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In the News -
Friday, OCTOBER 5, 2007
Sequoia fire sparks concern
A fire intentionally ignited Sunday, Sept. 30, by the Park
Service in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park caused plumes
of smoke to rise on the skyline and many Three Rivers residents to wonder
as to the cause.
A press release received at noon on Friday, Sept. 28, by
The Kaweah Commonwealth announcing the park’s plans to begin a prescribed
fire project the next day was received too late for the newspaper to inform
readers in the week’s recent issue. As a result, myriad phone calls
were received via the newspaper’s business and personal phone numbers.
soon as I saw the smoke rising above the canyon, I knew people would be
concerned,” said Sarah Elliott, co-publisher of the Commonwealth.
“I felt as if I failed at my job because we weren’t given
the opportunity to inform the community and its visitors about the fire.
For that, I apologize to our readers.”
This week, several other reports have been received by residents
in the Middle Fork canyon that their smoke alarms were activated by the
smoke that has settled into the drainage during the early morning hours.
The fire, called the Wallspring Prescribed Fire, is a 175-acre
unit located south of the Giant Forest Museum between the Moro Rock Road
and the Generals Highway.
The reason for the fire in the famous Giant Forest sequoia
grove is because fire opens the Big Trees’ cones and releases the
seeds into the nutrient-rich ash and mineral soil, which assists with
germination. Fire also thins competing vegetation and opens the canopy
to allow the sun to shine through.
As for the smoke, park visitors and area residents should
keep windows closed during smoky periods and limit outdoor activities.
According to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, if
smoke can be smelled, then harmful particulates are being inhaled.
Those most at risk are the young and the old, and people
with heart and lung conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma,
Children with asthma are especially vulnerable. But even
the lungs of healthy children can become irritated.
Children are more susceptible because their lungs are still
developing. Pound for pound, they also breathe in more air than adults.
Another prescribed fire project scheduled for this fall is
the Davenport Prescribed Fire, an 881-acre burn in the Mineral King area
of Sequoia National Park, located in the East Fork canyon of the Kaweah
Other projects are scheduled for Cedar Grove and Grant Grove,
which will not impact Three Rivers with smoke.
Ambulance fix pondered
Three Rivers ambulance volunteers and county Supervisor Allen
Ishida told a large gathering at last Monday’s Town Hall Meeting
that the ambulance crisis can be fixed but it’s going to take some
“give and take” on the part of the companies that now serve
the incorporated cities of Tulare County. In outlying areas like Three
Rivers, the coverage is inconsistent at best, and sooner or later there
will be a patient who cannot afford to wait for an ambulance to arrive
from down in the valley.
That was the prognosis from Sandy Owen, president of the
Three Rivers Volunteer Ambulance board, who promised that the group of
a six volunteers will hang on until the county has something better in
the 1970s] we could always provide adequate care,” Sandy said. “But
now we don’t have enough trained volunteers to answer all the calls.
We make most of our calls, but not all the calls.”
Of course, it’s the calls when nobody is available
in Three Rivers that has Sandy and her dedicated volunteers concerned
“We should have paramedics and an ambulance stationed right here
in Three Rivers 24/7,” Sandy said.
Ishida said that he and his fellow supervisors are working
on an ambulance plan and all the companies are highly motivated because
an ambulance contract for the county is up for renewal Jan. 1, 2008.
can’t say for sure that we will have one provider countywide by
the next contract, but there will be some big changes coming soon,”
Ishida said. “The ambulance service has to change along with local
healthcare because the entire system is near collapse.”
He said the ambulance service in outlying areas became an
acute problem when the state and federal governments decided to restructure
their reimbursing of ambulance providers. Now it doesn’t pay to
service areas like Three Rivers, and the companies say they lose money
on longer trips.
Sandy said that if the residents of areas like Three Rivers
and Springville make their collective voice heard, the Board of Supervisors
will take the necessary action to bring Tulare County in line with what
other counties are already doing.
In other Town Meeting-related business, Alexandra Picavet,
spokesperson for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, announced that
park visitation was up for summer 2007 and visits were enhanced by the
new park shuttle. Picavet described the intra-park shuttle as “very
successful” and said that it operated at 75 percent capacity.
Picavet also said that as a result of the parks’ Operation
Weed Free, 12 suspects had been arrested or deported during the pot bust
season. More than 30,000 plants had been eradicated and eight grow sites
were also abandoned within park boundaries, she said.
Tom Sparks, speaking on behalf of the Kaweah Scenic Highway
project, said that a draft of the corridor protection plan is being circulated
among Tulare County planners and should be released for public review
soon. He was hopeful that a meeting to discuss the new plan would be held
Two fires, same locale
Two separate blazes at the same address — 42695 North
Fork Drive — on consecutive days (Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 1 and
2) had Tulare County firefighters scurrying back and forth to the same
scene and wondering if a second fire was just a coincidence.
The first fire was reported at 7 p.m. Monday, and when firefighters
arrived they found a small grass fire had started after a battery used
to power a fuel pump created an errant spark. According to information
they were able to gather at the scene, gas was being pumped from a motor
home’s generator into a plastic container.
The spark caused the plastic container and the generator
to catch fire, and after the owner of the motor home tossed the plastic
container away it started a grassfire. Simultaneously, a small fire started
in the wall of the motor home.
Firefighters mopped up the fires and looked for any clues
of where the fire might spread. They used a thermal camera to locate potential
After the owner had drilled a hole in the side of the motor
home and the scene had sufficiently cooled, the five engine companies
that responded were released. At 7:10 the next morning, fire personnel
were again summoned to the same location.
This time, a small wooden shed was burning, which is situated
about 10 feet away from the motor home. Although there was vegetation
and combustible debris around the shed, there were no indications that
the two blazes were connected.
At least one-half of the structure burned as well as some
of the contents of the shed. The cause of the second blaze is under investigation.
Public Lands Day
A throng of 403 volunteers — the most ever to register
for the local event — arrived at Lake Kaweah early Saturday, Sept.
29, to spend the morning sprucing up, fixing up, and cleaning up the surrounding
recreation areas. The enthusiastic contingent participated in campground
restoration, painting, landscaping, litter pickup, and more. The event
was part of Public Lands Day, commemorated nationwide each September.
Dinner Dance in weekend forecast
It’s the Three Rivers version of Oktoberfest. It’s
in its fifth year and is solely for friends and neighbors in Three Rivers
to enjoy each other and some good old-fashioned Lions hospitality.
But mostly the annual All-Town Dinner Dance is just what
the name implies, a delicious dinner served at Lions Arena to the tunes
of two outstanding bands that can play what’s new and those classic
oldies that can get everybody out on the dance floor.
all the events [the Three Rivers Lions] put on each year there is nothing
that can compare to seeing three generations of a Three Rivers family
out on the dance floor with all their friends,” said Glenn McIntyre,
Lions Club president. “It’s the party of the year and not
to be missed.”
Glenn knows a little something about how to throw a party.
After all it’s a big part of his Gateway Restaurant business. From
the outset, this event as been his baby and he serves as master of ceremonies,
not to mention head chef, ticket vendor, and publicist. Each year, he
has tried different bands, various activities to keep the kids amused,
and just the right menu so that even the ficklest of eaters can find something
Now the Dinner Dance formula really works, he said. While
the kids get to romp in the oversized bounce house, mom and dad and everyone
else will move and groove to the country sounds of the Fifty Buck Band.
As the sun goes down, it will time for a trip to Motown via
the artistry of Papa Bear & Company. This Fresno outfit can really
turn up the heat.
Saturday’s weather will be picturesque with a warm,
sunny afternoon and just the right touch of cool for an evening of dancing.
out and see what your friends and neighbors are up to,” said Glenn.
“It’s all for fun, and 100 percent of the funds we raise will
be used for Lions good deeds in the Three Rivers community.”
Three Rivers artist Jana Botkin has placed in the “Celebrate
Agriculture & The Arts,” an annual juried and judged art show
Jana placed first in the Farm Machinery Structures category
with her pencil and colored pencil piece titled “Size Matters.”
She was awarded second place in the Citrus category with an oil painting
titled “There’s Nothing Like a Navel.”
Since 1993, Jana has been establishing her reputation as
a pencil artist working in the subject matters of both citrus and Sequoia
National Park. Currently, she is working in oil.
The Celebrate Agriculture & The Arts exhibit and competition
promotes a broader interest and understanding of agriculture as an industry
while showcasing the work of professional artists in an exemplary exhibit
with a unique format.
The exhibit will continue at the Circle Gallery in Madera
through Friday, Nov. 9. Then the winners in each category will be traveling
to other locations for further exhibit.
To visit the show at the Madera gallery, contact the facility
for operating hours and driving directions by calling 661-7005 or logging
on to www.maderaarts.org.
Jana’s work can be seen in Three Rivers at Sequoia
Gifts & Souvenirs and Reimer’s Candies and Gifts. Her home studio
is open by appointment; call 561-7606.
Gary Hart — who was raised in Three Rivers and whose
parents, Bill and Elaine, still reside here — was featured in his
hometown newspaper, the Nome Nugget, for a recent accomplishment of retrofitting
his 3,600-square-foot home to become the first in the entire state of
Alaska — and possibly even the nation — to be heated solely
by a combination of solar and wind power.
Previously to keep his house warm during the long Alaska
winters, Gary burned 250 gallons of heating oil each month. At $4 a gallon,
that adds up to an excruciating energy bill.
Now, on sunny days, three solar panels will do the work to
heat water and an 80-gallon glycol tank in the boiler room. When clouds
prevail, the windmill picks up the slack.
The project set Gary back about $20,000. He predicts it will
pay for itself in about three years.
HIKING THE PARKS
family’s journey into
wilderness and back
Sunday, July 15
Spring Lake to Big Arroyo
This is part three in a series about a Sierra backpacking trip.
* * *
Getting up early has its advantages. But don’t ask
our kids about that because they aren’t well-versed in this concept.
While they slept, Mom and Dad boiled water for tea and coffee,
respectively, and found a sunny boulder on which to sit, sip, and view
Right on cue, nine deer walked onto the peninsula on the
east side of the lake. They began grazing and drinking, but soon a few
The youngsters began playing deer games along the shore,
butting heads and chasing each other around; it was quite entertaining.
When one of them stopped to drink out of the lake, he apparently encroached
on the space of a more mature deer that was not in the mood to tolerate
such child’s play and decided to show its dominance by chasing the
smaller deer into the lake.
The young deer stood there for several minutes, seemingly
waiting for permission, or perhaps a safe escape route, to leave the water.
Eventually, the older deer lost interest, and the smaller deer waded back
The herd soon grazed their way out of sight, and we got busy
organizing and preparing to load the backpacks. We rousted the kids just
as the deer, which were previously on the opposite side of the lake, arrived
on our rocky perch.
They were pretending to munch on the sparse vegetation surrounding
our camp, but it was just a ruse because soon curiosity got the best of
them. The first glimpse the kids took out of their tent that morning consisted
of a view of two deer staring at them from just 10 feet away with a sunny
Spring Lake shimmering in the background.
As the sleeping bags were stuffed and water heated for hot
chocolate and oatmeal, the deer remained an amusing diversion. They had
us surrounded, nibbling willow and watching, showing no outward signs
of begging or trying to otherwise obtain food or gear (we temporarily
lost a couple of hats to a buck a few years back), just being curious
as deer tend to be.
As we donned our packs for the day’s journey, we were
rather impressed at our early start. On past trips, we devoted a lot more
time to dismantling camp and loading the packs; no matter how hard we
tried, this family of four could never be on the trail before 8:30 or
Now it was 7:40 in the morning. The early start would behoove
us on this day because a look skyward revealed cumulating cumulus clouds.
We were headed to Black Rock Pass, which was looming to the
north, looking like a large shadow amidst the surrounding white granite
peaks along the Great Western Divide. There is no trail from Spring Lake
to the Black Rock Pass trail, but when studying this route on a topographical
map from the comfort of home, it looked as though we would be able to
cross Spring Lake’s outlet and, without losing any elevation, contour
along the mountain’s south slope to pick up the trail at about the
When face to face with this terrain, however, it was obvious
this was not feasible. The mountainside that didn’t look so treacherous
on the map was in reality an enormous, unstable talus pile.
The alternate route would require that we lose a couple hundred
feet in elevation, a decision that is never taken lightly, but necessary
at times for the sake of safety. We stayed on the west side of the outlet
creek, picking our way through another onerous talus field, then rock-hopped
across the waterway when we reached a thicket of willows at the bottom
The Black Rock Pass trail is easy to spot anywhere along
this route, so we got a bead on where we could best merge onto it and
began heading diagonally in this direction. A couple hundred yards before
reaching the trail, we ended up on an obscure path that at first we thought
may have been a game trail until it gave way to switchbacks when the going
This old use trail took us to where we had been headed, some
large junipers along the main trail. Now all that was left to do was climb
the 1,000-odd vertical feet to the pass.
The view from Black Rock Pass is expansive — Kaweah
Peaks, Big Arroyo, Little Five Lakes, Chagoopa Plateau, Kern Canyon, and
the Whitney crest about 16 air miles distant — but while the others
were taking photos and snacking on Clif bars, I was distrait, pondering
an upcoming trail junction and knowing a decision needed to be made about
a route change.
That’s the deal with backpacking. It’s a matter
of personal responsibility, and if anyone in the backcountry ever thinks
they are in complete control, they are thoroughly mistaken.
A rerouting of the trip was imminent because the altitude
and John weren’t getting along, and he was traveling slower than
what our schedule dictated. In a few miles, we would be reaching the High
Sierra Trail, where we had planned to turn east and head into the Kern
Canyon, but I was considering hanging a left and staying within closer
proximity to the frontcountry.
I had also been noticing that proffering tactful advice had
given way to impatience with this slower member of the party, especially
as the thunderheads began roiling overhead. This is not the temperament
that should prevail when privileged to have vacation time in the wilderness.
I was disappointed about this looming change in plans. Compounding
my mood, to the north, in the Big Arroyo and along the Kaweah Peaks Ridge,
a downpour was visible and heading our way.
Then the hailstorm hit. It lasted only a few minutes, but
it got us all up and moving down the trail. We had no choice but to walk
into the storm.
Just above the largest of the lovely Little Five Lakes, the
rain was constant enough that we stopped under some sheltering firs to
dig out the pack covers and raingear. After leaving the Little Five Lakes
behind, the rain let up enough that we were able to stop on a forested
plateau and spread out on a large, smooth rock for a lunch of trail mix,
dehydrated fruit, crackers topped with peanut butter or parmesan cheese,
and, for dessert, a Payday candy bar.
The rain once again began to fall. We continued steadily
downhill toward Big Arroyo, stopping just once as the lightning came too
We quickly left the trail, moving well away from the ubiquitous
trees, and headed for a low clearing. We assumed a squat position until
the storm passed over us.
We waded across the creek near the historic Big Arroyo Patrol
Cabin and arrived at the camping area, soaking wet. This is where we had
planned to have lunch before continuing seven more miles on the High Sierra
Trail to spend the night at Moraine Lake.
But now it was late in the afternoon, we were behind schedule
on this, our longest travel day, and a family meeting needed to be called
to discuss the direction we would be heading on the High Sierra Trail.
It was obvious that other backcountry travelers had been thwarted by the
daylong thunderstorm as there were colorful dome shelters erected throughout
the area but since it was still drizzling, there were no signs of activity.
We found more shelter than we had the entire day under the
eaves of the old cabin. As the rain subsided, we began hanging up our
rain-soaked gear on the rusty nails protruding from the log structure.
Although we usually try to avoid staying at such a popular
wayside stop, the kids picked out a campsite and began setting up the
tents. John and I decided we would wait until morning, take a look at
the weather, then make the final decision regarding the remainder of the
In my heart, I wanted to continue into the backcountry; I
look so forward to this escape each year. But commonsense had already
prevailed; I knew that the trip was headed for a major detour.
1933 ~ 2007
Sherman Rogers, a part-time resident of Three Rivers for
the past 20 years, died Sunday, Sept. 30, 2007. He was 74.
Sherman was born in Tulare on Feb. 15, 1933, to Sherman and
Doris Rogers. He received a B.A. degree in 1957 from the University of
In 1960, he received his law degree from UCLA and joined
the California Bar Association in 1961. In addition, he was a member of
the American Bar Association since 1962 and former president of the Tulare
County Bar Association.
He was a member of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America,
the California Trial Lawyers Association, the Consumer Attorneys of America,
and the Tulare Elks and Moose lodges.
Sherman, a resident of Tulare, is survived by his wife, Ester; two daughters,
Andrea Doherty and husband Patrick of Cambridge, Mass., and Cynthia Rogers
and husband Harold Hagopian of New York, N.Y.; and three grandchildren,
Tess Doherty, and Felix and Simon Hagopian-Rogers.
Services were held this past week. Interment was at Tulare