News and Information
for residents and visitors
Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks,
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam

  In the News - Friday, MAY 14, 2004




Letters to the Editor, Snapshots, Classifieds, Neighbor Profile, Night Sky Viewing Guide, 'Girls just wanna have fun' photos, and more!

If you're not a subscriber, you're missing out!


Playing it ‘Fire Safe’
3R property gets extreme makeover

by John Elliott

In demonstrating what it takes to avoid a wildfire tragedy, the Fire Safe Council of Tulare County couldn’t have made a better choice than Barbara Wight’s foothills property located between the Mineral King Road and Sierra King Drive. The remote parcel is steep, overgrown, and situated above a road where a careless motorist might chuck a burning cigarette… and poof!
“We chose this property not only because of the extreme fire danger, but the property owner needed our help in getting the job done” said Mike Davidson, battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF).
On Tuesday, a crew of more than a dozen CDF firefighters and volunteers, including Jon Wagy, director of the Fire Safe Council, arrived at the home of Barbara Wight and went to work weed-eating, sawing, chipping, raking, and generally clearing the demonstration parcel that hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned in several seasons.
The workers found plenty of hazardous fuel to remove, including two woodpiles dangerously close to the dwelling. Lower limbs were removed from dozens of trees that might help prevent the spread of fire from the road below.
Three Rivers has experienced several wildfires that started because of the proximity to a road. In 1988, a motorist threw a cigarette into dry grass near Hospital Rock in Sequoia National Park.
The ensuing Buckeye Fire burned hundreds of acres as it raced up the slope toward Giant Forest. Firefighters gained the upper hand on that blaze just before it consumed any of the renowned Big Trees.
Chief Davidson said the law requires at least 30 feet of defensible space be cleared around structures, but recent experience gained in Southern California indicates more than 100 feet is needed, especially on hillside tracts.
“How much clearance is critical if we [firefighters] decide to save your house,” Davidson said.
In the 1996 Kaweah Fire, started when a car was parked in tall, dry grass along Kaweah River Drive, a fire engine was stationed by every structure that was threatened during the 4,000-acre blaze. Veterans of that fire say clearance was a significant factor that helped ensure that no homes were lost.
Davidson said another factor in saving this Sierra King property would be that the house has a fire-retardant roof. But the large open area under the structure’s decking, he said, is like an invitation for fire to come right in.
Last year, in cooperation with The Heritage Project, Jon Wagy conducted a Fire Safe workshop at Three Rivers School. This time, he was back in town and taking a more hands-on approach. He said the Stihl Corporation donated the power tools that were used to complete this work at the Three Rivers property.
The Three Rivers project, located at 45038 Sierra King Dr. is available for property owners to see what it takes to be fire safe. The work was done in recognition of Wildfire Awareness Week, May 9 to 15.
“Our message is that we’re getting ready for fire season and so should you,” Chief Davidson said. “Hopefully, everyone will see what we are doing and carry these ideas back to their own property.”

Beware fire and water
Natural events in the Sierra foothills call for increased vigilance

This is part one of a two part series on preparing for fire season and high water in Kaweah Country. This week: FIRE...
The sunny days and warm temperatures are causing two annual phenomena to occur — the snow to melt and the landscape to dry. And just as sure as the sun rises and sets, there will be wildland fires and there will be drownings.
Both of these catastrophic events occur each year and have life-threatening implications to those who live and visit Kaweah Country. But a bit of caution and a dash of knowledge is all it takes to prevent tragedy.
Fire season begins
May 9 through 15 has been Wildfire Awareness Week, but residents of California already are aware of fire with four blazes having charred the landscape in the south state.
The Kaweah Country climate is once again ripe for wildfire. When spring temperatures rise, stored winter moisture drives tremendous growth of trees, shrubs, and grasses, also known by this nasty four-letter word: FUEL. The recent summer-like temperatures have now dried the residual moisture and, along with breezy conditions, steep terrain, and an ever-growing number of homes, it’s a perfect recipe for a destructive, fast-moving wildfire.
State law requires a 30-foot clearance of all flammable vegetation (excluding single large trees and ornamental plants) around all structures. Statistics from the many homes lost to fires nationwide each year, however, warn us that 30 feet is not nearly enough, even on level ground.
This law was originally geared more toward protecting the forest from a house fire rather than the other way around.
So, to be personally responsible as a property owner, a 100-foot cleared area in all directions will substantially reduce the risk of losing a home on level ground, especially one with a fire-resistant roof.
On 20 to 40-percent slopes (two to four feet of drop per 10 running feet), this increases to 200 feet downhill and 150 feet uphill and on the sides. Structures on slopes steeper than 40 percent need at least 400 feet of clearance downhill and 200 feet uphill and on the sides, which may require the cooperation of neighbors.
Also, trim tree branches well back from the roof and chimney and clean leaves and other debris from the roof.
Remember, if a wildfire is threatening several homes, firefighters will perform a type of triage to determine those that can be saved and those that can’t. They will then put their resources into protecting the property that has a fighting chance or, in other words, the best clearance.

Farm Bureau cultivates

Three Rivers School gardeners

by John Elliott

When it comes to Tulare County agriculture, Three Rivers doesn’t come immediately to mind for most folks who live in the second largest food-producing county in California. But that didn’t stop Kenneth Milton Savage, retired educator and a member of the Tulare County Farm Bureau’s education committee, from thinking first about Three Rivers.
When Savage, 78, a resident of Kaweah, learned about the Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program, he knew the agency would be a willing partner to promote awareness. He also knew that his alma mater — Three Rivers School — still encouraged its students to learn how to garden, but could certainly use some assistance.
On Monday, May 10, Savage organized a small gathering at Three Rivers School to accept a check from the Farm Bureau for $500 to keep the school garden growing in Three Rivers.
“These students can learn some important lessons by planting a garden,” Savage told the gathering. “They can learn about soil temperature, weather, and what it takes to make things grow.”
Savage said timing was everything in getting the grant and that Sue Sherwood, superintendent of the 180-student school, and her staff at Three Rivers had done an excellent job on the application. Currently, both TRUS third and fourth-graders are tilling the soil in the complex of garden boxes located adjacent to the McDowall Auditorium.
Linda Warner introduced her third graders at the ceremony who had recently harvested carrots, cabbage, and radishes.
“We’re in the process of changing over to our spring garden,” Warner said. “The students really enjoy the time they get to go outside and work in the garden.”
Cheryl Lehn, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, was on hand to present the grant check and said that educational outreach is an important part of what the all-volunteer Farm Bureau is designed to do. Programs like these, Lehn said, help students learn about where their food comes from and the importance of agriculture in Tulare County.
In addition to garden grants, regional Farm Bureaus award thousands of scholarship dollars annually to deserving high school seniors. They also award science fair winners for ag-related projects at both county and state competitions.
In California, the largest agricultural-producing state in the nation, the California Farm Bureau has 90,000 members; the Tulare County Farm Bureau has 3,500 members.

Honesty pays for Woodlake teens

by Amy Dolcourt-McElroy

Add Elizabeth Martinez and Nancy Cuevas to Woodlake’s list of hometown heroes. On Saturday, May 1, while enjoying the Cinco de Mayo festivities at Miller Brown Park, Elizabeth and Nancy found a wad of money near El Progreso Tortilleria #5.
The young teens could have pocketed the entire sum with no one the wiser. Instead, they took the cash to Police Chief John Zapalac, who was on duty at the park.
About an hour after the public announcement of “a large amount of money,” Ignacio Flores of Woodlake stepped forward with a check stub to claim the $242.
After cashing his weekly paycheck at El Progreso, the 60-year-old field worker never noticed when the money fell out of his pocket.
Ignacio honored Elizabeth, 14, and Nancy, 13, for their honesty with a cash award. Four days later, the Woodlake Police Department gave additional awards to them in their classrooms at Woodlake Middle School.
Chief Zapalac; Elias Herrera, youth development officer; Dave East, WMS principal; and Lydia Holguin, assistant principal, participated in the presentations.
Complimenting the teens on their display of character, Zapalac presented each with a certificate of appreciation and a cash award of $50, donated by anonymous citizens.
“I’m really touched, personally, by the honesty of these girls,” he told the students.
Elizabeth and Nancy join three other Woodlake teens as role models of integrity and character. In May 2003, Woodlake Middle School students Ana Aguilar, Cynthia Ramirez, and Valeria Aguirre found a $100 bill on the sidewalk, which they turned in to the police. The police department also honored them with certificates of appreciation and cash awards.

Warning: ‘Nunsense’

can be habit-forming

This weekend, the Woodlake High School theatre arts department will present its annual musical. This year’s selection is Nunsense, an off-Broadway comedy with an all-female (no A-men!) cast who are the Little Sisters of Hoboken... what’s left of them, that is.
Most of the “Little Hobos” have recently succumbed to botulism after eating vichyssoise prepared by Sister Julia, Child of God. The survivors, who were divinely spared the poisonous meal, now must bury their dearly departed, and the production follows the sisters’ hilarious antics as they attempt to stage a benefit variety show to raise enough money.
The play is open to the public and suitable for all audiences, children through adults.
Opening night of the show was Thursday, May 13. Additional performances will be tonight (Friday, May 14) and tomorrow night (Saturday, May 15), at 7:30, at the Woodlake High School Performing Arts Building.
A matinee will be held at the Three Rivers Arts Center on Sunday, May 16, at 2 p.m.
Tickets are available at the door prior to each performance. Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for students and senior citizens; proceeds benefit WHS theatre arts.
For more information, call 564-3307.

Young dancer accepted

to Boston Ballet program

by Rachelle Ledbetter

On Sunday, May 23, Meaghan Swinney will present a dance performance and reception at the Three Rivers Arts Center. The public is invited to attend the event, scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., as she performs a Kitri variation from the ballet Don Quixote, a character piece from Seussical the Musical, and a modern piece to the Enya song “May it Be” from Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.
Additional music will be provided by Kelli McConnehey, a recent graduate of Arizona State University with a bachelor of music degree in flute performance.
Refreshments will be served following the performance. An admission donation is requested.
Meaghan has recently been selected to attend the prestigious Boston Ballet Summer Dance Program, which is a five-week session of intensive ballet training beginning in July. Only 150 students were selected from over 2,000 applicants who auditioned.
This program will provide Meaghan an invaluable experience that will help her forward her goal of dancing professionally with a major ballet company. She is looking forward to this unique and challenging learning opportunity that will help her grow technically, artistically, and personally.
Meaghan is a 14-year-old homeschooler from Three Rivers who has been training seriously in ballet for two years with Susan Pallas of the Sierra Performing Arts Center in Visalia. She is a member of the Pallas and Company dancers, who have performed at community events such as the City of Hope benefit in Porterville and at Children’s Hospital Central California, Tulare County schools, Three Rivers Woman’s Club, retirement homes, and the Sequoia and Visalia malls.
In November 2003, Meaghan had the honor of dancing with the Russian Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker in Visalia. She also participated in the Long Beach Youth Grand Prix in February, a highly revered competition in the ballet world.
Just before traveling east this summer, Meaghan will dance the role of Gertrude in Seussical the Musical on June 26. She will also dance the lead role of Mary Quite Contrary in the Babes in Toyland ballet on June 27 at the L.J. Williams Theatre in Visalia.
Both of these productions feature original choreography by Susan Pallas of Sierra Performing Arts Center.
For additional information about any of these events, call 561-3266.
Rachelle Ledbetter and husband Steve Swinney are Meaghan’s parents.

Men’s softball gears up

for summer season

With June graduations right around the corner, that means it’s time to plan for Poison Oak League softball in Three Rivers. The 2004 summer season will continue a 30-year tradition of local men’s softball.
The 16-game regular season schedule is set to begin Thursday, June 10. Two preseason practice nights will start at 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 6, and Tuesday, June 8. All practice and league games are played on the upper field at Three Rivers School.
The league currently features five teams of approximately 15 players each. Returning players who choose not to enter the draft will receive a call from the manager of the team for which they played last season. New players, including returning players who have not played in the last two seasons, must enter the draft.
Those players wishing to change teams may also re-enter the draft. In order to be drafted, prospective draftees must live or be employed in Three Rivers and sign up via a player-registration sheet that is posted at the following locations: Three Rivers Post Office, Three Rivers Market, Village Market, The Kaweah Commonwealth, and the Gateway Restaurant.
Currently, there is a vacancy for the position of activity director for men’s softball. Interested applicants should call 561-4014 (Mike) or 561-3363 (Heidi) of the Three Rivers School Recreation Committee.
Ed Lafferty, who served as activity director the past three seasons, will help on an interim basis as his schedule permits. A managers’ organizational meeting will be held Tuesday, June 1, 6:30 p.m., at the Three Rivers Pizza Factory. For questions concerning the upcoming meeting or the 2004 schedule, contact the office of the Commonwealth, 561-3627.

James Nunnelee
1974 ~ 2004

James “Jimmy” Michael Nunnelee died Sunday, April 18, 2004, in Eugene, Ore. He was 29.
Jimmy was born May 26, 1974, in Visalia to Jim Nunnelee and Cathy Oriole. He is a former resident of Three Rivers.
Jimmy was preceded in death by his father, Jim, in April 2003.
He is survived by his wife, Crystal, of Eugene, Ore.; son Arieon Jaymz; his mother, Cathy Oriole of San Diego; stepmother, Sandra Nunnelee of Three Rivers; grandparents Grady and Mary Nunnelee of Three Rivers; brother David Nunnelee and wife Amber of Alabama; three sisters, Sarah Penland of Springfield, Ore.; Rhonda and husband Ray Ortega of Springfield, Ore.; and Glenna and husband James Rankin of Three Rivers; uncles Jerry Nunnelee and wife Paula of Three Rivers, Larry Nunnelee and wife Becky of Springville, and Troy Nunnelee of Three Rivers; two aunts; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.













THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
OFFICE: 41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, California
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
PHONE: (559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118 E-MAIL:
Entire contents of this website © Copyright 2003-2004 by The Kaweah Commonwealth