of the things we’ve done is leave this community in an area of significant risk.” That risk continues, but establishing a base near Kalama will help mitigate that shortcoming.

Jeers: To LA Fitness. Pools at the two local outlets for the gym and fitness club — which is based in Irvine, Calif. — have been closed for months while members have continued to be charged full price. This week, it finally was revealed that the closure was mandated by Clark County Public Health. “Both pools were closed due to facility HVAC systems not providing adequate ventilation, which had caused mold accumulation, peeling paint, damaged drywall, and rust and corrosion on metal surfaces,” a spokesperson for the public health department said.

Businesses are not required to disclose the reasons for closures, but obfuscation from LA Fitness has been unfair to members. Restitution for subscribers is warranted as the company works to repair the problems and reopen the pools.

Cheers: To a safe stay. It’s early, but reviews so far are positive for Vancouver’s downtown Safe Stay community for previously unhoused people. The site, at 415 W. 11th St., initially drew some opposition from local businesses and residents. But as one business owner told The Columbian this week, “It’s been very quiet. We haven’t had any problems.” Another proprietor said he has not seen a decline in customers since the site opened in November.

To ensure minimal disruptions to the neighborhood, city officials must continue to enforce a ban on camping within 1,000 feet of the site. They also must quickly respond to any concerns that arise. But thus far, the project appears to be living up to its promise.

Sad: Johnston Ridge Observatory remains closed. As Mount St. Helens proved long ago, humans often are powerless against nature. Such is the case with the announcement that the Johnston Ridge Observatory will remain closed until at least 2026.

A landslide last year damaged the only road to the observatory — Highway 504. A temporary bypass was constructed, but it was eroded when a culvert failed in November. Until the highway is rebuilt, one of Southwest Washington’s most notable tourist attractions will be unavailable to the public.

Cheers: To the World Cup. Seattle has been selected as the site for six matches as part of the 2026 global championship in men’s soccer. Those matches will include an appearance by the U.S. team on June 19.

The 104-match tournament will take place in 16 cities in the United States, Mexico and Canada, marking the first time the event has been shared by three host nations. Among sporting events, the World Cup is rivaled only by the Olympics in terms of global interest; bringing it to Seattle will raise the profile of the entire Northwest as the region welcomes international soccer fans.