In the News - Friday, August 27,
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
fires, one cause, same day
turkey vultures that landed on SCE transmission lines
sparked two wildfires near Three Rivers on Thursday,
Aug. 12. The two separate wildland fires burned about
two acres each and didn’t damage any structures.
They did, however, cause some anxious moments for
dozens of Alta Acres residents who reported seeing
smoke, then flames, and subsequently watched a series
of drops from an aircraft that buzzed the rooftops
of several homes.
The first blaze was started below Three
Rivers in hilly terrain adjacent to the west end of
Lake Kaweah. A vulture reportedly landed on a transmission
wire and spread its wings, which caused a spark to
arc from the line into the unsuspecting critter that
was just looking for a convenient perch.
What happened next was a loud buzzing
followed by a popping sound as the bird burst into
flame and dropped into the tinder-dry grass below.
If it happens to be windy at that precise moment,
these accidental fires can explode into a disastrous
the winds were calm so we were able to get quick containment
on both these fires,” said Larry Harris, Cal
Fire battalion chief, who was at the scene of Alta
The first fire at Lake Kaweah started
at about 3:15 p.m.; the second blaze above Alta Acres
was reported at 5:48 p.m.
In both fires, the flashpoint was on
the top of a knoll so it was difficult for the fire
to burn downslope,” Chief Harris said. “As
is standard procedure in these wildland fires, we
will have several crews out here the rest of the night
dousing hot spots and looking for embers.”
At least a half-dozen units responded
to the Alta Acres incident. Aerial units also assisted
in battling the blaze (see page 7).
time we were fortunate and dodged a bullet,”
said one Cal Fire firefighter. “Unfortunately,
the birds weren’t so lucky.”
Only in the August 20 print edition, reader-submitted
photos of the dramatic aerial attack during the Three
Rivers wildland fire in the hills above the Alta Acres
End of an era for
the first time in more than a half-century, no volunteers
in Three Rivers are scrambling to roll to a medical
emergency. The 54-year run of the Three Rivers Ambulance
officially came to an end Tuesday, Aug. 17, at 8 a.m.
According to Sandy Owen, longtime volunteer
and board member, the changeover should have occurred
sooner but the ambulance companies under contract
to Tulare County held out as long as it was politically
feasible. Since Tuesday, three ambulance companies
have been rotating equipment in and out of the Lemon
Cove Fire Station after a lease arrangement was completed
with the Tulare County Fire Department.
The new coverage is shared between American
Medical Response, Exeter District Ambulance, and American
Ambulance. The response times to most of Three Rivers
must average 20 minutes or less, depending on location.
Company vehicles were timed recently
with run times from Lemon Cove of 11 minutes to Village
Market and 19 minutes to the Sequoia National Park
entrance. According to Sandy, the coverage should
be consistently better than what the local volunteers
could provide in the recent past.
the volunteers, we just couldn’t provide 24/7
coverage,” Sandy said. “It was a difficult
decision to end the local service, but it was a move
we had to make.”
Sandy said the decision was complicated
by the fact that the Three Rivers Ambulance recently
had a couple of really dedicated new recruits. But
these people have lives too, Sandy said, and there
were times when Three Rivers went out of service altogether
or they had four or five calls in succession.
just got to a point that we became too busy and that’s
when a response time could mean life or death for
a Three Rivers patient,” Sandy said.
Sandy said the service should be markedly
improved because if one ambulance is called to Three
Rivers another must be rotated into the Lemon Cove
station. But there will be a learning curve for all
the new drivers to negotiate Three Rivers.
Some of the Three Rivers addresses, Sandy
said, are still not in the 911 system correctly. And
with many private drives housing multiple residences
it’s going to initially be a challenge during
some calls to find the right address.
house numbers are visible in the day but not at night
and others simply do not have any visible name or
address,” Sandy said. “Take a look at
your own property. Is your address and driveway readily
accessible after dark?”
The highly visible blue reflective signs
that are recommended for every property are still
available from the Three Rivers Volunteer Fire Department.
The life you save, Sandy says, might
be your own.
The plan is to sell the former Three
Rivers Ambulance for about $20,000. With only 58,000
miles, it’s still got plenty of calls left in
its lifetime, Sandy said.
In the event the ambulance is sold, the
money could be used for local scholarships or to support
school programs. The allocation of funds, however,
must be approved by the state Attorney General.
who donated their time and expertise to administer
to Three Rivers residents and visitors:
Frank Ainley III
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Mary Staberg, President
Ray Murry, Vice President
Sandy Owen, Treasurer
Sylvia Diaz, Secretary
Directors: Mike Condon, Rich Crain, Rusty Crain, John
Vasquez, Dennis Villavicencio
Fire chars 1,800 acres
fire more than
in size in three days
blaze started by a lightning strike on or about July
16 above Cedar Grove has now grown to more than 1,800
acres and there are no immediate plans to extinguish
the spreading fire. That’s because there are
currently no threats to life or property so Sequoia
and Kings Canyon National Parks firefighters are managing
the blaze much as they would a prescribed fire.
The fire is located in the southern cliffs
above Cedar Grove, one half-mile north of Sentinel
Ridge. Flames are clearly visible in Cedar Grove as
the fire spreads west and backs down to the Cedar
Grove valley floor.
Earlier this week, firefighters began
operations to protect a water tank and helicopter
base near Cedar Grove by cutting line around the areas.
Small areas have been torched to prevent the burning
of park infrastructure and electrical boxes.
A holding line has been established along
the ridge to Lookout Peak in an effort to mitigate
smoky conditions in the Kings River drainage. Visitors
may expect the heaviest concentration of smoke settling
in the valley in the late evening and early morning
There is no recorded fire history in
the current perimeter of the Sheep Fire, according
to park sources. Recent fires to the east should inhibit
the spread of fire in that direction.
Deb Schweizer, the parks’ fire
education specialist, said that along the western
perimeter the fire is now spreading onto Giant Sequoia
National Monument lands. That means the blaze will
now be managed by a multi-agency incident command.
Most of the parks’ 60 firefighting
personnel are currently assigned to the fire as are
two U.S. Forest Service hotshot crews, Deb reported.
There have been no reports of smoke from
the Sheep Fire in the Kaweah canyon but a blaze that
was sparked Tuesday on Stokes Mountain near Orosi
did cause some generally smoky conditions in the foothills
of eastern Tulare County.
state, local updates
A District One resident (includes Three
Rivers) is being sought to fill a vacancy on the Tulare
County Youth Commission. The Youth Commission is an
11-member advisory panel of youth and education experts
that reviews and administers grant proposals and makes
recommendations to the county Board of Supervisors
Applications may be obtained from the
Board of Supervisors office, located at the County
Administration Building, 2800 W. Burrel, Visalia;
by calling 636-5000; or online at www.stepuptc.com
(click on “Youth Commission”).
comes to Tulare County
Beginning last month, people convicted
of a DUI in Tulare County will be required by law
to install an ignition-interlock device. This is a
pilot program that focuses on counties with high numbers
of DUI conviction rates.
The device is installed to a motor vehicle’s
dashboard where, before the engine can be started,
the driver first must exhale into it. If the resultant
breath-alcohol concentration is greater than the programmed
blood alcohol concentration the IID prevents the engine
from being started.
The program is also in effect in Sacramento,
Los Angeles, and Alameda counties.
Comments wanted on
Giant Sequoia plan
The Giant Sequoia National Monument draft
environmental impact statement and draft management
plan are available for public comment. The draft EIS
describes six alternatives, one of which will be used
to manage the national monument.
The U.S Forest Service, which oversees
the monument, will use the final document to manage
resources within the boundaries of the monument, which
includes 33 giant sequoia groves.
Three-hour public workshops have been
scheduled in six locations during September and October:
Porterville, Bakersfield, Clovis, San Francisco, Valencia,
To see a copy of the document, review
deadlines, and obtain the address where to submit
comments, go online to
Several departments within the County
of Tulare have implemented furlough days, from Assesor
to Library to Elections and more. Before making the
trip to Visalia to attend to county business, be sure
to call the department you will be visiting to ensure
they are open.
New national park proposed
California may be home to one more national
park if Senator Barbara Boxer’s (D-Calif.) recently
introduced bill is passed. Senate Bill 3744 would
establish Pinnacles National Park, which currently
holds the status as a national monument. It is located
west of Hwy. 101 in San Benito County.
Operation Trident targets large-scale pot
Operation Trident is a large-scale marijuana
eradication effort in Tulare, Fresno, and Madera counties
and consists of about 450 personnel from 21 local,
state, and federal agencies. In addition to seizure
of plants, dismantling grow locations, confiscating
weapons, cash, and other property, the coalition has
also initiated investigations into drug-trafficking
organizations controlling these operations.
Pot-harvesting season is here and typically
continues through October or until the first freeze.
Now is the time when growers become especially protective
and violent, so use caution when hiking, hunting,
or otherwise recreating in remote areas between 3,000
and 6,000 feet in elevation.
Sequoia backpacking trip:
Fork to Mineral King
Grove is without a doubt one of the most spectacular
and beautiful of all the giant sequoia groves. The
best way to experience it is to start at the end of
South Fork Drive, (3,600 feet elevation), 13 miles
from Highway 198 in Three Rivers.
It is steeper than most trails in the
park so the climb requires one to move slowly and
in so doing there is time to gaze at and admire the
trees. In contrast, hiking the opposite direction,
downhill from Hockett Meadow, hikers might blow on
by the majesty of it all.
Snowslide Canyon is 3.6 miles from the
trailhead but has an inviting campsite nearby for
unloading a heavy backpack. A half-mile before the
campsite on the right side is a sequoia I call the
Saturn 5 tree. It has no branches but appears to keep
its massive girth for seven to 10 stories high.
It reminds me of the Saturn 5 rockets
that launched so many space missions. Another similarly
huge tree fell along the steep slope from the trail
down to the campground. Saturn 6.
The second day had my hiking partner
Roy Kendall and I hiking through miles of a breathtaking
forest of gargantuan specimens. The trail’s
steepness ends near 8,200 feet but the eastern edge
of Garfield Grove is near 7,750 feet, over three miles
from the first appearance of the giants. There stands
Saturn 7, a dead but standing tree very much like
Saturn 5 in shape and size.
There are numerous comfortable second-night
campsites at the South Fork of the Kaweah River. The
extra deep snowpack this winter had resulted in incredible
snowmelt runoff. I counted 18 full water courses between
Garfield Creek and the Kaweah River, a distance of
only three miles. I imagine few of these creeks would
have water after a normal winter snowfall.
The Kaweah River at the trail junction
was 40 feet wide and fast. You had better know your
crossing abilities here because less than 100 yards
downstream is a deadly waterfall.
We crossed in the morning when the water
was only 10 to 15 inches deep, but still swift and
cold. We wore socks under our sandals and think that
kept the shock of ice water at bay a bit.
The third day we walked through rolling
hills and snowdrifts mounded across the trail every
few hundred yards and one to four feet high. The forest
before Sand Meadow was almost totally denuded; I’m
guessing the cause is a pine bark beetle infestation.
We decided to pass on camping at Hockett
Meadow and go instead to Evelyn Lake, primarily based
on Sarah Elliott’s backpack trip report in The
Kaweah Commonwealth [“Hockett Meadows: Land
of Many Meadows,” Nov. 6, 2009; www.kaweahcommonwealth.com/hockettmeadows.htm].
From Hockett the trail drops 200 feet
to Whitman Creek then gains 600 feet before descending
again, this time 300 feet. Evelyn Lake is gorgeous
and suffice it to say the fishing was prolific and
On the fourth day we lost the trail to Cahoon Rock
where a switchback was buried by snow. We climbed
cross country and reached a false summit before making
it to our destination. There used to be a fire lookout
here and its debris is scattered about, from nails
to steel pads. The many tree stumps on this
summit are a testimony to previous construction.
I brought a small notebook in an empty
peanut butter jar as a register and placed it in a
round cement hole that it now shares with the remnant
of an electric cable.
Not having seen another person for four
days we received quite a surprise when a fellow approached
and said, “Hello, Roy and Brian.”
It was Dave Telfer from Exeter who had done
business with Roy. His hiking partner, Kelly Dudley
from Visalia, teaches P.E. at Castle Rock Elementary
in Woodlake where I also previously taught. They pointed
out the trail for us, which facilitated a quick and
En route back to Hockett Meadow for the
night a brief thunderstorm pelted us with hail pellets.
The 11-mile walk out to Mineral King
the next day wasn’t too strenuous due to lighter
packs but there were numerous water crossings during
this early July trip. All were only a short distance
across but some were more challenging because of the
Thanks to the note Kelly left on the
Hockett Meadows Ranger Station message board, we were
forewarned that there were 34 downed trees in the
trail we had to negotiate under, around, or over.
The trail maintenance crew was scheduled
to arrive July 15 so hopefully they’ll clear
the trail all the way back to where we started.
After seven hours I arrived at the Cold
Spring Campground in Mineral King and used the pay
phone to ask my wife to come pick us up. The collect
call would have been $17.85 but thankfully the only
two coins in my pack were quarters so I was able to
make the call for 50 cents instead.
To begin this backpack in Mineral King
and finish at the South Fork Campground below Garfield
Grove can be reasonably completed in three days but
the opposite slow, scenic, uphill route is divine.
Brian Newton has lived in
Visalia for 30 years. He retired in June 2008 after
32 years as an elementary school teacher, 28 of which
were in the Woodlake Elementary School District. He
is an outdoor enthusiast and activist. He is a member
of the Tulare County Audubon Society, Sierra Club-Kern/Kaweah
Chapter, and serves on the board of Sequoia Riverlands
Trust. He previously wrote a series in the Commonwealth
about a canoe trip down the St. John’s River.
makes an artist an artist?
college, an art professor said to me, “Just
because you can draw doesn’t make you an artist.”
I was devastated, insulted, dismayed, shocked, and
any other adjective you can think of for the situation
— how dare he say that to me!
Now that I have the advantage of life
experience and wisdom, I know he was right, even if
it was an insensitive and snotty remark. His point
was that there is more to making art than simply drawing.
Master of Fine Art, or MFA, is the highest
degree possible in art. My college professors may
have had their MFAs but mostly they walked around
the room while taking a break from their own work
and offered criticism and snide remarks (”Just
because you can draw. . .” or “You need
to work on composition”) without ever bothering
to actually teach, to demonstrate, or share information.
I have been teaching people how to draw
for 16 years without an MFA. It is a skill, and in
teaching the skill, many other things about art can
be shared. We talk about different styles, ways to
set up a drawing from the beginning, ways of arranging
the elements in a drawing, and lots of technique.
First I show how, then I explain why.
Through the years, only two students
that I can think of have pursued art as a career.
Everyone who has stayed long enough to learn to draw
has learned to draw, and they each have drawings they
can proudly show off to prove that they know how to
draw. Even without going into art full-time, learning
to draw has given each one confidence.
Recently I saw three former drawing students.
Louis is in the Navy, Stephanie is thinking about
occupational therapy, and Mark is a cowboy. Drawing
lessons were not a waste of time for any one of these
wonderful young folks — they learned to draw,
learned to communicate with people of all ages (that
is the way my classes are arranged), explored a type
of art in a comfortable environment, got to display
their work in a show or two, developed a bit more
confidence, and made new friends.
I enjoyed every moment spent with each
of these people and love seeing how they are turning
into adults. We have an easy friendship that transcends
age and has lasted through time and changes.
They can draw; are they artists? And
I am an artist in addition to being a teacher and
being able to draw, so there, you Snotty Professor!
Jana Botkin of Three
Rivers is a professional artist who owns Cabinart
in Three Rivers. She creates oil paintings, pencil
drawings, and murals of local landmarks and viewscapes.
Her current project is creating the most recent mural
to grace the city of Exeter.
dog days this summer
always had a hard time swallowing the idea that “home
is where the heart is.” My heart has had no
qualms about taking me around the world — from
the deserts of Morocco to the eclectic pulse of Montreal’s
plateau — and has never seemed inclined to take
root in any one place.
My rather restless aorta proved to be
a particular nuisance when I found myself finally
winding down from five years of perpetual travel.
I decided that I was ready to go home.
Trouble was, after a half-decade of changing
cities every two months the way that some people change
the filter in their Brita, the closest thing I had
to a home was the icon of that name on my Facebook
page. Though I hadn’t lived there in over 15
years, it was Three Rivers that inspired
me to perform my ultimate act of unpacking.
I did everything one does to settle down,
but found that all the furniture and phone bills in
the world couldn’t convince me that I live here.
I needed further proof. So I got a dog.
Somewhere along the line a formula had
taken shape in my brain: Dog = Stability. It was not
as profound, perhaps, as Einstein’s E=mc2, but
it seemed relevant and logical enough.
Dogs had always been big players in the
period of my life that was most stable, growing up
on Cherokee Oaks: the Samoyed under the kitchen table,
ready to snap up scraps secretly tossed to her on
nights when my mother had the nerve to serve something
as wholly unpalatable as liver and onions; the Shetland
sheepdog forever engaged in a heated round of tug-of-war
with my little sister who insisted, in order to be
perfectly fair, on holding her end of the sock in
her teeth rather than her hands; the dignified Papillon
contentedly curled on the lap of my father who adamantly
maintained that he “didn’t really care
for the dogs at all.”
My French boyfriend, still an avid globe-trotter
ever afraid of getting stuck in one place, expressed
his mild horror: “Un chien! But you’ll
Yes, indeed. That is precisely the idea.
Having a dog means that I can’t
whisk myself away on a moment’s notice to Egypt
for a quick trot round the pyramids or to Mexico for
a culinary tour of Oaxaca. A dog needs to be taken
care of. A dog needs exercise, food, and affection.
My daily dog walks take me into intimate
contact with my new neighborhood on South Fork, highlighting
not just the houses and trees but every rabbit, lizard,
and smear of roadkill left-over. When the neighbor
up the road slaughters a cow for meat, he brings over
a hoof because “perhaps your dog would like
a little chew...”
The work involved in owning a dog can
be tiresome, but it is exactly the fatigue I’ve
been craving. When my dog reminds me, with melted
chocolate eyes set into a head tilted at just the
right degree for maximum cuteness, that it is after
five and therefore time for dinner, I am only too
happy to drop what I’ve been doing and oblige
the charming beast.
While the heart can lead you on a wild
goose-chase of impermanence, a dog will always insist
you stay put and tend to the food bowl. And so, if
I may humbly proffer an alternative phrase: “Home
is where your dog is,” and I’m home at
Landon Spencer was
raised in Three Rivers.
1917 ~ 2010
Leslie Hart Avery died in the early morning
of Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010, in Berkeley. He was 93.
Leslie was the son of Elizabeth Rebecca
Hart and Leslie Charles Avery. It was classical music
listened to on a phonograph that determined the course
of his life, as well as his mother’s family
Leslie attended the University of California
at Berkeley where he majored in music and met his
wife-to-be, Constance Iola Hannah.
He worked as a classical music broadcaster at radio
station KRE in Berkeley, where his minor in electrical
engineering combined well with his vocal training
and immense knowledge of music. He later became a
broadcast engineer for public television station KQED
in San Francisco.
But Leslie grew up as a Visalia farm
boy and spent his summers in Mineral King, where the
Hart family had been setting up camp along the river
since 1898. He would ride horseback to Mineral King
during a time when the water troughs along the road
He also told a story later of how the
family automobile would have to back up the “old
road” in order to have a gear low enough to
make the grade.
His maternal grandparents, Edwin and
Martha Hart, built a cabin about 1920 and in the ensuing
years other Hart family members purchased cabins in
the West Mineral King area, totalling about six in
In 1956, Leslie’s mother, Elizabeth,
purchased a cabin for her family, which is still used
today by their descendants.
Leslie was also an accomplished photographer.
He has photographs of Mineral King on display at Silver
City and also photographed collectible bottles for
several books he and Constance coauthored with friend
He and Connie also spent much time researching
the history of Mineral King and, as a result, uncovered
many key documents and maps, some of which are on
display at the Mineral King Ranger Station.
Leslie is survived by his wife, Constance,
and his children, Christopher James Avery and Carolyn
Ruth Avery Petersen; his grandchildren, great-granchildren,
Remembrances in memory of Leslie Hart
Avery may be sent to the Mineral King District Association,
P.O. Box 1004, Three Rivers, CA 93271.