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In the News - Friday, September 19, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


There's fall, winter, spring, summer and...


Homes threatened during Dinely fire

  It’s happened before and it will probably happen again. A well-meaning owner uses a tractor to do some cleanup work on his property. The tractor comes in contact with brush or strikes a rock, a spark ignites a flame and, in a matter of minutes, a fire spreads rapidly, threatening nearby structures. Fortunately, Three Rivers is home to some of the best firefighters in the business who rush to the scene and do whatever it takes to protect homes and avert a disaster.
   This was the scenario when the first 911 call came into fire dispatch around 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 15. According to one Dinely Drive resident, when he rushed outside he couldn’t believe that he was seeing flames approaching within a couple hundred feet of his home.

  “When I went outside I saw the local deputy who had just arrived,” recalled Bruce Huddleston. “We grabbed the hose to get some water in the vicinity but it was scary watching those flames burn up from the river and embers jump across Dinely.”
   Bruce said within 15 minutes the first engines arrived and soon park helicopters were making direct hits with buckets of river water, stopping the blaze just short of his house and several nearby homes.  One firefighter at the scene said the local parks air attack crew deserve a special save on this fire.

  “The Dinely Fire was actually the jurisdiction of Cal Fire and Tulare County Fire,” said Dave Bartlett, fire management officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. “Being a good neighbor, we always assist in any we that we can.”
   The fire, which started in the river bottom, consumed a total of six acres. More than a dozen engines and aircraft from three fire departments responded. Firefighters on the ground used chainsaws and shovels to make sure there were no smoldering embers in the burned area.
   The Dinely Fire area was patrolled by firefighters until Wednesday when the incident was declared officially closed. Under California law, the tractor operator could in certain circumstances be held accountable for suppression costs.

Crystal Cave closed due to Hidden Fire

   After a relatively quiet local fire season, firefighters in the western U.S. are now turning their attention to a stubborn, rapidly-spreading wildfire burning in the North Fork drainage 12 miles north of Three Rivers. That’s what an interagency fire management team told attendees at a public briefing Wednesday evening at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.

  “We wanted to hold this meeting tonight because for the next couple of weeks this fire is going have an impact on the community,” said Deb Schweizer, fire information officer at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. “We’re trying to do everything possible to keep this impact positive.”
   Schweizer said that several hundred firefighters and support personnel will be using Three Rivers as a base for operations, visiting local businesses, eating in restaurants, and traveling to and from Sequoia National Park. But the downside will be episodes of potentially harmful smoke.
   Air-quality monitors are gathering data at several key locations along the west slope of the Sierra in an attempt, Schweizer said, to minimize the risk to foothills communities.
   Dave Bartlett, the parks’ fire management officer, said after the lightning-caused fire was first reported on Sept. 10, all the parks’ available resources responded, but the rugged terrain and heavy fuels at the 6,000-foot elevation level made it logistically impossible for hand crews to contain the blaze.

  “In the first five days, we dumped 286,000 gallons of retardant and hundreds of thousands of gallons of water in support of the two hand crews we had on the ground,” Bartlett said.
   He said that by Monday, Sept. 15, the local command realized the fire was growing beyond the scope of the parks’ resources, so the interagency team was summoned to Three Rivers. The Southern California management team, under Carleton Joseph, officially took command of the incident on Tuesday, Sept. 16.
   Although the Hidden Fire — so-dubbed because of its proximity to Hidden Spring in Sequoia National Park — poses unique challenges because of the remote, roadless, steep wilderness terrain, Joseph said fighting these fires is what his team was created to do. They are hopeful of having this fire contained before the onset of the traditional Santa Ana wind-driven fire season (October through January) in Southern California.
   Many of these fires that burn in the dry mountainous west are not completely out until the first significant rainfall. A wildland fire like the Hidden Fire can be especially stubborn because when some of these trees burn, logs roll down slope into unburned areas that can become another intense blaze.

  “The fire is burning in the vicinity of at least three giant sequoia groves and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Bartlett said. “We might introduce some low-intensity fire in these locales so that if the fire does get to the groves, much of the fuel will already be consumed.”
   The team also updated the current statistics on the fire and said that the original one-quarter acre blaze had grown to more than 750 acres in the past week. The team has established a temporary fire camp at Horse Creek Campground at Lake Kaweah to service more than 300 firefighters and support personnel who have been assigned to work the fire.
   Bartlett assured some North Fork residents that he was 99 percent sure that the Hidden Fire, which is burning mostly upslope toward the Generals Highway, would never burn back and reach Three Rivers.
   The Tehipite Fire, burning in the remote wilderness above the Kings River canyon, has been burning since July and is reaching timberline along its northern perimeter. Bartlett said that blaze has grown to more than 8,000 acres.
   Hikers planning to use any of the trails in either these areas should call ahead for the latest closure information (559-565-3341). The Crystal Cave road is closed due to its proximity to the Hidden Fire.

Three new teachers

start careers at WHS

   While many school districts in California are consolidating positions and combining classes, the Woodlake School District is growing and posted a net gain in teaching positions for the 2008-2009 academic year. Three new teachers were hired at Woodlake High; one each in science, math, and agricultural mechanics.
   The new science teacher is NICOLE FRAZIER, 26, of Tulare. Mrs. Frazier describes herself as “a born-and-raised Central Valley girl” who graduated from Exeter High in 2000.
   After her stint as a Monarch, she attended the College of Sequoias (COS) in Visalia where she earned an associate of arts degree with an emphasis in Criminal Justice.
   She transferred to Fresno State and graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, specializing in drug and alcohol studies and victim services. Nicole said she enjoyed the Bulldog community, but Tulare County is where her heart is and where she wanted to live and work.

  “I couldn’t be happier with this opportunity to teach Biology at Woodlake High,” Nicole said. “I feel so welcome here and am honored to be part of Tiger Pride. I am really looking forward to getting to know the Woodlake community and helping its students succeed.”
   Nicole lives with her husband, Cacy, three dogs, a rat, a few horses, and some adopted kittens. In her limited spare time, she enjoys camping and riding horses when she can steal away for a weekend in the mountains.
   JAISON NORTON, 28, the new math teacher is a relative newcomer to Tulare County with a Three Rivers connection. He is the son-in-law of Darrell and Suzanne Rich. He married Laurienne Rich in 2002.
   Mr. Norton grew up in Riverside where he played football and graduated from high school in 1998.
   He attended Walla Walla College in Washington and during his junior year studied Spanish abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. When his undergraduate work was completed, he was awarded a science degree from Portland State University.
   Jaison said for his masters coursework, he participated in a distance-learning program offered through Strayer University of Washington, D.C. He earned an MBA in marketing after completing that program.
   Woodlake’s newest math teacher said he is a good fit with the Woodlake job because his science degree included lots of math courses. His primary focus, he said, will be teaching Algebra and getting Woodlake students ready to pass the mandatory high school exit exam.
   He and his wife of six years currently live in Exeter. Jaison said he is enjoying the local family ties, and the Woodlake position gives him the opportunity to do something he has always wanted to do, work with kids.
   CHARLIE ABEE, 25, also comes to the Woodlake ag department with Tulare County ties and brings lots of Future Farmers of America (FFA) experience.
   A 2001 graduate of Strathmore High School, Mr. Abee served as an FFA chapter officer in high school and then earned an American FFA degree in 2003.

  “I’ve raised lots of market animals from cattle to sheep and even hogs,” Charlie said.
   Like Nicole Frazier, Charlie started at COS, where he earned a degree in Animal Science and then transferred to Fresno State. As a Bulldog, Charlie majored in ag education with an emphasis in agricultural mechanics.
   Charlie said he has also worked in the fields for Syngenta Crop Protection so he knows what job opportunities are out there. After finishing his student teaching at Hanford High, Charlie jumped at the chance to teach at Woodlake.

  “I look forward to serving the community of Woodlake as an ag instructor,” Charlie said. “I see so many opportunities for students to learn and be successful in the field of Agriculture.”

Wood ‘N’ Horse winds down

successful show season

   August proved to be a winning month for the Wood ‘N’ Horse Show Team. Christy Wood of Three Rivers and her students traveled to Los Angeles for two back-to-back national and state appaloosa shows, and they won the most high points that were offered at both shows.
   Show team members competed and won in several classes:
Mary Ann Boylan of Salinas won High Point All-Around Horse, High Point Masters, High Point Non-Pro, and High Point Games Horse.
   Erin Farnsworth of Three Rivers won High Point Senior English Horse, and High Point Over Fences.
   Sue Rojcewicz of Salinas won High Point 35 and Over Non-Pro
and Reserve High Point Games.
   Cara Peterson of Visalia won several firsts in 35 and Over Western Pleasure and Equitation.
   At both shows, Christy won High Point Junior English Horse.
   The newest member of the show team, Tatiana Smith of Ivanhoe, made her horse show debut at the L.A. shows in Lead Line Western Equitation and won two first places, four second places, a third and  a fourth place.
   Five of the show team members entered the Heritage class, which Christy describes as an exciting walk through history.
The final show of 2008 for several of the team members will be the Appaloosa World Show in Fort Worth, Texas, scheduled for late October.


Celebrating the 75th anniversary

of the Civilian Conservation Corps

in Three Rivers, Sequoia National Park,

and throughout the nation

By Jay O’Connell



Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.



   In the early 1930s, as economic depression wore on, Americans had a hard time believing President Herbert Hoover when he told them that “prosperity is just around the corner.” The period from 1929 to 1932 came to be called “Hoover Days.”
   Shanty-towns of itinerates were nicknamed “Hoovervilles.” The poor and hungry of the West were reduced to catching and eating jackrabbits, or “Hoover Hogs.” And more than a million hobos rode the rails on freight cars they cynically named “Hoover Pullmans,” mocking the luxuriously appointed Pullman railcars.
   Although Hoover instituted a number of programs, which mostly proved ineffective, he believed in a restricted role for government in regard to economic affairs. His administration operated on the expectation that the national marketplace would eventually correct itself and good times would return.
   In July 1932, as the Great Depression worsened, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the Democratic Party’s candidate for president with his pledge of a “new deal for the American people.” FDR, whose campaign jingle was “Happy Days Are Here Again,” won by a landslide in the November election, capturing nearly 23 million votes to Hoover’s less than 16 million. (Roosevelt took the Electoral College 472 to 59.)
   In Tulare County, Roosevelt bested Hoover nearly two-to-one. In the Three Rivers district he received 129 votes to Hoover’s 77.
A political storm swept the country that November, and Democrats garnered a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives and with control of 59 seats, they established a strong majority in the Senate as well.
   On March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office with an often-quoted and moving inaugural address, asserting a “firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” One result of FDR’s efforts to convert retreat into advance was the Civilian Conservation Corps.
   One of the greatest crises facing FDR as he took office in 1933 was staggering unemployment. One conservative estimate from the American Federation of Labor put the number of unemployed at 13,689,000, but unofficial estimates were as high as 15 million. This translated to one-in-four wage earners being out of work, with little hope of finding any job.
   Unemployment was an issue no one could ignore, but FDR was also deeply concerned with forest conservation. While it was his older cousin, Teddy Roosevelt, whom we most generally associate with the conservation movement, an ambitious program of reforestation in New York state during FDR’s tenure as governor enhanced his reputation as a conservationist.
   With conservation and unemployment among his prime concerns, the new president proposed “to create a civilian conservation corps to be used in simple work, not interfering with normal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control and similar projects.” It was one of many sweeping relief and reform programs instituted in the amazing first “100 Days” of Roosevelt’s presidency.
   Consider the following timeline. On March 21, 1933, Roosevelt sent to the 73rd Congress, then in emergency session, his proposal to recruit thousands of unemployed young men in a peacetime labor force. Ten days later, the Emergency Conservation Work Act had passed both houses and was on the president’s desk to be signed into law.
   A week later, on April 7, 1933, Henry Rich of Alexandria, Va., became the first enrollee inducted into the Civilian Conservation Corps at a hastily assembled group of tents given the name Camp Roosevelt in the Virginia hills. By April 10, the original quota of 25,000 young men had been filled, and the program was rapidly expanded.
   Only 35 days had elapsed between FDR’s inauguration and the enlistment of the first CCC boy (as they were almost always called.)
Although rushed into existence, the details of this program had been meticulously planned during the months between FDR’s election and his inauguration. The seeds of the idea had been planted as early as 1930, when as governor of New York, FDR had assembled a brain trust to devise programs to alleviate hard times.
   In fact, the idea of organizing young men as a work force for public service was not a new one. In 1912, noted Harvard philosopher William James, in an essay entitled “The Moral Equivalent of War,” pondered the benefits of conscription of the entire youthful population for peaceful service.
   Most remarkable of all, perhaps, was not how fast the CCCs were established, but that four cabinet departments — Labor, Interior, Agriculture, and War —were harnessed together to run the program. Enlistment was handled by the Department of Labor, financing was through the Budget Director, camps were administrated by the Armed Forces, and camp location and work projects assigned either by the Department of Agriculture or, as was the case in Sequoia National Park, the Department of Interior.
   To qualify for the CCCs, a boy had to be between 18 and 25 years of age (this was later expanded slightly), single, jobless, in good physical condition, and have financial need. Enrollees signed up voluntarily for a six-month term (which could be extended for up to two years; longer if promoted to a leadership position). Enrollees were paid $30 a month, $22 to $25 of which was sent directly to their families.
   By July 1, 1933, three months after the first man had been enrolled, close to 275,000 boys and young men were enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps. (The program had expanded to include 25,000 veterans of World War I.)
   Thousands more local experienced men (LEMs as they came to be called) were also employed in the more than 1,400 CCC camps across the nation. It was, quite simply, the most rapid, large-scale mobilization of men our country has ever known.
   It was Roosevelt’s Forest Army. And they were marching toward Three Rivers and Sequoia.
   Jay O’Connell was raised in Three Rivers and currently works in the television industry in Southern California. He is the author of three books on local history, most recently Train Robber’s Daughter: The Melodramatic Life of Eva Evans, 1876-1970.


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