this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
fire drifts over Castle Rocks in
National Park last month,
Panther Gap on the Alta Trail.
fire season continues
In a normal year, by the
end of October, among the things Kaweah
Country can count on is that there’s
already been at least one significant
snow/rain event, temperatures are trending
downward, and fire season is over.
But this year is anything
but normal, especially when it comes to
fire. Already this fire season (by mid-October),
1.54 million acres have burned in California.
That’s a burned-out
area roughly the size of the state of
Delaware. Compare that to the 1.52 million
acres that burned in 2007 and it’s
no wonder the state budget is bent out
spare the use of even one dollar when
it comes to fighting fires. That’s
what Gov. Schwarzenegger told the thousands
who were forced to evacuate their homes
last week when Santa Ana winds whipped
up 100-foot high flames dangerously close
to several San Fernando Valley communities.
This week, a wildland fire
burned through grass and brush and as
of Thursday was burning within two miles
of the Getty Center museum and forced
the closure of all lanes of the San Diego
Freeway. Also as of Thursday, no structures
had burned as 350 firefighters and eight
water-dropping helicopters attacked the
Last year, the state spent
$500 million on fighting fires a total
that will be surpassed this year. In 2007,
the more dangerous fires burned in October.
This year it’s more like a year-round
fire season and there is no immediate
end in sight.
Mineral King Road
fires— Closer to home,
firefighters responded on Monday, Oct.
21, to two spot fires burning near the
Mineral King Road in steep terrain approximately
two miles up from the Highway 198 intersection.
Cal Fire and Tulare County units responded
to the emergency call shortly after 7
In the larger of the two
blazes, more than one-third of an acre
was charred as one fire was quickly extinguished,
and then another reported a short time
later, was doused a little farther up
the road. The cause of the
fires was “suspicious” and
attributed to a firebug.
“We were very fortunate that these
fires occurred where they did in the early
evening rather than the middle of the
afternoon,” said a Cal Fire spokesperson.
A neighbor, who owns property
near where the first blaze occurred, said
the location of the fire was below the
gate to the “Old Bear Ranch”
and that acreage in the vicinity of Red
Hill was charred. It was dead calm and
there was no wind at the time the fires
Firefighters patrolled the
area for several hours looking for flare-ups.
fire— Deb Schweizer, fire
education specialist, announced Wednesday
that Sequoia and Kings Canyon National
Parks fire personnel could begin lighting
a “broadcast burn” in a 99-acre
segment as early as Monday, October 27.
The cleanup operation, she said, will
complete a fuel reduction program that
was started in 2004.
The primary function of the
burn is to provide a layer of protection
around Wuksachi, an area that contains
the lodge and village complex.
“When you look at the fires we had
this year in the parks, it’s vital
to get this protection in place,”
Earlier phases of the protection
program included mechanical thinning (2004)
and the burning of slash piles (2005,
2007). If and when the NPS gets the green
light on the burn, Schweizer is hopeful
that there will be little or no effects
in Three Rivers from the smoke.
Last Friday, Oct. 17, Sequoia
National Forest Service officials announced
that a fire was spotted burning on a ridge
near Moses Mountain in the Golden Trout
Wilderness just south of the Sequoia National
Park boundary. The fire locale is at 8,000
feet in elevation and within a designated
“research natural area” containing
giant sequoia groves, mixed-fir forest,
and meadow habitats.
There are no areas where
it is safe for firefighters to access
the fire, officials said, so for now the
small fire will be left to burn itself
out. Smoke is visible intermittently from
the Yokohl Valley Road near Springville.
Visitors traveling in the
area along Forest Service Trail 30E13
from its junction with 31E15 to where
it leaves the forest and enters Sequoia
National Park should be extra cautious.
Smoke, burning material, and rolling logs
may be encountered.
Measure I invests
in local college
When there’s a downward
slide in the economy and a spike in unemployment,
the last thing a property owner needs
is another assessment. But proponents
of Measure I, like Sharon Sheltzer, who
was in Three Rivers recently stumping
for a Yes vote on the Tuesday, Nov. 4,
ballot, says the $28 million investment
in higher education is one bond measure
that really makes sense and will only
cost taxpayers $8.42 annually per $100,000
in assessed valuation.
Sheltzer, who still owns
a house in Three Rivers, now lives in
Visalia to be closer to her architectural
consulting business, says one day she
and her husband, Mike, will return home
to Three Rivers to retire. In the meantime,
she said, she will continue to support
causes like Measure I because it’s
about the future and improving the quality
of life in Tulare County.
“Who hasn’t benefited in some
way by having College of Sequoias campus
right here in Visalia?” Sharon asked
attendees at this month’s Three
Rivers town meeting.
The Sheltzers know firsthand
the value of higher education and what
it costs to attend college elsewhere.
Their son, Daniel, an alumni of Three
Rivers School, currently attends San Francisco
State. A student enrolled at a state university
must budget $15,000 to $20,000 for a single
COS provides a cost-effective
alternative for thousands of students,
especially those for whom attending a
four-year university is not possible.
Woodlake High School offers COS night
classes on its campus free to area students
who want to earn college credits before
they graduate high school.
But the COS bond, say proponents,
is about much more than college credits.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.
By expanding key programs
like nursing and other healthcare professions,
jobs are created by companies that locate
in Tulare County simply because more qualified
workers are available. All funds collected
from the bonds are earmarked for construction
and improvements of the physical plant
and that in turn makes more seats available
for students seeking higher education.
At COS, that translates to
more job skills or often a career certification.
Nearly $30 million of state
funds are dependent on matching funds
generated by the bond measure so in effect,
more than $58 million will be made available
for new construction and improvements
at the Visalia campus.
“It’s really critical that
we pass Measure I on the November 4 ballot
because otherwise we lose out to other
districts that are vying for the state
grants,” Sheltzer said.
Among the benefits of Measure
I are a new gym, expansion of the technology
for nursing, and an upgrade to the entire
computer system on campus. In addition
to a number of other capital improvements,
the COS theatre is slated for renovation
and there’s land acquisitions for
parking facilities and future expansion.
Proponents say that expansion
of the COS campus is vital to economic
growth and the future of Tulare County.
Tigers pounce on
The Woodlake Tigers (4-2,
1-0) opened East Sequoia League play on
the road with an impressive offensive
show at Strathmore. The Tigers relied
on big play after big play and then hung
on to beat a very good Strathmore Spartans
team (3-3, 0-1).
Football fans like nothing
better than big plays on offense, especially
of the game-changing variety. The Tigers’
game-changing play came on the ensuing
drive after halftime when Woodlake was
still on the short end of a 21-20 score.
On the second play of the
third quarter, Jeff Beck of Three Rivers,
Tigers offensive coordinator, called for
senior quarterback Matt McMillan to sprint
“Matt’s got the option to
run or pass so if he sees daylight, he
just tucks the ball and takes off running,”
Coach Beck said. “When he gets in
the open field, he’s big and strong
and a load to bring down.”
The nifty scramble netted
McMillan an 89-yard touchdown and put
the Tigers ahead, 27-21. The play made
an important statement to the Spartans
on this homecoming night: whatever you
can do on offense, we can do better.
But the Spartans answered
quickly with touchdown of their own, and
with 4:57 left in the third quarter regained
the lead, 28-27. The teams exchanged miscues
and pushed back and forth until the Tigers
punched in the go-ahead score with 5:29
left in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard
scamper by junior wideout Josh Quijano.
“It was really great to see the
offense find some rhythm and move the
ball up and down the field,” said
Scott Hernandez, Tigers first-year head
coach. “Up till now, we’ve
been mostly a defensive team, and in this
game the offense really racked up some
The Tigers netted a total
of 385 yards, the most in any game except
the 500-plus yards vs. Farmersville in
that early season blowout. McMillan had
a hand in two-thirds of the offense with
132 yards passing (8 of 11, no interceptions)
and 123 yards rushing on 13 carries.
“Since the Exeter game, when Matt
had an off game, he has really emerged
as the go-to guy when we need to make
a play,” Coach Beck said. “He
has a legitimate shot at 1,000 yards passing
and running, and that’s a rarity
in high school football, especially at
the small schools like Woodlake.”
The rest of the rushing wealth
on offense was shared by seniors Freddy
Vigil (6 carries for 53 yards); Tysin
Aguilar (7 carries for 26 yards); and
junior Daniel Rodriguez (11 carries for
52 yards). But with all that
offense, it came down to the defense making
a game-saving play deep inside Tigers
territory with 20 seconds remaining.
Strathmore opted not to go
to runningback Jesse Soria, who finished
the night with 25 carries for 122 yards.
Instead, they called for a desperation
fourth-down pass that was completed, but
after a tense measurement came up a half-yard
The jubilant Tigers took
over on downs and took a knee as time
This season, the Tigers are
playing in the CIF’s Division V
and are much improved over the last several
years. They’ve already defeated
Strathmore and Carruthers, two teams they
lost to last year.
After Orosi at home tonight
(Friday, Oct. 24), the Tigers play on
the road at Fowler. The big showdown in
league play comes vs. undefeated Corcoran
at home on Friday, Nov. 7.
The junior varsity Tigers
continued their impressive 5-1 season
and are on track to win the ESL crown.
Their only loss this year has been to
Exeter and, like their varsity counterparts,
are showing improvement every week.
Cleanup day honors
In the 1970s, then-Three
Rivers resident Al Stoppel organized a
fall cleanup day in which community members
hit the highways and byways to pick up
trash upon the waning of another busy
tourist season. Over the years, various
community groups have kept the cleanup-day
This year’s Al Stoppel
Community Cleanup Day is being organized
by the Community Presbyterian Church Outreach
Committee. It will be held Saturday, Nov.
8, beginning at 7 a.m.
On that morning, meet at
the Presbyterian church, where teams will
be formed, bags handed out, and crews
dispersed along Hwy. 198.
“Although our main focus is the
highway, we are asking everyone to clean
in front of their homes and properties
as well,” said Elizabeth LaMar,
organizer. “Breakfast is served
to everyone from 7 to 10 a.m. in the church’s
Fellowship Hall. Whether you cleaned that
day or volunteered your time earlier in
the week, please join us for breakfast!”
Trash disposal will be provided
and bags may be picked up throughout the
week at the Presbyterian church. Volunteers
may form their own team or come on their
own to join a team.
For more information or to
sign up, call Elizabeth, 561-4154.
Handweavers of the Valley
will present their 29th annual Harvest
of Handwovens on Saturday, Oct. 25, at
the Exeter Memorial Building, 324 N. Kaweah
Ave. (Highway 65 in Exeter). This show
and sale is free to the public and open
from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Everyone enjoys this increasingly
popular event that features the work of
25 local handweavers. Presentations include
beautiful handwoven and handspun articles
such as towels, scarves, throws, rugs,
jackets, and baby blankets.
A fashion boutique, yarn
shop, and displays of supplies and tools
are offered. Spinning and weaving demonstrations
will take place all day and there will
be hands-on opportunities at a loom.
Exquisite pine needle baskets
and weaving on gourds will also be featured
with basket-making demonstrations against
a backdrop of completed, award-winning
Handweavers of the Valley
is a nonprofit guild of weavers and spinners
that spans a large portion of Central
California’s San Joaquin Valley.
The Harvest of Handwovens
contributes to the guild’s goal
of public awareness of the fine craft
of handweaving and serves as an educational
experience for those wishing to learn
more about one of the ancient arts.
Fibers featured Saturday
include organic cotton, sheep’s
wool, angora, alpaca, llama, silk, rayon,
cotton, and linen.
Door prizes will be awarded
throughout the day, and a drawing is planned
featuring a basket of “Small Luxuries.”
The appearance of a live alpaca is an
added delight for visitors.
Visa and Mastercard are accepted.
For more information, call Nikki Crain
HALLOWEEN IN THREE RIVERS
Cherokee Oaks candy drive is on
When an entire community’s
ghouls and goblins, princesses and cowboys,
and pirates and Tinkerbells descend upon
one small neighborhood for their annual
ritual of a fright-night full of candy-collecting,
the residents’ big bowls of Butterfingers
can really take a hit.
The Cherokee Oaks area has
become the traditional Halloween hangout
in Three Rivers, but the residents don’t
seem to mind. In fact, to move into the
neighborhood there is a standing prerequisite:
“Must love Halloween.”
It’s a community affair,
however, as each year residents from throughout
Three Rivers donate bags of candy to their
Cherokee Oaks neighbors to offset the
expense of hosting the local children.
From now until Thursday,
Oct. 30, unopened bags of candy may be
dropped off at the Bank of the Sierra
during business hours. The candy will
be distributed throughout the neighborhood
by volunteers prior to the annual onslaught
Carnival this weekend
Most Three Rivers residents
know exactly what to expect at the annual
TRUS Halloween Carnival. It kicks off
with a costume parade and the crowning
of two eighth-graders as king and queen,
then, to a backdrop of live entertainment
by local musicians, the kids hit the game
booths, the grownups head to the raffle
table and Pick-a-Prize, and the whole
family meets up in a few hours for a homemade
dinner in the gym.
But each year there are some
variations on the routine as organizers
seek new activities that will best entertain
This year, the community
is in for a real treat, and all parents
can be guaranteed that their children
will sleep long and hard after experiencing
the hands-on activities that will occur
at the Carnival. Here’s
what will physically exhaust them: bounce
house, sports course, extreme obstacles
course, and the La Sierra Military
Academy in Porterville will bring
a climbing wall. And for those tired of
picking Silly String out of their hair
every year, here’s a diversion all
will appreciate: a Silly String arena
with lots of spooky obstacles.
One of the newest donations
to the Pick-a-Prize and raffle include
four tickets to the Fresno State Bulldogs
football game vs. New Mexico on Saturday,
Nov. 15, where the lucky winners will
be seated in the 10th row on the 50-yard
“Kids are bringing in their carved
pumpkins on Friday for the contest and
those will be displayed in the gym as
table decorations for the eighth-grade
dinner,” said Sue Winters-Brown,
president of the Eagle Booster Club, which
organizes the Carnival.
So it sounds as if everything
is falling into place as it should be.
And with the community’s continued
assistance, of course — sweets for
the Sweet Shoppe, cakes for the Cake Walk,
and donations of raffle items.
It’s free parking and
free admission, and all funds raised directly
benefit Three Rivers School and its students.
For additional information,
call the Three Rivers School office at
Prepare for winter
using local resources
Cooler temperatures and fall
rain remind us that it’s time to
get ready for winter. The Sequoia Foothills
Chamber of Commerce’s 125 member
businesses provide a diversity of services
for Three Rivers residents, including
everything needed to prepare for this
Homes and businesses should
have their heating systems inspected,
air filters changed, fuel tanks refilled,
and smoke-detector batteries replaced.
Have your wood stove cleaned
and arrange to have wood delivered.
Clean your gutters and check
for other home-maintenance and repair
Contact local landscaping
and garden businesses for services from
yard cleanup to tree trimming, as well
as flowers and plants for fall and winter
color and erosion control.
Don't forget to tune up your
vehicle as well. Visit one of the local
automotive establishments for an oil change,
coolant flush, tire check, and other maintenance
items. Remember to keep an emergency kit
in the vehicle with blankets, water, food,
shovel, tools and jumper cables.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer,
contact local merchants to obtain the
supplies for whatever home-improvement
or vehicle-main-tenance project you’re
The Sequoia Foothills Chamber
of Commerce encourages all residents and
businesses to shop locally and use local
services when preparing for winter.
Article by Johanna Kamansky,
president of the Sequoia Foothills Chamber