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In the News - Friday, July 11, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)




Where there’s heat,

there’s fire

   When the thermometer and heat index rise into triple digits, extreme fire danger comes along with the territory. Sometimes all it takes is a spark and, poof!, there’s fire.
   That’s what happened twice this week, so local firefighters are asking everyone to be extra careful and to call 911 immediately if they see fire or even smell smoke. It’s always better to call for a precautionary fire or smoke check than wait until there’s an out-of-control blazing inferno, which can occur during these conditions within a matter of minutes.
   On Monday, July 7, a Three Rivers Drug customer, upon leaving the store around noon, noticed flame on the roof of the commercial building located at 40915 Sierra Drive. Fortunately, firefighters stationed nearby responded immediately.
   They doused the flame but couldn’t say for certain what caused a small area on the roof to ignite. A captain at the scene said it was just one of those spontaneous blazes that are recorded in the station log with no apparent cause.

  “There were some leaves and debris on the roof near the cooling unit, but we can’t say for sure what sparked the fire,” the captain said.
   On Wednesday, July 9, another blaze broke out in the vicinity of the Western Holiday Lodge along Sierra Drive. That blaze started a small grass fire near a power pole but was quickly extinguished.
   The cause of that fire is believed to have been started by a spark from the power pole.

Iraq War veteran returns

home to Kaweah Country

   In 2006, when the Tulare County Fire Department announced that it would be reopening Station 13 in Lemon Cove, there was nobody happier than Bryan Wagner. Joining the local fire department was a career goal of Wagner’s and, living nearby, he relished the opportunity to serve the local community at Station 13.
   But after joining the newly-organized Tulare County Fire Department as a paid-call firefighter, Wagner answered a higher calling and took leave of that duty to enlist in the U.S. Army. In October 2007, Bryan was deployed in Iraq as a member of the 529th MP Company.
   Late last year, while on patrol as a gunner on a Humvee, Wagner’s vehicle took two direct hits from enemy explosives and he was among four soldiers wounded. Specialist Wagner suffered the most severe injuries in the attack and for the next six months he was hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center near Washington, D.C.
   After undergoing 12 surgeries, which included amputating his right leg just below the knee, Wagner is on the mend and anxious to get back to his company or maybe even start a new job with Tulare County Fire Department.
   On Tuesday, July 8, at 10:30 p.m., Wagner returned for the first time to his family’s Mehrten Valley home. He was greeted with a hero’s welcome at the corner of Highway 198 and Mehrten Drive.
Assembled there to recognize and say thanks for Bryan’s sacrifice in the line of duty were a host of fire chiefs and firefighters, fire engines, an ambulance, and dozens of friends and neighbors anxious to greet the returning veteran. Both Bryan and his parents stepped out of their vehicle and warmly greeted the crowd, expressing their thanks for the wonderful welcome home.

  “We’re not sure what plans the Army has for Bryan,” said Joe Garcia, spokesperson for the TCFD. “But if and when he is able to return to work with the fire department, we would love to have him back.”

Fourth of July weekend

was safe and sane

   There is no simple explanation as to the lack of incidents, but in terms of emergency calls, the busy three-day Fourth of July weekend was slow. When it was all over Sunday evening, law enforcement officers were sighing with relief that there were no fatalities, no major accidents, and remarkably only four arrests for DUI (driving under the influence) in the entire Visalia district of the California Highway Patrol.
   On Wednesday, July 9, CHP officers were not quite sure what to attribute the latest July 4th DUI statistics (down from 22 in 2007) because it wasn’t for a lack of manpower. Extra officers were out all weekend long but there wasn’t a major incident in the entire Highway 198 corridor from Lake Kaweah to Sequoia National Park.

  “Maybe the public is finally starting to get the message,” said a CHP spokesperson. “Or maybe some folks just chose to stay home and save gas money.”
   A check of local Three Rivers tourist activity was in a word “busy.” No records were broken but given the economic uncertainty, most merchants and innkeepers were pleased with the spike in weekend business.
   Everything was booked solid for July 4th and there wasn’t a campsite to be had anywhere in Kaweah Country. By Saturday evening, there was a smattering of vacancies, but those tourists on the move were spending lots of dollars on everything from cold beverages to hot pizza.
   Most business owners were elated with the weekend’s receipts.

  “I have to rhapsodize a little bit about some Swiss guests we had recently,” said Margaret Roberts, innkeeper at the newly opened Rio Sierra Riverhouse on Sierra Drive. “They were on an extended U.S. tour of all the best parks and attractions and they said Three Rivers and the Kaweah River were, by far, the highlight of their trip.”
   But it was the potential crush at local swimming holes that had law enforcement the most concerned. Up and down the Middle Fork of the Kaweah, it was busy but peaceful.
   The biggest crunch for parking spaces was near the Slick Rock Recreation Area. As has been customary so far this summer season, that locale had plenty of illegally parked vehicles and a number of the unsuspecting drivers received a citation for their lack of judgment.
   Lake Kaweah officials are hoping the new parking lot and boat ramp facilities scheduled to go to construction soon will ease the congestion and parking problems at Slick Rock and the Cobble Knoll areas.
   Farther upriver, at the North Fork recreation sites and the Edison swimming hole near Powerhouse No. 2, river revelers were greeted by closures. Bureau of Land Management personnel were posted along North Fork Drive throughout the weekend to inform motorists of the no-parking ban and the closures at the Cherry Falls, Advance, and Paradise recreation areas.

  “It was ironic that the BLM used staff biologists who volunteered for the duty because no law officers were available,” said one sheriff’s volunteer who patrolled the area Sunday. “Just having the presence of the two uniformed personnel at the North Fork sites seemed to be enough of a deterrent.”
   At the popular Edison swimming hole, the posted “Closed” signs had a similar effect. Some swimmers entered the water near the Dinely Bridge but the there were no large crowds or parking jams like weekends of the past.

  “Maybe closing the Edison area for the busy holiday weekends is part of the solution to the problem,” said Geoff Glass, a neighbor who is a member of a proactive group in that area. “We don’t think a permanent closure of the area is necessary, but it’s obvious something had to be done.”
   Glass also said that he has been very impressed by the response of Sheriff Bill Wittman.

  “We voiced our concerns and he got the message that we needed more deputies up here,” Glass said.
   The presence of the deputies also helped keep the peace at Slicky during the past weekend. On Sunday, more than 100 swimmers had congregated at the popular swimming hole near the middle of town.
Rod Simonian, who lives across North Fork Drive from Slicky, said he saw a deputy walking along the river and making sure that everybody was playing by the rules.

  “There was a big crowd of people there, but I’m sure that knowing a deputy was patrolling the area kept things nice and peaceful,” Simonian said.
   The weekend update from the Tulare County Fire Department was more of the same. No citations were issued for fireworks in the Three Rivers area although one resident reported hearing some gunshots or firecrackers.

  “Countywide, we had 36 complaints related to fireworks but no major incidents,” said Joe Garcia, TCFD information officer.

Pictorial published featuring

Sequoia National Park

   A century ago, foothills and Central Valley residents had no air-conditioning to keep them cool during the 100-plus days of summer. Instead, they packed nearly everything they owned, loaded it onto a horse-drawn wagon, and headed into the mountains to camp amidst cooler temperatures until autumn.
   This is one small part of the fascinating history of Sequoia National Park, which is the nation’s second oldest national park, created by Congress in 1890. That history is now documented in a new publication that will share Sequoia’s story with the world.
   Author Ward Eldredge of Three Rivers has been the museum curator for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks since 1998, meaning there is no one better to compile the more than 200 historic black-and-white images and research and write the descriptions included in this latest addition to the Images of America series.   Using rarely seen photos from the parks’ archives, Sequoia National Park offers a visual history of the people who preserved Sequoia and the places that have made it so worthy of protection.
   The book covers the first 50 years of Sequoia National Park, when Three Rivers residents stepped up to offer their assistance, becoming the first rangers and even the first civilian superintendent.    From the giant sequoia groves to the highest mountain peaks, from the engineering of roads and trails to the building of ranger stations and administrative buildings, from Ansel Adams to the Zumwalts, vintage photographs offer a glimpse into Sequoia’s storied past.
Sequoia National Park is basically a visit to a museum without leaving your armchair. Learn about the Kaweah Colony and its part in the creation of, and access to, Sequoia National Park.
   Read about Visalia Delta editor George Stewart’s role in the formation of Sequoia and where his ashes were strewn. Meet Sequoia’s only African American superintendent.
   See the CCCs’ (Civilian Conservation Corps) numerous improvements made during the 1930s, many of which are still in use today. And meet the locals, the everyday folks, and those more well-known, all who were instrumental in ensuring the preservation into the 21st century and beyond of one of this nation’s most precious resources.
   Also in the book are photographs of the spectacular scenery located within the boundaries of Sequoia National Park. With most of the parkland accessible only by trail, this will be many readers’ first and only foray into Sequoia’s breathtaking backcountry.
   Also available is a set of 15 postcards created from photos of days gone by. Depicted are the Big Trees, U.S. Cavalry, Moro Rock and its original wooden stairs, the old Giant Forest Lodge dining hall, peaks and passes, the harrowing Hamilton Gorge bridge, and even a park tourist feeding wildlife that in a mere snapshot reveals how much has changed over the past 120 years.
   Arcadia Publishing has been publishing the Images of America series since 1993, documenting the history of hundreds of communities, other points of interest, and national parks, including Yellowstone, Yosemite and, most recently, Sequoia.
   But what is a Sequoia book without a companion “Kings Canyon”?
“I have just submitted the draft for the Kings Canyon title,” said Ward.
   All profits from the sale of the Sequoia National Park book and postcards will be donated to the Sequoia Natural History Association. They are available at all Sequoia-Kings Canyon visitor centers, independent and online bookstores, or Arcadia Publishing at: www.arcadiapublishing.com or 1-888-313-2665.

Garden of eatin’ (photo caption)

   Although the students have gone home for the summer, the Three Rivers School garden they planted and nurtured last spring has thrived. The vegetables were harvested this week, and the entire bounty will be donated to the Three Rivers Bread Basket food pantry.

West Nile virus

confirmed in county

   As of July, seven mosquito samples collected in Visalia have tested positive for West Nile virus. It is estimated that about one in 150 persons infected with WNV will develop a more severe form of the disease.
   County residents are urged to increase their awareness of potential mosquito-breeding grounds. Be on the lookout for homes that are unoccupied as this increases the chances that there will be standing water — which is where mosquitoes breed — such as non-maintained swimming pools or backyard ponds.
   To reduce exposure to mosquitoes, use a repellent that contains DEET, dress in long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk, and eliminate all standing water.
   Symptoms of WNV can include fever, headache, tiredness, body aches, swollen lymph glands, and occasionally with a skin rash on the trunk of the body. Severe symptoms are neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, convulsions, and even paralysis or coma.
   For more information on mosquito concerns, call the Delta Vector Control District, 732-8606.

Park fire restrictions

in effect today

   As of today (Friday, July 11), Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are instituting fire restrictions within the parks.
   Due to high fire danger, no wood or barbecue fires are permitted below 6,000 feet, except in designated campgrounds. Fires may not be used at the Ash Mountain or Hospital Rock picnic areas or in the backcountry below 6,000 feet elevation.
   In addition, no smoking is permitted below 6,000 feet, except within a developed area, a campground, or an enclosed vehicle. Extinguish cigarettes fully and dispose of them carefully, and never throw a cigarette out of a car window.
   These fire restrictions are intended to reduce the possibility of an accidental, human-caused fire that could threaten visitors, employees, neighboring communities, and natural resources.

Parks help public, and visa versa,

to be more climate-friendly

   Ask anyone who’s serious about climate change and they will tell you it’s about reducing our carbon footprint. To help promote awareness of how you can help, national parks throughout the U.S. are inviting people everywhere to reduce carbon emissions and credit their reduction to their favorite park.
   Dubbed the Climate Friendly Parks Initiative, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are inviting everyone to a daylong kickoff event today (Friday, July 11) at Wuksachi Lodge.
   This is how it works. On July 11, the Climate Friendly Parks program will debut its interactive, online web activity called “Do Your Part!” The public can participate by logging on anytime at Wuksachi Lodge from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.
   While folks are logging on at Wuksachi, a special workstation will also be set up and manned at the Three Rivers Historical Museum/Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for those not able to make the trip up to Wuksachi. Three lucky winners will be chosen from all those who locally pledge on July 11.
   Prizes include a two-night stay at Wuksachi, an Interagency Annual Pass, or a couple of round-trip tickets on the Sequoia Shuttle from outside the park to connect with the free internal shuttle. Participants who sign up at either venue (Three Rivers or Wuksachi) are eligible for the drawing.
   The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) developed the “Do Your Part! For Climate Friendly Parks” program to allow everyone to learn more about climate change while helping their favorite parks. People can use the website to calculate their carbon footprint and pledge to take certain actions to reduce carbon emissions in their daily lives. They can then credit their reductions to a park of choice.
   Craig Axtell, Sequoia and Kings Canyon superintendent, said the national program is to publicize how parks can reduce emissions and be more sustainable but added:

  “We need folks to participate here and we encourage everyone to credit their reductions to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.”
   For more information on doing your part for the local parks, call Alexandra Picavet, parks spokesperson, at 565-3131.

Sky high (photo caption)

   On Saturday, July 5, thunderheads began building over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, becoming more concentrated each day since. Thunder could be heard from Three Rivers during the afternoons this past week as the storms intensified. Afternoon thunderstorms are a common occurrence in the Sierra during July and August.


Chamber produces

new tourism brochure

   The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce recently updated, expanded, and printed an exciting new tourism brochure and map of Three Rivers and the surrounding gateway communities. Aimed at visitors to our area, this new brochure is available at the Chamber office, local Chamber events, the Visalia Chamber of Commerce visitor center, and key California Welcome Center locations throughout the state.
   Expanding on the old brochure, this new marketing product unfolds to a finished size of 18-by-12 inches, allowing for plenty of room to offer visitors the information they need for a memorable stay.   Similar to the previous brochure, this one also includes inviting and inspiring text about the uniqueness of Three Rivers, a calendar of events, and a list of businesses.
   Different this time, however, is a general map of Three Rivers, orienting the visitor to the town, Lemon Cove, Lake Kaweah, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Bureau of Land Management lands.
   Chamber members were provided with the opportunity to advertise their business through this brochure, and nearly one-third of the membership took advantage of this important marketing tool.    The brochure lists member businesses and their contact information next to the map in the following categories: lodging, camping, dining, shopping, attractions and activities, and services. Listings correspond to a number showing the business’s location on the map.
   On behalf of the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce, special thanks to the members who sponsored their listing in the brochure and to all our local businesses who aim to provide visitors with outstanding service during their stay.
   Article by Johanna Kamansky, SFCC president.


Reverend Warren L. Campbell
1926 ~ 2008

He founded the Kaweah church 45 years ago

  Warren Lee Campbell of Kaweah died in his home Tuesday, July 8, 2008. He was 82.
   A memorial service will be held Saturday, July 19, at 11 a.m., at the Church at Kaweah.
   Warren was born in Red Oak, Iowa, on April 5, 1926, to Charles and Maude Campbell. The family moved to California when he was about three.
   Warren never graduated junior high, but attended Bible College in Los Angeles for about three years.
   At the age of 16, Warren joined the Merchant Marines, where he saw battle in World War II, which entitled him to veteran status. An able-bodied seaman, Warren kept that rank until his death.
   Warren received his call into Christian ministry when he was 20, beginning as a pastor at Venice Beach in Southern California. A few years later, on July 14, 1950, he married the former Margaret Davis. Warren and Margaret would have celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary next week; she was at his bedside when he passed away.
   In 1963, Warren and Margaret moved to Kaweah with their three young children. In 1966, the family’s home on North Fork Drive was destroyed by a flood.
   At that same time, the Campbells were fighting to get a building permit for the church that has now stood at 44069 North Fork Drive for nearly a half century, originally called the Kaweah Community Church. Many within the communities of Three Rivers and Kaweah did not want the church to be built.
   Petitions were circulated from as far away as Orosi and Delano to stop the building permit process. Pastor Campbell gathered signatures in favor of the church being built, and as a result always retained a special love for the cowboys of Three Rivers who rallied to his cause.
   In the mid 1990s, the 50,000-watt radio station in Delano regularly referred to Pastor Campbell as “the preacher with guts.”
   Warren’s ministry took him to a number of foreign countries. In 1982, he was invited to the presidential palace of then-president Rios Mont of Guatemala.
   Warren was a minister for over 60 years and pastored in Kaweah for the past 45 years. Kaweah has had the proud distinction of three generations of preachers at the church that Warren founded as his son, Warren Mark, and grandson Warren Luke have followed in his footsteps.
   In 1983, Warren was preceded in death by his son, Jonathan, who was also a minister.
   He is survived by his wife, Margaret; daughter Christine Bowles and husband Walter of Springville; son Warren and wife Jill of Kaweah; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
   Donations in Pastor Campbell’s memory may be made to the Church at Kaweah, P.O. Box 75, Kaweah, CA 93237.


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
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