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In the News - Friday, October 3, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


All park fires contained

   Local fire officials remained cautiously optimistic that a spate of stubborn wildfires that began with lightning strikes way back in July might not only be contained, but with rain in the weekend forecast, may be doused for good. At least three separate blazes were still cause for concern as of Thursday, Oct. 2, but according to Deb Schweizer, NPS fire information officer, the fires are all contained and remain in patrol status.
   The Hidden Fire, which cost more than $8 million to suppress, was declared 100-percent contained earlier this week. The interagency team that was entrenched at Horse Creek Campground and fighting the stubborn blaze broke camp on September 24 and returned to Southern California.
   At its 10-day peak of operations, the Hidden Fire involved more than 781 firefighters. The North Fork blaze that was started by a lightning strike on Wednesday, Sept. 10, burned 3,700 acres and blanketed Three Rivers in smoke during most mornings over the past few weeks.
   Firefighters ignited burnouts below the Generals Highway in the Little Baldy area to ensure that they could stop the blaze from spreading north. Those operations closed the Generals Highway intermittently, but eventually had the desired effect.
   According to Schweizer, no backfires were ignited in giant sequoia groves as was proposed in one scenario to protect park resources. The only Big Trees to experience fire activity from the Hidden Fire are located in the remote Skagway Grove.
   As an additional precaution, the Crystal Cave Road was closed and, as a result, the cave itself has been closed for the season. The popular park attraction usually remains open for tours through late October.
   The interagency strike team is now awaiting their October muster that traditionally occurs when the Santa Ana winds, on the heels of the first major cold front of the season, fan the flames of Southern California wildfires.
   That scenario could occur as early as this weekend as once again conditions in the Southland are tinder dry and volatile. The northern and central portions of the state are hoping to reap the benefits of a round of Pacific storms that are expected to bring some badly needed moisture to much of the region.
   That precipitation should also help to douse the Tehipite Fire that has charred 11,085 acres of wilderness terrain in the Kings River drainage. More than 4,000 acres of that interagency fire is located within the boundaries of Kings Canyon National Park.
   Along with the Hidden Fire, the Tehipite Fire in Kings Canyon National Park has been the source of some nagging summer smoke throughout the parks and in some foothills communities. It was also started by lightning and has been burning since early July.
   A lightning storm on Monday, Sept. 29, ignited another small blaze near Castle Rocks in the Middle Fork but firefighters got the jump on that one immediately. It was contained while still less than an acre in size.

  “This was an unusual summer for lightning activity and with all the fires in the parks this season we wanted to be sure that the Castle Fire wouldn’t become another big incident,” Schweizer said.
   This week’s fire was in an area that burned during the Castle Fire of 1996. That fire was managed as a prescribed burn and caused some hazardous smoke. The fallout from the incident became a benchmark in fire history and played a major role in determining some of the parameters of the local parks’ current fire management policy.

Boat ramp in at Slick Rock

   Workers building the launch facilities at Slick Rock Recreation Area are expected today to complete the pouring of the concrete for the new boat ramp. According to Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah general manager, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project is on schedule and within the $1.5 million budget.
   The first lane of the ramp was poured Tuesday.

  “Everything is rolling along just fine,” said Deffenbaugh. “The project is actually going better than we anticipated.”
   Deffenbaugh said it was critical to get the lower portions in and done just in case there’s an early season storm that causes a sudden rise in the lake’s level. Next on the agenda will be the finish work on the parking areas and a new restrooms building.

  “Weather permitting, I don’t see any reason why we won’t be done before Thanksgiving,” Deffenbaugh said.
   Deffenbaugh also said that he’s not aware of any fee policy changes in 2009 relative to the use of the new facilities. The plan is to charge $4 per carload to park.
   The newly-revamped Slick Rock Recreation Area will be open daily from dawn till dusk and accommodate a live-in host. Frequent users may purchase a seasonal pass for $30.

East Fork grow site raided

   Several Three Rivers commuters on Monday morning, Sept. 29, reported seeing big trucks that were part of a county Sheriff’s Department convoy moving up-canyon, which could only mean one thing. Somewhere in the rugged foothills above Three Rivers there was another marijuana grow site about to be raided.
   On Monday and Tuesday, a task force of Sheriff’s deputies, with the assistance of CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) and Bureau of Land Management personnel, raided a complex on Grunigen Creek about nine miles up the Mineral King Road.
   The East Fork area has been raided annually with the biggest busts occurring in 2002 and 2004. The recent raid netted 2,915 plants. No arrests were made in connection with the seizure.
   One member of the Sheriff’s tactical squad said he wasn’t surprised to see these growers operating in the same areas that were raided in the past. He said some of these growers are feeling the pinch of stepped-up enforcement in nearby Sequoia National Park so they follow the water sources to just outside park boundaries in the hope that they won’t be detected.
   At this time of year, it is estimated that law officers could raid a different site each day if they had the available resources. That’s why, according Supervisor Allen Ishida, it’s critical that he and his colleagues continue to lobby the feds for funds to aid Tulare County in eradicating grow sites on public lands.
   October, and the arrival of the first frost and significant rainfall, signals the end of the local pot-growing season. CAMP’s last day of operations this year will be Friday, Oct. 17.
   Marijuana seizures in California continue to lead the nation. Season totals for marijuana eradications statewide and in Tulare County will be announced by the end of the month.


Three Rivers Environmental Weekend:

Two days of earth education

   Cooling of the days and nights and a few yellow leaves mean that fall is here. This also means a busy time for the Three Rivers Environmental Weekend crew — the TREW Crew! On the first Saturday of October (tomorrow), the TREW Crew will converge at the Arts Center for events free to the public. On Sunday, there is a green home tour in Visalia and Elderwood. Last year’s tour of six Three Rivers homes was truly awesome!
   On Saturday, Oct. 4, in conjunction with the Environmental Weekend: Day One, the California Native Plant Society will hold their annual sale of native plants from 9 a.m. till noon. All day until 5 p.m., TREW events will take place.
   Outside there will be a solar cooking event. All proceeds from the sale of solar-cooking kits will go toward providing Darfur refugees with solar cookers to save trees and prevent violence against women and children foraging for wood there.
   Bill Becker of Three Rivers will bring his homemade cooker and provide his expertise. There will also be a template for folks who would like to make a cooker of their own.
   A new addition on Saturday will come from Visalia when Dan and Debbie Swassing display their Xebra electric automobile, complete with air conditioning and solar charger (as well as a cord with plug). They believe a closer look might encourage some Three Rivers buyers to reduce the carbon footprint here. The car has a 30-mile range and a road speed of up to 40 mph. If you haven’t seen one up close, you should check it out.
   Meanwhile, indoors, there will be an exhibit of photographs of Yokohl Valley by Shirley Keller and Georgellen Parker of Three Rivers and Ginny Wilson of Lindsay. If you have never explored and experienced the beauty of Yokohl Valley, this is your opportunity.
   A presentation by James Seligman on Yokohl Valley will explain what all of the controversy is about. In addition, throughout the day, there will be presentations by several specialists from Sequoia National Park on air quality, water quality, and habitat affecting plant and animal life.
   Numerous booths will provide information on green-living options. Three Rivers Mercantile will bring items and information on everything from tankless water heaters to the greenest options for home and yard. Architect and former Three Rivers resident Sharon Sheltzer will attend, and several green builders and retrofitters will bring products and information.
   Sunday brings the opportunity to visit green buildings in the valley. Two tours are planned at a cost of $15 per person or $25 per couple. For the first tour, leaving Three Rivers at noon, call 561-4676 for information and reservations. For the second tour at 1 p.m., call 561-4149.
   Proceeds from the tours benefit Tulare County Citizens for Responsible Growth. The TREW Crew believes everyone must do their part to educate themselves and take actions that benefit our planet and future generations. This two-day event is a means to that end.

Arts Alliance

   The Arts Alliance of Three Rivers is sponsoring a Halloween Pumpkin-carving Contest for Three Rivers residents ages 14 and older. On Saturday, Oct. 25, from 10 a.m. to noon, participants are invited to drop off their one or two six-inch to 24-inch carved pumpkins at the Three Rivers Historical Society.
   The pumpkins will be judged that day at 1 p.m. Categories include Spookiest, Most Diabolical, and Most Bewitching.
   Pumpkin-carvers may choose to donate their pumpkin to the Arts Alliance to be sold. All proceeds will benefit the club’s scholarship fund. Carvers are also welcome to keep their pumpkins by marking them “Not for Sale.”
   All of the pumpkins will be on display on Saturday, Oct. 25, from 1 to 3 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 26, through Tuesday, Oct. 28, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pick up of pumpkins will be Tuesday, Oct. 28, from 2 to 3 p.m.
   Information: 561-6276.

St. Clair’s
Altar Society

   The women of St. Clair’s Catholic Mission, in cooperation with area churches, will host this year’s Women’s Interfaith Luncheon, scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 11, noon, at St. Anthony Retreat.
   This year’s theme is “Give Thanks to the Lord for He is Good.” The guest speaker will be Danielle Witt, St. Anthony assistant director, who will present “Gratitude: The Heart of Prayer.”
   It will be a time of prayer, faith sharing, fellowship, food, and fun.   Following a delicious lunch and inspiring program, a Pick-a-Prize raffle will be held, organized by the Presbyterian Women with proceeds benefiting the Three Rivers Historical Society.
   All area women are invited to attend. The cost of the luncheon is $15; make reservations by Wednesday, Oct. 22.
   For more information, call Barbara Lahmann at St. Anthony Retreat, 561-4595, or Jane Dempsey, chairperson, 561-3172.

Volunteers clean up,

spruce up at Lake Kaweah

   The annual Public Lands Day, coordinated by Valerie McKay, park ranger, proved to be a productive day at Lake Kaweah as 165 volunteers (in photo above) picked up trash, painted structures at the Kaweah Heritage Visitor Center and Horse Creek Campground, and completed several much-needed landscaping projects.
   According to Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah general manager, among the tasks completed were some important work in the 7.1-acre mitigation area that was set aside below the dam to preserve species endangered by the enlargement of the reservoir.
   Larry Baker, who has been a ranger at Lake Kaweah since 1986, led one group of volunteers in the installation of a complex of bluebird boxes in the mitigation area. It was an exclamation point of sorts for Ranger Larry, a resident of Three Rivers, who retired this week after 30 years, eight months, of federal service.
   Larry won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, he said. For the immediate future, he plans to help out as a volunteer interpreter and tour guide at the Kaweah Oaks preserve east of Visalia.
   Volunteers who participate in the morning-long chores receive free continental breakfast, lunch, T-shirt, and camping for their efforts.
   There were also educational booths with partner agencies and organizations providing information and giveaways. “Tulare Tom, the Recycling Specialist” (photo, right) made an appearance to promote his favorite earth-friendly tips.


Gloria Hill
1936 ~ 2008

   Gloria Ann Hill of Three Rivers died Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008. She was 72.
   Gloria was born April 29, 1936, in Waukena to Mervin and Katherine (Turk) Barns. She enjoyed art and cooking and was a member of the First Baptist Church in Three Rivers.
   Gloria was preceded in death by her son Mitchell Cary Genter.
She is survived by her husband, Howard Hill of Three Rivers; two sons, Mike Genter and wife Kathie of Visalia and Richard Hill and wife Denise of Chandler, Ariz.; one daughter, Kathyanna Radcliff and husband Rocky of Tehachapi; daughter-in-law Chris Genter; brother Mervin Barns or Norman, Okla.; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
   On Friday, Sept. 26, a service was held at First Baptist Church in Three Rivers with interment at Three Rivers Cemetery.
   Remembrances may be made to First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 35, Three Rivers, CA 93271. Condolences to the family may be sent in care of emchapel@aol.com.


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
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