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In the News - Friday, October 24, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


distant fire drifts over Castle Rocks in

Sequoia National Park last month,

as seen from Panther Gap on the Alta Trail.

2008 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 of shape.
   California doesn’t 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 blaze.
   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 p.m.
   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 started.
   Firefighters patrolled the area for several hours looking for flare-ups.
   Wuksachi prescribed 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,” Schweizer said.
   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.
   Moses Fire— 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 academic year.
   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 Spartans, 34-28

   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 right.

  “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 impressive numbers.”
   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 short.
   The jubilant Tigers took over on downs and took a knee as time expired.
   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 3R resident

   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 tradition alive.
   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 demonstrate their craft

   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 work.
   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 at 561-4048.


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 of trick-or-treaters.

TRUS Halloween 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 Carnival-goers.
   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 line.

  “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 561-4466.


Prepare for winter

by 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 seasonal change.
   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 needs.
   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 tackling.
   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 of Commerce.


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
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
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