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Sequoia and Kings Canyon
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In the News - Friday, JUNE 15, 2007


Cigarette causes wildland fire

on the Kaweah

   Anyone who has attempted to maneuver in or out of Kaweah River Drive just below the Dinely Bridge knows that there is barely enough right-of-way for two conventional vehicles to pass and caution is the rule of the road. Now imagine a scene where a wildland blaze threatens both riverbanks and local residents can’t get in or out.
   That was the scenario for some very tense moments Friday, June 8, following a frantic emergency call to the Cal Fire dispatcher at 6 p.m. As 15-foot flame lengths consumed riverfront vegetation near Southern California’s Powerhouse No. 2, some residents were not quite sure what to do or if the airborne embers might spread to nearby riverfront homes.
   From evidence gathered at the scene, the fire started on an island in the riverbed located directly across from Powerhouse No. 2 by a careless fisherman who had placed a lighted cigarette in a notch of a log. It wasn’t long before the cigarette ignited some duff and dead brush that has built up in the vicinity for the last decade.
   The June 8 fire served as a trial run for how area stations, both Cal Fire and Tulare County (TCFD) units, will respond to Three Rivers incidents after July 1, when Tulare County firefighters are officially deployed. Cal Fire engines from the Three Rivers and Woodlake stations both responded as well two TCFD units from Three Rivers and a water tender from Lemon Cove.
   The fire, with the assistance of two Porterville air tankers, was confined to the small island in the channel of the river and determined to be contained by 9 p.m. Several firefighters remained on the scene for a couple more hours to ensure that there were no flare-ups.

3R drivers involved

in Highway 198 accidents

   A series of local accidents that occurred last week indicate that the odds of being involved in an automobile accident are greatly increased during the summer months and within mere miles of one’s own home.
   In a Wednesday, June 6, incident, a 56-year-old Three Rivers man pulled out of Pierce Drive onto Sierra Drive and evidently never saw a 1989 Toyota pickup heading westbound and also driven by a Three Rivers motorist. The driver of the first vehicle, a 1993 Mercury Sable, sideswiped the approaching pickup and narrowly avoided a terrible accident.
   Both drivers were shaken but not seriously injured. The 56-year-old driver was arrested at the scene and charged with DUI.
   The CHP estimates that in addition to the serious accidents caused by drunk drivers, the financial impact of a conviction routinely exceeds $10,000.
   In the next mishap, which occurred on the morning of Thursday, June 7, and involved a 2003 Ford Excursion being driven eastbound, the driver swerved suddenly and left the roadway for no apparent reason. It is uncertain as to the cause of the accident and what happened after the SUV became airborne.
   The driver of the SUV, a 22-year-old female resident of North Fork Drive was not seriously injured in the crash. The vehicle, which reportedly rolled over, was a total loss.
   On Saturday, June 9, a 20-year-old Three Rivers motorist was driving a 2007 Toyota pickup eastbound towing his bass boat. As he approached the left turn lane to the marina, his vehicle sideswiped another pickup driven by a Lake Kaweah park ranger that was waiting to turn left.
   Both drivers sustained minor injuries. The driver towing the boat was not cited and the vehicles were only slightly damaged.
   In addition to auto accidents, Lake Kaweah visitors have reported several vehicle break-ins that have occurred since the Memorial Day weekend in boat-ramp parking areas. Many recreational users, who in the past frequented the now-closed BLM sites on the North Fork, are now visiting Lake Kaweah and, one victim alleges, may be responsible for the spike in criminal activity.

East Fork pot garden uprooted


   When the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department’s all-too familiar truck rolled through Three Rivers shortly after 2 p.m. on Wednesday (June 13), it wasn’t very difficult to figure out what was happening. Another pot-growing operation had been eradicated in steep mountainous terrain, this one being near the intersection of Mineral King Road and the Oriole Lake/Milk Ranch cutoff.
   According to an unconfirmed report, the current raid was linked to a suspect or suspects that were detained in Three Rivers at 3:30 a.m. earlier that day. After that confrontation, the department’s tactical team (STEP) determined it was time to conduct the raid.
   Several STEP personnel were dropped into the remote garden location on Bureau of Land Management land where they removed 16,267 marijuana plants. In the course of the raid, STEP operatives discovered a plant nursery nearby that contained another 16,149 plants.
   In total, the growing complex contained nearly 30,000 plants with an estimated street value in excess of $116 million.
   The Sheriff’s Department is currently developing information on several more garden locations and hopes to arrest more suspects.

Award-winning author

drops in at local book club

   The June meeting of a monthly book club gathering was held at the home of Marilyn Sparks in Three Rivers on Thursday, June 7. The group members had been simultaneously reading The Last Season, by Eric Blehm, and since the author happened to be visiting Three Rivers and Sequoia National Park last week to conduct research for his latest project, he stopped in at the meeting to discuss his book.
   The Last Season, published in 2006, is the true story of the disappearance and subsequent search for Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson. A paperback edition was released earlier this year.
   The members of the book club spent the evening discussing the legendary ranger, search-and-rescue-techniques, National Park Service policy, and the alluring High Sierra backcountry. They were able to query the author, as well as Pat Macha, a colleague of Eric’s and aircraft archaeologist, and Alexandra Picavet, Sequoia-Kings Canyon public information officer, who were all special guests.

  “I always get a very engaged group when I am able to attend a reading group in the Sierra region,” said Eric. “The Three Rivers group was one of the best; their questions about Randy and the backcountry rangers were drawn, obviously, from people who are well read and have a deep love and respect for these mountains.”
   The Last Season was a winner of the 2006 National Outdoor Book Award. It was a finalist at the Banff Mountain Book Festival and was named Book of the Year by American Way, the American Airlines in-flight magazine.
   The paperback version has an additional 16 pages, which includes a dedication to Patty Rambert, who was killed in a mountaineering accident in Kings Canyon National Park in May 2006; an essay by the protagonist himself, Randy Morgenson; and the author’s postscripts.
   The book is available for sale at park visitor centers and at major retailers.

Local Measure R

roadwork planned

   The Three Rivers district has some county roads in need of repair and now with Measure R money being collected, it appears that at least some of that work will be completed soon. The upcoming repairs, that are being scheduled for fiscal year 2007-08, were announced at last Monday’s Three Rivers Town Hall meeting.
   The meeting, Supervisor Ishida explained, was one of 24 that are being held in rural communities to prioritize road repairs in outlying areas of the county. Jean Brou, county public works official, estimated the cost of resurfacing work at $150,000 per mile.
   The repair projects that are planned initially for Three Rivers are Cherokee Oaks Drive from Sierra Drive to the first turn (0.18 miles) and South Fork Drive from milepost 4.5 for 1.2 miles up-canyon.
   County officials will issue a formal statement relative to other funding priorities that were suggested at the recent meeting, including the widening of Cherokee Oaks Drive and the addition of a left-turn pocket for its intersection with SR 198 (Sierra Drive). The left-turn pocket, Ishida said, can only be accomplished with the cooperation of Caltrans.

VBS plans summer event

   During next month’s VBS, the classic story will be told of four children from London who are sent to the British countryside for their own safety during World War II. Arlin Talley, pastor of Community Presbyterian Church, will lead the presentation of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” for the children.
   Vacation Bible School is scheduled for the week of July 23 at St. Anthony Retreat. It will be held Monday through Friday with extended hours, from 8:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
   The kids will travel through the Wardrobe and learn about the magical land of Narnia as well as the true meaning of this tale. C.S. Lewis purposely wrote fantasy adventures in such a way that children could easily relate to and remember the scriptural truths that lie therein.
   He also wrote so they would internalize the tales and their meanings for living life.
   Children— Currently, a committee of volunteers will be calling as many Three Rivers families as possible to let them know about this year’s VBS and register children. Anyone who has not yet been called and would like their child(ren) to attend VBS should call to register.
   Assistants— Local teenagers are invited to help out during the week. This volunteer opportunity will earn approximately 20 hours of community service credits. Teen helpers are required to attend an orientation meeting on Thursday, July 19, 7 pm, at St. Anthony Retreat.
   Donations— Current needs include artificial Christmas trees, white sheets and fabric, and bright, solid-colored fabrics for set decorations. Also, volunteers are needed for Sunday, July 22, to set up for the event. Finally, adults are needed throughout the week to assist with the children.
   To register, volunteer, or donate, call Chris Leyva, 561-3451; Portia Gunnerud, 561-3302; or Arlin Talley at Community Presbyterian, 561-3385.

MILITARY DEATHS
   The following are California residents killed in Iraq during the past three weeks as announced by the governor’s office:
   U.S. Army Corporal Victor H. Toledo Pulido, 22, of Hanford died Saturday, May 23, as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Nahrawan, Iraq.
   U.S. Army Private First Class Daniel P. Cagle, 22, of Carson died Saturday, May 23, as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit in Balad, Iraq.
   U.S. Army Specialist Mark R. C. Caguioa, 21, of Stockton died Sunday, May 24, as a result of wounds suffered when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device in Baghdad, Iraq.
   U.S. Army Sergeant Clayton G. Dunn II, 22, of Moreno Valley died Tuesday, May 26, as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Salah Ad Din Province, Iraq.
   U.S. Army Specialist Gregory N. Millard, 22, of San Diego died as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Salah Ad Din Province, Iraq.
   U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Thomas M. McFall, 36, of Glendora died Thursday, May 28, as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position during a dismounted patrol in Baghdad, Iraq.

—Total U.S. deaths—
Iraq area: 3,511 (as of June 11)
Afghanistan area: 321 (as of May 12)

 
THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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