the News - Friday, July 10, 2009
stories written by John or
Elliott unless otherwise noted
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
OF KAWEAH COUNTRY
Hart Fire smolders on
Even though National Park Service fire
crews completed ignitions Wednesday, July 7, don’t
look for the 802-acre Hart Prescribed Fire to go out
anytime soon. That means that park visitors and foothill
residents will continue to experience periods of smoke,
especially in the early morning hours.
After the smoke episodes of Tuesday,
Wednesday, and Thursday mornings, a number of Three
Rivers residents lodged complaints with The Kaweah
Commonwealth and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution
Control District in Fresno. The air district partners
with officials from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National
Parks in determining when prescribed burns can or
cannot be ignited.
One resident, who asked not to be identified,
says it should be a simple matter of common sense.
“When air quality is already at or near unhealthy
levels it just doesn’t make sense to light a
prescribed burn,” the irate caller said. “How
many of these visitors that have our hotels nearly
filled to capacity will ever return after waking up
this week to go to the park and breathe smoke?”
Glenn Ramming, an air quality compliance
inspector with SJVPCD, was dispatched to Three Rivers
on Tuesday and Wednesday to experience the smoke firsthand
and to assess health hazards. He said that park officials
appeared to be within the parameters of their permit
to conduct the prescribed burn.
According to Deb Schweizer, NPS fire
education specialist, the smoke from the Hart Fire
is expected to dissipate a little more each day. But
high pressure that is expected to build this weekend
will cause temperatures to climb and the deepening
inversion layer will trap even more particulates near
Ramming said local air quality measuring
stations this week were showing only moderate readings
for ozone levels in Three Rivers. However, he said,
it was obvious that during periods of heavy smoke,
air quality was unhealthful so the ozone readings
were somewhat misleading relative to the actual particulate
matter in the air.
“For the last couple of days, we’ve had
a temporary station here in Three Rivers collecting
data,” Ramming said. “I’m hearing
what local residents are saying and this information
will be included in a detailed report about the incident.”
Traveling to the beat
of a different drum set
America may have Joe the
but Three Rivers has Joe the Drummer
For as long as anyone can recall, Three
Rivers has attracted the artist in all of us. Its
scenic beauty is awe-inspiring and calls out to folks
from many walks of life — actors, writers, painters,
sculptors, preachers, musicians, nature lovers —
and lots of other people who simply long to be a part
of something as big and majestic as Kaweah Country
and these local mountains.
For Joe “The Drummer” Parisi,
who a month ago relocated to Three Rivers, the scenic
198 corridor has it all and epitomizes what he’s
been searching for all his life.
“I love these canyon walls, the mountains, the
river, and being close to nature,” Joe said.
“I’m not interested in money or fame;
I just want to play my drums and maybe bring a smile
to those I meet along the way.”
Joe was raised in Michigan and still
retains vestiges of his past, which include a “Go
Blue” sticker or two, mementos to his lifelong
allegiance to the University of Michigan Wolverines.
But as an avid kayaker, Joe discovered early on that
there was a big, beautiful world out there and lots
of people to meet and places to go; places where he
could get close to nature and play his drums.
Maybe you’ve already seen Joe.
He’s the guy playing the outrageous drum set
on a flatbed trailer playing alongside Sierra Drive
just before the sun sets, greeting all who stop by.
When he first checks out a new place
to play, Joe admits, part of the fun is to experience
the reactions when folks get a load of this rather
outlandish drummer – part serious musician but
a genuine showstopper once people take a closer look
at this authentic traveling minstrel show.
“I’m really all about having fun and playing
my drums in places where you might not expect to encounter
a drummer jamming to the likes of Steely Dan, Genesis,
or some really smooth jazz rifts,” Joe said.
“I certainly don’t want to offend or disturb
anybody with my playing.”
So currently, Joe keeps making his rounds
to various locales along the Highway 198 looking for
just the right place to beat out some of the hippest
percussion in the perfect setting.
“I found this one turnout two miles inside the
[Sequoia] park entrance and it’s an absolutely
perfect place to play,” Joe said.
When asked how he found Three Rivers,
he explains it was a result of meeting Dave Hammond
on the Colorado River in 1985 during a kayaking trip
to the Grand Canyon. Hammond, an avid whitewater enthusiast,
is owner of the Three Rivers Hideaway.
Joe said even though Three Rivers doesn’t
have an Italian restaurant — he’s a self-proclaimed
lover of garlic and anything Italian — it’s
got all his other requirements: good people, gorgeous
scenery, and lots of places to do what comes naturally
– play his drums.
Fourth of July in the parks
mostly safe, not always sane
Kevin Hendricks, chief ranger at Sequoia
and Kings Canyon National Parks, reported mostly business
as usual during July 4th weekend. By Friday evening,
in the local parks, all available campsites were filled
from Mineral King to Cedar Grove.
Apparently, at least one park visitor
decided to celebrate the Fourth of July by lighting
six spot fires along the road near the Moraine Campground
in Cedar Grove. All the fires were doused quickly
before they could do any extensive damage.
Hendricks said that the fires, which
together charred less than an acre, were most likely
started by an arsonist. However, no evidence of an
incendiary device or any accelerants was found at
the scene. Another suspicious fire was reported the
following day near the Kings Canyon Lodge along Highway
180 on Sierra National Forest land where the road
leaves the Cedar Grove area.
That fire was also doused before it could
spread into nearby brush-covered and mountainous terrain.
No suspects were located that could be connected to
any of the arson.
At Hospital Rock, park rangers contacted
a large group of revelers on Sunday, June 5, who reported
that a woman was swept downstream while swimming in
the river nearby. After taking a scary tumble in the
rapids, the group told rangers, she was able to climb
out of the river unassisted.
In an unrelated incident at Hospital
Rock, a 16-year-old female suffered a panic attack
that required medical attention. After being treated
at the scene, the patient was transported to Kaweah
Delta Hospital via ambulance.
In addition to the medical assists, rangers
made one arrest for driving under the influence and
another one for interfering and resisting an officer.
Hendricks also reported that an unidentified backcountry
hiker had to be airlifted from the Timberline Lake
area of the Kern River district.
“It was a pretty mild weekend overall in the
local parks,” Hendricks commented.
Mountain folks display
for the dramatic
Silver City Resort hosts
With dozens of switchbacks, curves, rock
outcroppings, and breathtaking sheer drops (no guardrails
here), driving the Mineral King Road to Silver City
is a delight for the mountain motorist. It was originally
carved into the steep mountainsides of the southern
Sierra in the 1870s as a wagon road to serve the Mineral
King mining district.
Though largely unchanged, it is entirely
navigable in a passenger car (not recommended for
RVs). The first automobile to make the trip did so
in 1907, and since then countless thousands have since
made the trek to this mountain paradise.
Pleasant surprises greet the visitor
at every turn with spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife,
and giant sequoias. At 6,900 feet, the mountain community
of Silver City has surprises of its own.
On the evening of July 4, a remarkable
array of talented people gathered on the deck alongside
the historic Silver City Store. It was, you see, the
22nd annual Silver City Resort Fourth of July Talent
The resort is a group of cabins nestled
in the forest and arranged around the store, which
was built in 1929. These range from small 1930s vintage
wood plank structures with few amenities to chalets
built as recently as 2005 with all the comforts of
home. The newer cabins have been carefully designed
and crafted to blend in with and complement the rustic
In this idyllic setting, all voices joined
in a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. First
up for the show was Ryan Caddell with an original
song expressing his remorse at having struck a potted
plant with a Frisbee earlier in the day. All was forgiven.
Between acts, emcee Forrest Jones passed
the microphone among the guests as each introduced
themselves in turn. There were folks from as far away
as Serbia and as close as Three Rivers, along with
U.S. servicemen soon to be shipped overseas.
Roger Suva, a frequent visitor from Orange
County, read an original poem that was simply astounding.
Titled “Thinking of Mary,” it was an ode
to the mountains that he referred to as “the
bosom of Mineral King,” and to one who still
walks with him and shares his love of all things natural,
though she is no longer of this earth.
Then there were the marmots.
Staff members Cara and Leanne Befort
and Molly and Casey Dunn rendered a “reworked”
Disney song wherein “Under the Sea” became
“Under Your Car,” a delightful yet cautionary
tale of marmots and automotive wiring punctuated with
squeaky sounds from marmot puppets available at the
store. Marmots are infamous residents of the area.
Back to the spoken word, thespian Nicholas
D’Agosto of Los Angeles delivered a sonnet from
Italian writer and journalist Italo Calvino (1923-1985).
It was an imagined conversation between Kublai Khan
and Marco Polo and was recited entirely from memory.
After more introductions and entertainment,
it was time for refreshments. The word pie seems inadequate
to describe the epicurean treat known as Fruit of
All in all, the annual talent show, held
each year on the Saturday closest to the Fourth of
July, is a wonderful bit of family fun for the generations
and has the feel of an old-time campout amidst the
majesty of the Sierra Nevada.
To get to Silver City from Three Rivers,
simply make the 90-minute drive up Mineral King Road
and enjoy. For cabin reservations, call 561-3223 or
Bear in the air
A mother bear and her three cubs ambled
into a bit of a crisis as they were exploring the
South Fork Estates neighborhood. An alert and ferocious
watchdog — Russ and Carol Ernst’s five-pound
dachshund — chased the bears into the oak canopy.
“Put the dog away and everyone went on their
merry way back up the hill,” said the Ernsts.
A world away
Christy, who owns Wood ‘N’ Horse Training
Stables, is currently hosting Dan Carlisle, 14, of
the Wairarapa district in New Zealand. He is in the
United States for a month, and in addition to his
lessons on performance horses, Dan will also visit
the local national parks, Disneyland, and the beach
on this side of the Pacific Ocean.
Cars are the stars in Woodlake
It’s time to shine up the ol’
ride. On Friday, July 17, Woodlake is the place to
be as the “Oldies But Goodies” street
dance and cruise night kicks off the 11th annual Woodlake
Custom Car and Bike Show.
The street fair will be held from 8 to
11 p.m. with music by DJ Tony Avila. On Saturday,
July 18, cruise on over to the Woodlake City Park
for the car and bike show.
There will be a 50/50 drawing, food and
soft drink vendors and, of course, the cars! The event,
sponsored by the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce,
will begin at 7 a.m..
Cars will be judged at noon in 31 different
categories. Trophies will be awarded at 2 p.m.
More than 100 entries are expected and
there will be food, fun, and sun for everyone. The
event is free to all spectators.
To enter a car in the show, call 564-3559
or fill out an entry form found at many merchants
throughout Woodlake. Entry fee is $15 and includes
a free T-shirt.
So come on out and bring the family.
As always, alcohol is prohibited in the City Park.
City kids spend
time in Kaweah Country
ON APRIL 25, approximately 100 elementary
school children enrolled in the Pro-Youth/HEART program
at Washington Elementary School in Visalia —
who had visited Three Rivers a year earlier for a
field trip sponsored by several Three Rivers businesses
and residents (“Visalia students discover untapped
resources in Three Rivers,” The Kaweah Commonwealth,
July 25, 2008) — paid a visit to Hospital Rock
in Sequoia National Park during National Junior Ranger
Day. As Junior Ranger candidates, each child was taught
how to use binoculars, water safety, wild journaling,
and to feed a mule and a horse.
They viewed the Native Ameri-can pictographs
at Hospital Rock and learned about animal tracks,
caves, bears, and ranger jobs. After completing the
tasks necessary to earn their Junior Ranger patch,
the children hiked up the Marble Falls Trail, enjoying
beautiful wildflowers, moss on trees, the rushing
river, and a waterfall.
According to Washington’s site
director, Kathy Hays, last year’s Three Rivers
field trip was the highpoint for her children in 2008,
and Junior Ranger Day was the highpoint for 2009.
ALSO ON APRIL 25, Kitty Lee of Comfort
Inn and Suites of Three Rivers paid for 40 elementary
school-age children, enrolled throughout Tulare County
at various sites in the Pro-Youth/HEART program, and
four chaperones to attend the final concert of the
Tulare County Symphony’s 2008-2009 season. A
special pre-concert program was provided and included
insights and solo performances by Cooper Walden, principal
trumpet, Tulare County Symphony Orchestra and K.C.
Simba-Torres, principal violin II.
ON MAY 30, nearly 90 elementary school
children enrolled in the Pro-Youth/HEART program at
Conyer Elementary in Visalia visited Three Rivers
for a field trip, following in the path of Kathy’s
kids at Washington. Like Kathy before him, Zach Blythe,
Conyer Elementary’s site director, was amazed
by all the wonderful volunteers and businesses who
contributed their time and talents to create a wonderful
day for the children.
As in the past, Reimer’s gave a
candy factory tour, Buckaroo provided parking for
two school buses, Heart’s Desire shared their
deck overlooking the river for lunch and art activities,
and Don and Teriz Mosley conducted a tour of their
South Fork ranch, all free of charge. In addition,
Charlie Castro and Earl McKee of Three Rivers provided
a presentation at the Three Rivers Historical Society
Museum, and Lake Kaweah ranger Valerie McKay provided
the dam tour at Lake Kaweah.
Pro-Youth is a Tulare
County nonprofit organization that sponsors and administrates
the HEART (Homework, Enrichment, Acceleration, Recreation,
Teamwork) afterschool program.
Summer’s SNHA field seminars
Here are the excursions organized by
the Sequoia Field Institute, the educational-adventure
arm of Sequoia Natural History Association. Don’t
say there is nothing to do this summer:
Friday-Sunday, July 10-12— Exploring
Cedar Grove with Map and Compass (as of July 1, there
was still room in this seminar. Register now!). Instructor:
Randy Coffman. Price: $156 (SNHA members $136)
Thursday-Monday, July 16-20— From
Lost Lake to Jennie Lakes: Backpacking a Forest and
Park in the Southern Sierra. Instructor: Jim Warner.
Price: $225 (SNHA members $195)
Wednesday-Tuesday, July 29-Aug. 4—
Franklin Lakes to Sawtooth Pass: A Loop Backpack with
a Little Cross-Country and Five Big Lakes. Instructor:
Jim Warner. Price: $310 (SNHA members $270)
Friday, Aug. 14— Floating Astronomy
Trip: Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing on Lake Kaweah.
Time: 8:30-10 pm. Cost: $20/person.
Saturday, Aug. 29— Giant Sequoias in a Warming
World. Instructor: William Tweed. Price: $15/person;
$30/family (SNHA members receive 15% discount)
Receive more information or register
for programs by calling 565-4251 or online at www.sequoiahistory.org.
10 years ago in
— JULY 2, 1999 —
Kaweah No. 1 celebrates a century
of hydropower— On June 29, Southern
California Edison celebrated 100 years of hydroelectric
services from Kaweah No. 1 in Three Rivers to the
agricultural hub of Tulare County. The program and
luncheon was held on the historic powerhouse property
on Sierra Drive near the junction with the Mineral
King road. In commemoration of this anniversary, THE
KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH published a four-page special
section detailing the history of the hydroelectric
TRUS hires new teachers—
The Three Rivers School board of trustees hired three
new teachers for the 1999-2000 school year: Linda
Warner, Laura Harrison, and Linda Mutch.
Fr. David’s mission to
the south— Father David Johnson, OFM,
announced that he will leave St. Anthony Retreat in
mid-August for an assignment at Mission San Luis Rey
in Oceanside, which would also allow him to relocate
closer to where his parents reside. He was at the
retreat for 11 years.
A. Wilson (1954-1999); Ernest Crowley (1921-1999).
Bike ride benefits AIDS victims—
Michael Sheltzer of Three Rivers wrote about his experience
of training for and participating in the California
AIDS Ride, which benefits the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Sheltzer raised $3,500 and took part in the seven-day
ride, pedaling from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Health threats from smoke
SMOKE FROM FOREST FIRES IS made up primarily
of carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate
matter, hydrocarbons, and other organics, nitrogen
oxides, and trace minerals. Smoke can hurt your eyes,
irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic
heart and lung diseases.
In general, particulate matter is the
major pollutant of concern from forest-fire smoke.
Particulate is a general term for a mixture of solid
particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Particulate
from smoke tends to be very small and, as a result,
is more of a health concern than the coarser particles
that typically make up road dust.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless
gas, produced as a product of incomplete combustion.
It is produced in the largest amounts during the smoldering
stages of the fire.
Carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream
through the lungs and reduces oxygen delivery to the
body’s organs and tissues.
SMOKE CAN CAUSE: coughing, a scratchy
throat, irritated sinuses, shortness of breath, chest
pain, headaches, stinging eyes, a runny nose, and/or
If you have heart or lung disease, smoke
might make your symptoms worse. People who have heart
disease might experience: chest pain, rapid heartbeat,
shortness of breath, and/or fatigue.
Smoke may worsen symptoms for people
who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such
as respiratory allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD), in the following ways: inability
to breathe normally, cough with or without mucus,
chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath.
When smoke levels are high enough, even
healthy people may experience some of these symptoms.
ARE YOU AT RISK? If you have heart or
lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina,
COPD, emphysema, or asthma, you are at higher risk
of having health problems than healthy people.
Older adults are more likely to be affected
by smoke, possibly because they are more likely to
have heart or lung diseases than younger people.
Children are more likely to be affected
by health threats from smoke because their airways
are still developing and because they breathe more
air per pound of body weight than adults. Children
also are more likely to be active outdoors.
—Not always practical if you live in Three Rivers,
of course, but leave the area if you are at risk from
—Limit your exposure to smoke outdoors and indoors.
—Stay inside and use your air conditioner. If
you do not have an air conditioner or smoke is likely
to get inside your house, seek shelter elsewhere until
the smoke is completely gone.
—Avoid activities that put extra demands on
your lungs and heart. These include exercising or
physical chores, both outdoors and indoors.
—Reduction of physical activity reduces the
dose of inhaled air pollutants and may reduce the
risk of health impacts during a smoke event. During
exercise, people may increase their air intake as
much as 10 times their resting level. An endurance
athlete can process as much as 20 times the normal
intake. This brings more pollution deep into the lungs.
While exercising, people tend to breathe through their
mouths, bypassing the natural filtering ability of
the nasal passages, again, delivering more pollution
to the lungs. They also tend to breathe more deeply,
causing the particulate to lodge deeper into the lungs
where it can cause more damage.
—Dust masks, bandanas, or other cloths (even
wet) will not protect you from smoke.
—Do not add to indoor pollution. When smoke
levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such
as candles, fireplaces, woodburning stoves, furnaces,
propane appliances, or incense. Do not vacuum, because
vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home.
Do not smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution
into the air.
HOW TO MONITOR
AIR QUALITY ON YOUR OWN
Smoke concentrations tend to be very
high for a few hours, then drop off dramatically,
meaning that the 8-hour, or even 1-hour, measurements
that average the particulate matter in the air can
be misleading. That’s because research has shown
that it’s the spikes that cause some of the
most debilitating effects.
Visibility, however, can take the place
of a real-time particulate monitor (an instant and
continuous reading of particulate concentrations)
to help determine how thick and unhealthy the smoke
is. Smoke levels are ever-changing, so here is a general
way of judging smoke levels on a continual basis:
GOOD AIR— If visibility is 10 miles
or more, then particulate levels (averaged 1 hour,
ug/m3) are 0-40.
MODERATE— If visibility is 6 to
9 miles, then particulate levels are 41-80.
UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS—
If visibility is 3 to 5 miles, then particulate levels
UNHEALTHY— If visibility is 1½
to 2½ miles, then particulate levels are 176-300.
VERY UNHEALTHY— If visibility is
1 to 1¼ miles, then particulate levels are
HAZARDOUS— If visibility is ¾-mile
or less, then particulate levels are over 500.
Procedure for making personal observation
to determine smoke concentrations: (1) Face away from
the sun; (2) Determine the limit of your visibility
range by looking for targets at known distances (miles);
(3) Use the chart to determine health effect.
NOTICE OF DEATH
1927 ~ 2009
Phyllis J. Thornburg, a former resident
of Three Rivers who was currently residing in Lindsay,
died Tuesday, July 7, 2009, in Porterville. She was
Phyllis was born Aug. 5, 1927, in Tracy.
There will be no services.
Condolences may be sent to the family