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In the News - Friday, August 12, 2011

 

 

 SAR season

Two more hikers rescued

  When the current backpacking season finally got going, it figured to be an extremely busy one. That’s because the heavy snowpack still had most high country routes clogged with snow through July so there were lots of travelers who canceled those trips or changed plans.
   Now backpackers who travel above treeline are faced with a dilemma. Go where there is still some snow or forget taking that long-anticipated high country trip in 2011. Judging by the spike in backcountry permit reservations for August, most backpackers are choosing to go even if the itinerary might present some additional challenges.
   Apparently, those challenges are making travel more difficult for a number of travelers because again this week park rangers assisted in separate search-and-rescue (SAR) operations that resulted in two more hikers being airlifted out of the backcountry. Both of the most recent incidents were strikingly similar and can be attributed in part to the physical demands of simply carrying a heavy pack at high elevations.
   On Saturday, Aug. 6, park rangers received a call for help from a male hiker, 56, from Siloam Springs, Ark., who was on the summit of Mount Whitney. Like so many others who attempt to hike to the summit at 14,500 feet elevation, the man was struggling with the effects of altitude sickness.
   A Sequoia National Park ranger who was serving as a park medic on the SAR reported that the patient was experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath. The patient was then airlifted for treatment to the South Inyo Medical Center in Lone Pine.
   On Tuesday, Aug. 9, the Hockett trail crew received a report of a hiker who was in trouble on the Hockett Trail near Horse Creek in Sequoia. When rangers arrived on the scene, they found a 57-year-old male from Turlock who was experiencing chest pains.
   The patient was examined and then airlifted to Ash Mountain. Another medevac chopper transported the patient for treatment to the Regional Community Medical Center in Fresno.
   Last week, rangers also participated in two separate search-and-rescues, both in part due to the higher-than-average snowpack that the Sierra received this past winter. During one of these, the stranded party ignited a fire to signal rescuers in the Kid Lake area of Kings Canyon National Park.
   This blaze, dubbed the Kid Fire, actually grew to one-tenth of an acre. It has since been contained and controlled.

Internet upgrade is topic of town meeting

  Nothing has been installed to date but according to principals of the Central Valley Independent Network (CVIN), Three Rivers could be in line for some vastly improved Internet access. The new broadband service could be operational in six months, according to Mike Stewart and David Nelson, representatives of CVIN who addressed an enthusiastic Three Rivers Town Hall meeting on August 1.
   After hearing a plethora of complaints related to the AT&T cellular and Internet coverage, the CVIN vision for the new local service offered a ray of hope for the Three Rivers area that when it comes to broadband technology is woefully under-served.
   The consensus of the audience was that some local competition for AT&T might improve everyone’s service. According to Tom Sparks, who chaired the meeting on behalf of the Three Rivers Village Foundation, more than 100 local residents and businesses have signed up as “interested” in the service CVIN could bring to Three Rivers.
   The system would be capable of 10 mbps download and 4 mbps upload, far superior in reliability, bandwidth, and speed to what’s being offered currently. The new service would employ both a wired and wireless network.
   Monthly fees would be reasonably tiered according to whether they were commercial or residential accounts, the representatives stated. Small rooftop antennas would be installed that could receive/transmit a signal from strategically placed towers.
   Other factors in the pricing structure could be less for email only and higher fees for those users requiring greater bandwidth to stream video content. Nelson, CVIN’s president and a part-time instructor at CSU Fresno, said that his company views Three Rivers as a business opportunity, not a grant opportunity, so that could speed up completion of the project.
   Sparks said the local interest in the CVIN project has exceeded his expectations so the   Village Foundation is forming a steering committee to keep the project moving forward. More sign-ups are needed from those interested in the new service as well as locals willing to petition the Public Utilities Commission and the appropriate state and federal legislators.
   The petitions, Sparks said, would be necessary to counter resistance from AT&T, which currently has a monopoly on the local, but limited, DSL service. CVIN will complete a feasibility analysis of the project and report back at a public forum to be held in October.
For more information or to pledge support, call Tom Sparks, 561-0406.

Changes proposed for supervisorial district

  Three draft maps and a number of possible scenarios were unveiled at a recent meeting of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors that could mean some significant changes for District 1. District 1 currently includes Three Rivers and encompasses all the public lands east and a huge swath of county territory, including the cities of Exeter, Lindsay, Farmersville, and a portion of Visalia.
   The challenge before the redistricting committee was to propose five supervisorial districts that accurately reflect demographic changes that have occurred since 2001, the last time the districts boundaries were drawn. The boundaries are based upon census data and are influenced by such factors as ethnicity, population, and percentage of voting-age residents.
   The Redistricting Committee submitted a final report to the Board of Supervisors outlining three plans (A, B, and C) for adoption. The rationale behind the three proposed plans was a balancing act of distributing between 85,000 and 89,000 residents among each of the five districts, including a percentage (50 to 75 percent) of Hispanic voters, that also considered obvious topography and geographical boundaries.
   Plan A uses the biggest population number (89,889) for District 1 of which 56.66 percent would be Hispanic. It places all the residents north of Sierra Drive including Kaweah in District 2.
    Plan B proposes slightly less population (89,381) for District 1 of which 58 percent are Hispanic. Boundaries are similar to the existing ones.
   Plan C seeks to create a foothills District 1 in a north-south configuration including Three Rivers and Springville in the same district. The population of this district would be 86,926 with 72.48 percent Hispanic.
   According to Dick Eckoff, who chaired the redistricting committee, the committee is confident that they have presented three solid options based on continuity and the avoidance of dividing cities and their urban growth areas.
   The draft maps and more information about the redistricting process may be found on the Tulare County Redistricting Committee’s website at: http://co.tulare.ca.us./government/redistricting/maps.asp.
   Comments and suggestions may be submitted to the Board of Supervisors on the website, in writing or at any of the Board of Supervisors meetings.
   IN OTHER COUNTY NEWS, the board of supervisors at their recent meeting unanimously voted to send a letter opposing the plan to charge rural landowners $150 annually for fire protection.

SPEAKING OUT

Wildfire management in the Golden Trout Wilderness

by Deb Whitman
Acting forest supervisor

  The Golden Trout Wilderness is located in a mountain landscape with endless sky and jagged peaks. Located in the Sierra Nevada just south of Mount Whitney (14,500 feet), miles of trails wander through majestic forests of pine and fir, giant sequoia groves, and meandering green meadows along brooks and thundering rivers. This wilderness (475 square miles) is a paradise of pristine lakes and streams inhabited by several species of trout, including two subspecies of the rare and beautiful golden trout, California’s state fish.
   The Sierra Nevada is one of the most fire-prone and fire-adapted ecosystems in the nation, where natural systems have evolved with fire. Each year, lightning-caused wildland fires, a natural disturbance, help shape our forests. As the fires are discovered, public land managers evaluate each one to determine the best approach to managing the wildfire.

THE LION FIRE: NATURE STRIKES
   On July 8, lightning struck in the Golden Trout Wilderness. Historically, fire would have occurred every 15 to 20 years in this forest type, however, in this area there is no record of a large fire occurring within the last 90 years.
   This year, the high snowpack and cool temperatures of spring and early summer have provided a rare opportunity to reintroduce fire into this area of the wilderness. By taking advantage of managing this wildfire in a wet year, risks are reduced for future large, destructive, and smokier fires.
   Fire strategies consider many factors: risks to public and firefighter safety, fuel conditions, weather, land-management plan and Wilderness Act direction, smoke management, values to protect, and available firefighting assets. Under the right conditions, land managers use fire to restore resilience to ecosystems, improve wildlife habitat, and prevent heavy accumulations of flammable fuels, while actively protecting lives, property, and resources.
   One goal for the Lion Fire embraces the principles of ecological restoration. The long-term environmental benefits of the wildfire is restoration of approximately 22,000 acres of the wilderness ecosystem, where in the future, fire can play its natural role.

MANAGING FIRE AND SMOKE
   We realize that our response to this fire has many impacts to mountain communities and our visitors.
   We understand this and appreciate your patience. By managing the Lion Fire and the associated smoke event this year under the cool, wet conditions, the outcome should result in minimized smoke impacts in the future.
   The Sierra Nevada was historically a hazy place in the summer months where fire and smoke played a natural role in the landscape. For the past 33 days, we have managed the fire utilizing High Sierra rock barriers, previous burn areas of past wildfires, and other natural barriers such as rivers and creeks.
   The Lion Fire incident management organization has been very mindful in their approach and has implemented both aerial and hand-firing operations to reduce fire intensity, to guide the fire, or defend the perimeter and values at risk (private land and cabins). This is an example of restoration using a natural change agent (lightning-caused ignition) that has been a significant challenge on multiple fronts.
Sequoia National Forest is sharing this fire with Sequoia and Kings National Parks. For land management agencies, managing wildfires is some of the most challenging work we undertake.
   On a daily basis fire officials and the California air quality control districts together use their expertise and advice on how to mitigate the visibility and public health impacts of the smoke.
   One of the most important strategies for fire agencies is to light backing fires to prevent intensely destructive wildfire from burning uphill. Timing is everything when a narrow window is open.
   Fire officials consider local air quality control districts’ expertise and advice to support selected days for increased burning when smoke dispersal is optimum, versus days with projected poor air quality.
   The Lion Fire has been a challenging process that is drawing closer to perimeter lines. With ecological restoration as a driving force, managing nature’s processes in the Sierra Nevada requires numerous decision points.
   Our daily consultations with a network of dedicated land-management professionals allow a seamless process to restore one of California’s landscapes. Jointly we are protecting critical watersheds and threatened and endangered species while restoring the places people love and value.
   Deb Whitman is the acting forest supervisor of Sequoia National Forest. Lion
   Fire updates and information related to the Lion Fire are online at:
http://inciweb/incident/2400.org

Facebook page elicits 3R reminiscences

  It’s a new trend about old things. Facebook pages started making the rounds this week, entitled “You know you’re from <insert hometown name here> when...”
   Three Rivers jumped on this bandwagon and within 24 hours 126 members had joined the page. On Wednesday, Aug. 10, there was a definite decline in productivity as Three Rivers fans from near and far were posting their memories fast and furiously on the social network.
   You know you’re from Three Rivers when... “You can’t get anything done today, because you keep coming back to the computer to reminisce,” says one post.
   Here is some of the chatter. You know you’re from Three Rivers when...
  “You knew EVERYONE in town.”
  “Wearing shorts under your skirt (girls) so we could play volleyball, baseball, soccer, track and field, and square dance... 3 Rivers girls are tomboys.”
  “You know there’s a difference between the largest living thing and the tallest living thing.”
  “When you have the same teacher for 5th and 8th grade.”
  “I addressed a postcard to ‘Grandma and Grandpa, Three Rivers’ and it was delivered to them.”
  “When you gave your phone number to someone and all you gave were the last four digits.”
  “No matter where you moved to or how long you’ve been gone, 3 Rivers is always referred to as ‘home.’”
   And who says there is nothing for kids to do in Three Rivers? Memories of Three Rivers kids now all grown up include the Halloween Carnival; swimming in the river; the Roping’s Pig Scramble; skiing at Wolverton; swimming in the river; lessons in karate, judo, dance, and gymnastics at Our Gym; and swimming in the river.
   Three Rivers has its own jargon that includes “up top,” “down bottom,” “down the hill,” and “flatlanders.”
   Restaurants (and watering holes) are fondly recalled: Ard Farkles, Tremblys, Noisy Water, The Pizza Pub, The Indian, Irv’s River Wharf, Sequoia Drive-In, The Garden Gate, Buckaroo, Kaweah Korral, Moro Rock Tavern, Mountaire, White Horse. And other businesses: Huffakers, Miksch’s Christmas tree farm, Savage Ranch’s fresh cider, the Laundromat, Skyway Liquor, Pat’s Mobil Station.
   Three Rivers School, of course, had a huge impact from Mary McDowall to Don Hise (first two of just four TRUS principals) and teachers Gentry, Hicks, Fleming, Campe, Harris, Kimzey, Justus, Ripley, and Miss Dottie.
   Other now-departed Three Rivers characters mentioned have been Skinny Kirk, Fred Ogilvie, Tom and Jeannie Pappas, Leuder Ohlwein, Dave Wilson, Chet and Thelma Crain, Russ Weckert, and a name synonymous with Three Rivers, Maile Peck.
   Other mentions include living with just one television station and a party line on the telephone, former resident deputy sheriffs Jim Stovall and Kevin Bohl, local bands Fair Game and Long Riders, and such places as Riverway Ranch, Double D Ranch, and the Loom Room.
   Now, remember, Facebook has a demographic. It’s obvious that the users of this Three Rivers page that went viral Wednesday are adults in their 20s up to the age of those who can (mostly) remember the ‘60s.
   There was a lot to Three Rivers before then that would prove so interesting and informative, but that generation of folks isn’t monitoring Facebook. Oh, the stories Hale Tharp, Annie Haskell, and Billy Clough could tell if they were only on Facebook.
   Finally, after pages and pages of posts, a user stated:
  “After reading all about T.R., if I wasn’t already living here for 40 years, I sure would want to move here now.”

Three fires burning in local parks

  A trio of lightning-caused fires is burning on park lands. All are expected to remain small.
The Sentinel Fire is burning south of Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park. It is currently one-quarter of an acre.
   The Rock Fire in southern Sequoia is at a quarter acre with low potential for growth.
   The Rattlesnake Fire, also in southern Sequoia, is at one-tenth of an acre with reportedly little activity due to sparse fuels and areas of granite in the vicinity.

Decorating and financing:
Log House Lodge gets creative

By Brian Rothhammer

  The Log House Lodge in Three Rivers is a dream in progress. Purchased in 2003 by Tim and Mauriene Landry as a vacation and future retirement home, it has evolved into a bed-and-breakfast inn that also contains a long-term rental apartment.
  “While doing some remodeling, we figured it was time to realize a lifelong dream of designing and managing a unique B-and-B project together,” said Tim.
   By 2008, the two upstairs rooms had been transformed into reminders of a slower, more relaxed era. They booked their first guest on April 15 of that year; a tax preparer.
   The Landrys’ vision is to provide a temporary respite, a haven where many of the trappings of 21st century life and the stress that comes with it can be left behind as guests unwind amid the serene foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The Lodge has delighted many paid guests, and Tim has donated over 75 weekend accommodations to seminarians of the Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, Calif.

THE ROAD TO THREE RIVERS
   Born in Florida in 1955, Tim Landry attended film school at the University of Southern California from 1974 to 1978. During his westward migration, Tim met Mauriene at a church camp in Milford, Ind. They were married July 4, 1976, the day of our nation’s bicentennial.
  “Everyone celebrates our anniversary,” said Tim.
   After graduating USC, Tim went straight into visual effects and post-production work in the motion picture and television field. In 1979, the Landrys welcomed daughter Bonnie into their family.
   Tim worked as an independent contractor for years, freelancing as what he calls a “migrant film worker” for several visual effects shops. In 1993 he was hired at Dreamquest Images, which was bought by the Walt Disney Company in 1996. Disney closed Dreamquest in 2002, leaving Tim to ply his trade as a freelancer once again.
   Burt Ward hired Tim for his startup, Boy Wonder Visual Effects (Ward played “Robin” on the 1960s Batman TV series), but by 2004 Ward closed shop and moved on to other projects.
   It was back to freelancing, which Tim describes as “Just a fancy term for perpetual unemployment.”
   For all of the major films (Shawshank Redemption, Legally Blonde 2, Pirates of the Caribbean) and TV shows that he has worked on, one might think Tim rakes in fat residuals or has union benefits, but such is not the case. Since 2005 he has been with Disney Imagineering as an independent contractor.

AND THE BAD NEWS IS...
   Recently, Tim was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, a treatable yet incurable cancer. When faced with his own mortality, his thoughts went immediately to providing for his wife, Mauriene.
   With his creative talents in the visual and tactile arts and her Wisconsin farm-raised practicality and years of experience operating a catering business, it was time to further develop the B&B.
   The year-round downstairs renters had moved, and the lower level was ripe for the full creative transformation to a family-sized, themed lodging experience. The problem was financing.

NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBOR
   Then Tim found something.
  “I was boppin’ around the web one day and there it was. Kickstarter.”
   Tim describes Kickstarter.com as an “innovative way of raising funds for the creative community.” Kickstarter.com defines itself as “…the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world.”
   Here’s how Three Rivers can help. Visit Kickstarter.com, look at the various art and entertainment projects featured — or perhaps start your own — then enter Log House Lodge in the search bar.
   It’s a lot like a public TV pledge drive, but if the stated goal for a project is not met by the deadline, no funds change hands.
   The goal for Log House Lodge 2.0 is $32,000. The deadline is Saturday, Sept. 3, at 7:50 p.m. Pledges range from $1 and over.
   Pledge rewards range from a Log House Lodge pen ($10 pledge), to shirts, dinners, merchandise, and weekends at the Log House Lodge for higher amounts. Give $5,000 and receive a complimentary two-night stay every year for as long as the Lodge continues to operate.
   To date, nine donors have pledged $5,660. If the goal is met in time, pledges are paid, the project is funded and the rewards issued. If the goal is not met, those who pledged pay nothing and the project remains a dream.
   Perhaps this dream will come true and Tim’s vision may live on as guests enjoy the unique experience that is Log House Lodge in Kaweah Country.

HEALING WITH THE HANDS

The art of nursing

By Charlene Vartanian

  What does healing with the hands and nursing have in common? Actually, quite a bit.
They are so similar that, in the right context, may even be considered one and the same. They serve the same purpose, and abide by the same ideals.
   As a nurse, that connection with nursing is what make therapeutic bodywork so much fun. It is all about helping people.
   There are several definitions of nursing. As a healthcare profession, nursing is the focused care of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life from birth to death.
   To nurse is to care for the sick, injured, or infirm; to take special care of, especially to promote development or well-being. More simply, to nurse is to nourish.
   In a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine, healing was defined as “the process of bringing together aspects of one’s self, body-mind-spirit, at deeper levels of inner knowing, leading toward integration and balance with each aspect having equal importance and value.”
   This is what also makes nursing so much fun. To support the health of the person in front of you, and all aspects of that person, can be very rewarding.
   In this same study, it went on to say that “to be whole is to be whole amongst others....and that wholeness of personhood involves physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual aspects of human experience. Our connection with others is a strong component in our journey of health.”
   When we experience pain, it is difficult to have a positive sense of wellbeing. Sometimes the pain takes all our concentration and focus — it can certainly also take our good humor.
   When working with the aches and pains that people have in their bodies, it is wonderful to see the look of relief and the openness that people have when they feel better.
   As we have a more comfortable and relaxed body, our spirit feels lighter. We smile more, we have more fun. We are more available to others.
   Sometimes before we can connect with others, we must first connect with our self. And as we come to know our self and the different aspects of our self through our own body, we have more resources to reach out to others. And that is the art of nursing in a nutshell.
   Charlene Vartanian, R.N., has practiced CranioSacral Therapy for 10 years.

Property taxes due

  The delinquent date for unsecured property tax bills is a month earlier than last year, so it bears a reminder that payments are due Wednesday, Aug. 31. Payments must be received or postmarked by that date or a 10 percent penalty is added to the bill.
   The 2011-2012 property tax bills were mailed in mid-July. If a property owner did not receive a statement or is unable to locate it, a copy may be viewed and printed online at www.tularecountytax.com or obtained at the County Civic Center, 221 S. Mooney Blvd., Room 104E, Visalia.
   Call 636-5100 for any questions regarding payment, property values, assessments and more.

THE BIGGEST OF THE BIG TREES

Number Five: Stagg Tree (Alder Creek Grove)

By Sarah Elliott

  The king of all the conifers in the world, the noblest of the noble race... The Big Tree is nature’s forest masterpiece, and so far as I know, the greatest of all living things.
—John Muir

  This is a continuing series that will visit the largest trees in the world, all of which are located mere miles away from Three Rivers.
   The fifth largest tree on the planet is the Amos Alonzo Stagg Tree. It is also the largest tree outside of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and has the distinction of being the largest tree in the world that is located on private land.
   The Stagg Tree is located off Highway 190 east of Springville. To reach the Stagg Tree, drive east on State Highway 190 for 2.5 miles beyond Camp Nelson. Turn left on Redwood Drive (County Route M216) at the subdivision of Alpine Village and continue about 6 miles to the cabin community of Sequoia Crest. When Redwood Drive turns sharply left to become Alder Drive, drive straight ahead on the unpaved road for less than a half-mile to the locked gate.
   From here, it’s less than a one-mile walk to the tree. Continue beyond the gate along an old logging road. Stay on this road as it passes through an old logging camp with its unmistakable twin towers of giant sequoias until reaching a short trail that is identified by a handmade sign pointing the way to the tree, which is a short walk downhill.
   The land on which the Alder Grove grows is owned by the pioneer Rouch family. It is from this grove that a 25-foot-long block of downed giant sequoia wood that was transformed into a statue of Paul Bunyan was donated to sculptor Carroll Barnes of Three Rivers.
   This impressive carving has had several homes over the past 70 years, but today stands along Highway 198 in front of the Three Rivers Historical Museum. The sculpture was carved by Barnes in 1941-1942 and is 17 feet tall, 9 feet wide, and weighs 13 tons.
   The patriarch of this land, Sonny Rouch, 92, is kind enough to grant public access so all may visit this fifth largest of all trees. Be sure to follow all parking directions and refrain from smoking and littering.
   The Alder Creek Grove is about 785 acres and contains stands of young and mature sequoias. Although the Rouch family were loggers and developers throughout much of the 20th century, they never cut a giant sequoia.
   When we reached the base of the tree, we were joined by two couples who were visiting from Russia. On our return hike we met other parties on pilgrimages to the tree.
   The tree was named in 1960 for Amos Alonzo Stagg (1862-1965), immortalized college football coach whose career spanned 70 years. He also coached track, baseball, and basketball.
   Stagg helped organize what is today the Big Ten Conference and is credited with many innovations in the game of football, from formations to uniforms and equipment. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
   According to measurements taken by Wendell Flint (To Find the Biggest Tree, 2002), the tree has reached a height of 244 feet and has a ground perimeter of 82.2 feet.
   The Stagg Tree is on a steep slope, which makes it difficult to judge its true size. It has several burn scars and extremely thick bark.
   Not only are sequoias among the largest things on earth, they are also the most enduring. Big Trees can live to be thousands of years old, mainly because they don’t usually die of natural causes. The secret to this everlasting life is the giant sequoia’s outer bark, a fibrous, deeply furrowed, almost fur-like reddish-brown cortex. In the oldest of the trees, the outer bark can be up to two feet thick.
   The leading cause of death for giant sequoias is fire. The giant sequoia also depends on fire for survival.
   When the fuel of smaller trees such as pine and fir and accompanying forest shrubs build up the understory and encroach upon the Big Trees, a fire will burn with too much intensity, ultimately working through the sequoia’s protective outer bark to its thinner, more vulnerable inner bark.
   In contrast to a conflagration, occasional small fires burn away accumulated fuel. The sequoia seeds then germinate on the bare, mineralized soil.
   A sprouting sequoia seed actually grows faster downward during the first several years of life, its taproot growing deep into the ground. Above ground, through its adolescent years of a hundred years or so, the sequoia tree is conical with gray bark, blue-green foliage, and feathery limbs. A sequoia is fast-growing, adding about six feet per year.
   As it ages, the trunk bares itself of branches and the needles turn greener. It’s only after a millennium or more that the tree’s bark turns to a cinnamon color and becomes deeply furrowed.
   By then, its upper branches have grown as large as most trees. The largest will have jutted from the tree horizontally, as branches tend to do, but then form an elbow and grow skyward as if declaring their independence from the massive trunk.
   The realm of massive trees once covered most of the Northern Hemisphere during an age of gigantic things. Although dinosaurs have long been extinct, the Big Trees continue to survive.
   Today, giant sequoias have chosen to grow naturally only in groves located in the mid-elevations along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
   We must never take these primeval trees for granted. Travelers from across the globe flock to see those that have chosen to grow so close to Three Rivers.

 
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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