In the News - Friday, September 2, 2011
Kaweah General Store owner wins appeal
Farshad “Chad” Tafti, along with his brother, Fred, own and operate several Tulare County businesses, including the Kaweah General Store and Riverfront Cabins in Three Rivers. The Taftis are no strangers to rules, regulations, permits, fees, and numerous appearances before county commissions and boards.
In a recent case involving the underground tanks associated with three former gas pumps at Kaweah General Store, the County of Tulare rendered a judgment of more than $1.1 million in civil penalties after Tafti appealed the original fine of $138,824 levied by the Tulare County Division of Environmental Health.
“That amount [$1.1 million] was based on an administrative law judge’s finding that Mr. Tafti was a recalcitrant and significant violator; that he had engaged in previous similar violations at another facility; the violations continued over a lengthy period of time; and that the facility was located within 1,000 feet of two public drinking water wells,” said Julia Langley, deputy county counsel.
When Chad was informed that he could appeal the stiff fine, that’s precisely what he did. He took his case to the Court of Appeals in Fresno, raising issues of notice, fairness, due process, and statutory authority, among others.
The court concluded that under unique circumstances, the appellant did not receive fair and adequate notice. The $1.1 million judgment was reversed and Mr. Tafti proved that one can fight city hall and sometimes people might even win.
‘Willow Fire’ discovered in Sequoia
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks fire personnel worked quickly this week to contain an eight-acre fire that was discovered Tuesday, Aug. 30, burning in the southern Sequoia backcountry west of the upper Kern River drainage between Big Arroyo and Rattlesnake creeks. The small blaze, located at 8,600 feet elevation on the east side of Franklin Pass, was believed to have been sparked by lightning strikes that accompanied sporadic thundershowers during the previous weekend.
Deb Schweizer, fire education specialist for the local national parks, called the blaze a “sleeper fire” that smoldered for a couple of days and then ignited. The newly discovered fire was burning near an area with lots of fuel so the decision was made to opt for immediate containment.
“There was potential for a lot more smoke for the Kern Canyon and given what the Lion Fire has already done this season we had 17 firefighters flown in to put a direct line around the Willow Fire.”
Schweizer said no retardant was used and the building of fire line would not significantly impact the wilderness environment. The parks’ firefighters will continue to monitor the area for any flare-ups or changes in fire behavior.
Flying high (photo caption)
On Saturday, Aug. 27, a Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks helicopter made numerous trips in and out of the Mineral King valley over Farewell Gap to relocate a trail crew into lower Rattlesnake Canyon. The winter of 2010-2011 took its toll on High Sierra trails, leaving lots of rockslides and avalanche debris. The sustained snowpack also delayed trail-crew work in the earlier part of the summer season.
Class of 2024 (photo caption)
Meet the newest and youngest students at Three Rivers Union School. This year’s class consists of 18 kindergartners, pictured here with teacher Katie St. Martin (back left) and instructional aide Robin Pena (back right). This year’s total enrollment for the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school is 142 students. A decade ago — August 2001 — the enrollment was 220.
Lion Fire nearly contained, trails reopen
The Lion Fire burning in the backcountry of Sequoia National Forest and Sequoia National Park southeast of Three Rivers since July 8 is 95 percent contained. Sequoia National Forest officials issued a statement last week with the latest closure information but also said it’s unknown when the 20,050 acre fire will be declared officially out.
Clean-up operations have already begun and some trails have reopened, according to Denise Alonzo, public affairs specialist for the Western Divide and the Hume Lake Ranger districts. Trails to Maggie Lakes and Coyote Lakes, prime golden trout fisheries, were reopened as of August 26.
Some travel north of the Sequoia Forest/Sequoia Park boundary remains prohibited.
Anyone planning to travel into the Golden Trout Wilderness is asked to contact the Western Divide Ranger District at 539-2607 during regular business hours. For trip-planning information relative to the Hockett plateau and the southernmost areas of Sequoia National Park, call 565-3766.
Rangers busy with rescues
This season has had an unprecedented number of search and rescues (SARs) by local park rangers, and the calls for help keep on coming. On Friday, August 26, separate rescues had incident command prioritizing who goes when.
But it was one climber in a group of three peakbaggers near the northern boundary of Kings Canyon National Park that may have been in the most serious straits. The incident began when park rangers received a call at 6:30 p.m. on August 23. Because of impending darkness, a rescue team could not be mobilized from LeConte Ranger Station until the following morning
What rangers learned was that three climbers had attempted to reach the summit of Thunderbolt Peak. That renowned peak, at 14,003 feet in elevation, is one of a dozen “Fourteeners” within the boundaries of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Thunderbolt is also considered one of the most challenging. During this recent ascent, two of the climbers turned back, but a third climber, a 62-year-old male from Carmel, continued the ascent.
The solo climber fell and suffered compound fractures but managed to get to a ledge near the corner of a 1,300 foot vertical wall above Thunderbolt Pass. Rangers reached the stranded climber the next day and treated the victim at the scene for open fractures to a leg and arm, dehydration, and hypothermia.
When a weather window arrived later that afternoon, the injured climber was airlifted to a Nevada medical facility where he received further treatment.
Another near-tragedy was averted in the front-country when rangers rescued a 45-year-old Visalia woman from a vehicle that had plunged off Generals Highway on Friday evening, Aug. 26. It’s unknown what caused the woman’s four-door Nissan to become airborne, plunge 200 feet down an embankment, and come to a stop in a tree.
The solo vehicle accident occurred in the Deer Ridge area. The woman was able to call out on a cell phone and guide rangers in the darkness to her location, where they extricated her from the precarious perch. She complained of shoulder pain but the complete extent of her injuries was not known. She was transported by ambulance to Visalia.
In other unrelated incidents, a 66-year-old male from Yorba Linda was transported out of Guyot Creek near Mount Whitney on August 24 after having complained to park rangers of two successive days of chest pain. He was airlifted to Southern Inyo Medical Center in Bishop.
A 34-year-old male from Tulare was hiking on August 26 along the Little Five Lakes Trail in Sequoia when he fell and gashed his lower leg on a rock. He was airlifted to Ash Mountain where he was transported home.
3R fire quickly doused
A spot fire at 46085 Sierra Drive was swiftly extinguished by a neighbor who noticed the flames shortly before noon on Thursday, Aug. 23. The fire started in leaves and brush just east of the Buckeye Tree Lodge near the Sequoia National Park entrance.
Personnel responded from Cal Fire and Tulare County Fire Department to ensure that the fire was out and to investigate the cause. From information gathered at the scene, the cause of the fire was determined to be “suspicious.”
An investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about this incident or any wildland fire should call Cal Fire Prevention at 636-4121.
Mineral King roadwork planned
Although some of the potholes have been filled preliminarily, the start of the chip-seal application on the Mineral King Road in Sequoia National Park has been postponed until September 12. That’s also the day when the replacement of the bridge at road’s end is set to begin construction.
Given the waning summer season, the start date of the chip sealing could be postponed even longer due to the possibility of inclement weather and low ambient and surface temperatures. In the meantime, park workers will continue to stage materials necessary for the bridge replacement.
The bridge, which was deemed unsafe last year, will be closed for reconstruction starting at 7 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 12. Temporary pedestrian and ATV access will be available for cabin residents of the east Mineral King area.
According to the work plan, the bridge could be closed until October 20 but NPS officials don’t expect the project to require the full term of the contract for completion.
High Sierra Jazz Band plans
35th anniversary celebration
by Stan Huddleston
From modest beginnings in Three Rivers in October 1976, the High Sierra Jazz Band has been there, done that, in the relatively small world of traditional (Dixieland/classic) jazz. To mention some of the band’s highlights in its 35-year history, High Sierra has performed on a sailboat on Folsom Lake, Calif.; on the back of a lorry in Edinburgh, Scotland; on the Mississippi Queen paddlewheel steamboat; on 35 ocean and river cruises; during 12 trips to Europe; on stage at the Sydney Opera House in Australia; in tents; in wool sheds in the Australian Outback; in a livery stable in the Rockies; cathedrals; churches of all faiths; and recently, in an abandoned Roman amphitheater in the south of France.
High Sierra Jazz Band has also perfomed on radio, television, telephone, and on its own website — highsierrajazzband.com — and has several videos on YouTube for the world to see.
The band has performed for California governors and a yet-to-be president of the United States.
But, without reservation, the band’s favorite audience of all time is the one that gathers once a month on Saturday nights at the Three Rivers Memorial Building. For 35 years, High Sierra has been the house band of the Sierra Traditional Jazz Club.
The Three Rivers guys and charter members of the band who make up the rhythm section of the band are Bruce Huddleston, piano; Charlie Castro, drums; Earl McKee, sousaphone, and me (Stan Huddleston), banjo/guitar.
The front line consists of Howard Miyata, trombone (22 years with the band); Pieter Meijers, leader and reedman; and Bryan Shaw, cornet and trumpet. Howard is from the Bay Area; Pieter and Bryan are from Los Angeles and Orange County, respectively.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, an anniversary party is planned for High Sierra Jazz Band at the Lions Arena in Three Rivers. The gala event will begin at noon and continue until 8 p.m.
There will be dinner served, performances by High Sierra and their guest jazz band, Blue Street from Fresno, who are like High Sierra’s first cousins.
The idea is to celebrate 35 years of Dixieland jazz, West Coast style, by the host band, and Dixieland jazz with many variations from our guest band.
Stan Huddleston of Three Rivers is an original member of High Sierra Jazz Band.
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12-1:15 p.m.: Blue Street
1:30-2:45 p.m.: High Sierra
3-5 p.m.: Social hour, dinner
5-6:15 p.m.: Blue Street
6:30-8 p.m.: High Sierra
Reservations are required for this event. The cost for the day is $30 (Sierra Traditional Jazz Club members receive a $5 discount). Reservations must be received by Tuesday, Sept. 6.
For information, call 561-4549.