In the News -
Friday, SEPTEMBER 16, 2005
A swift-moving grass fire on North Fork Drive in Kaweah caused
some anxious moments for several residents who live nearby. On Saturday,
Sept. 10, at 2:47 p.m., the Tulare County fire dispatcher received a 911
call reporting the blaze.
Within minutes, CDF firefighters from Three Rivers were on
the scene, joining in with several neighbors who were already fighting
the flare-up with shovels and garden hoses. The blaze was sparked by exhaust
from a tractor that was working on a waterline.
Battalion Chief Felix Rodriguez from Woodlake served as incident
commander. An air tanker from Porterville made a retardant drop while
six area engines and two Cuesta hand crews who were covering Tulare County
worked the blaze on the ground.
At least two structures were threatened but none were damaged
in the North Fork fire that consumed three acres of dry grass. Two days
later, a similar blaze on property owned by Kaweah River Rock near Woodlake
was sparked when a tractor hit a guide wire to a power pole.
Missing backpacker found
near Crescent Meadow
Searchers in Sequoia National Park discovered the body of
a man on Saturday, Sept. 10, who had been the subject of an intensive
three-day search. Phillip Arens was reported missing by his brother on
Wednesday, Sept. 7, after the pair returned from a four-day backpacking
Arens, 42, of Auburn, was last seen in the Crescent Meadow
parking lot where his brother had left him with their packs while he hitched
a ride to retrieve his car at a trailhead in Mineral King. When he returned
five hours later, the packs were still there, but Arens was nowhere to
Park search-and-rescue teams began looking for Arens in the
vicinity of Crescent Meadow. The search was later concentrated around
the Sugar Pine Trail after Arens’s sunglasses were found there.
A full-scale search involving more than 40 ground searchers,
five dog teams, mounted patrol, and a helicopter traversed the steep terrain
for the next several days. The body of Arens was discovered off the Sugar
Pine Trail at the bottom of a steep embankment near Crescent Creek, less
than a mile from the Crescent Meadow parking area.
The cause of Arens’s death is still under investigation
but personnel at the scene reported that there was no apparent trauma
to the body. As a result of a past boating accident, Arens had scars on
his face, a missing left eye, and some residual medical problems due to
the head trauma sustained.
It’s possible that this may have been a contributing
factor in his death or, as nighttime temperatures were near freezing during
that period, that he succumbed to hypothermia.
Arens is the 11th fatality in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National
Parks since March 2005, all of whom have been male. This is the most fatalities
for a single year in the local parks in the last two decades and may be
an all-time record for most deaths.
FATALITIES 2005 IN
people have perished in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks this year.
Sunday, March 13— Richard Ferrari,
37, of Los Angeles fell 1,000 feet to his death in “The Notch”
area of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park.
Sunday, April 10— Patrick Wang, 27,
of Hillsboro, Ore., sustained fatal injuries in a fall of about 1,000
feet, also near The Notch while returning from the 14,495-foot summit
of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park.
Saturday, May 28— Bryan Coker of Lemoore
was celebrating his 21st birthday with friends when he drowned in the
Middle Fork of the Kaweah River in the Ash Mountain area of Sequoia National
Monday, June 27— The body of Peter
Spoecker, 64, of Joshua Tree was retrieved from Evolution Lake near the
John Muir Trail in Kings Canyon National Park. He either drowned or died
of hypothermia as early as Monday, June 13, after falling into the lake
wearing his backpack and snowshoes.
Monday, July 11— Noah Dominguez, 24,
of Wilmington in Southern California drowned in the Middle Fork of the
Kaweah River near Buckeye Flat Campground in Sequoia National Park.
Wednesday, July 13— Eric Rausch, 31, of Princeton, N.J. apparently
drowned while attempting to ford the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River in
the Tableland region of Sequoia National Park’s backcountry.
Thursday, July 28— Stephen McCullagh,
29, and Ryan Collins, 13, both of St. Helena in California’s Wine
Country, died after they were struck by lightning in the Sandy Meadow
area (elevation 10,700 feet) along the John Muir Trail in Sequoia National
Monday, Aug. 1— Santos Aparecio, 44, of Los Angeles, drowned in
the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River in the Ash Mountain area of Sequoia
Wednesday, Aug. 31— Leon Caraco, 53,
of Huntington Beach, apparently drowned after falling into Roaring River
in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park.
Saturday, Sept. 10— The body of Phillip
Arens, 42, of Auburn, was discovered in the Crescent Meadow area of Sequoia
National Park after an intensive three-day search. He apparently succumbed
to hypothermia after wandering or falling off-trail.
Sequoia returns to
After building the Hammond Station in 1935 and immediately
turning the property over to the State of California, the history of the
Mineral King Road property comes full circle this week after Sequoia National
Park officials announced an agreement to lease the 70-year-old adobe fire
station. But before park fire crews occupy the facility for the 2006 fire
season, the NPS awarded a $692,000 construction contract to Souza Construction
of Visalia for rehabilitation of the historic buildings.
Seismic work and modernization to accommodate Sequoia Park’s
Crew 91, a 17-person hand-crew, and Engine 71, a seven-person engine crew,
is expected to begin next month.
Hammond Fire Station project is a wonderful partnership between the NPS
and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection that benefits
both agencies and the community of Three Rivers,” said Russ Wilson,
acting superintendent. “The project will improve the facilities
for NPS crews, restore a historic structure and, most importantly, improve
fire protection in Three Rivers by staffing an empty station in town.”
The settlement of “Hammond” was founded at the
turn of the 20th century to provide housing for Mount Whitney Power and
Electric Company employees. It was so-named after the company’s
founder, William Hammond.
The Hammond Fire Station was built in 1935 by the NPS with
the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It has been determined
eligible for inclusion in The National Register of Historic Places based
on the research of Mark Thornton, a former CDF employee presently serving
as a Tuolumne County supervisor.
Wanted: Professional packers
operate in parks
Prospective bidders are invited to attend a couple of upcoming
tours of Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks pack stations. The tours
will offer an opportunity to examine area operations and provide information
about the available contracts.
On Thursday, Sept. 29, a tour of the Grant Grove and Cedar
Grove stables will commence at 9 a.m.. Participants should meet at the
Grant Grove Visitor Center; the tour is expected to last about eight hours.
On Friday, Sept. 30, a tour of the Mineral King stables is
planned. Meet at the Mineral King Ranger Station at 10 a.m. to attend
this event. Once at Mineral King, the tour should take about two hours.
A prospectus will be issued later in the fall detailing the
available 10-year contracts on the facilities, all of which operate seasonally,
from about May to October each year.
Tim Loverin, as the current operator of the Cedar Grove and
Grant Grove pack stations, has been provided a preferential right of renewal.
The Mineral King Pack Station hasn’t been manned for
the past three seasons due to lack of an operator.
To register for the tours, contact Rich Huffman, concession
management specialist, by Friday, Sept. 23, by calling 565-3101 or emailing
50 years ago:
’55 flood memories sought
Since putting out the call for recollections and photographs
of the Dec. 23, 1955, flood one week ago, the response thus far has been
In December 2005, The Kaweah Commonwealth will publish an
issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of this local disaster.
To that end, we will continue to collect the memoirs of and photographs
from those who were there.
Please submit written memoirs to The Kaweah Commonwealth
via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), mail (P.O. Box 806), or drop
off at the newspaper office (41841 Sierra Drive).
Photos may be scanned and emailed, but the highest resolution
possible should be retained. Photos may also be brought to the Commonwealth
As with any submission, please include a contact name and
phone number or email address in case we need to get in touch.
If anyone wants to see Three Rivers at its best, the Three
Rivers Union School Foundation’s annual fall fundraiser this Sunday,
Sept. 18, at the Lions Arena is the place to do this. The evening promises
to be lots of fun, and it’s for an excellent cause — Three
Rivers School and its students.
There will be live music, delicious food, cocktails, and
live and silent auctions that will include superb arts and crafts from
many talented local artists.
The socializing begins at 4 p.m., and the weather is forecast
to be perfect — clear, mid-80s, with a hint of fall in the air.
Music will start early and play late. The Personables will
be spinning out a delightful contemporary rendering of Big Band swing
music — upbeat, optimistic, and foot-tappingly danceable.
Locally legendary for his tri-tip, Felix Gonzales will be
tending the barbecue, cooking up an army’s worth, which will be
accompanied by teriyaki chicken, vegetarian chile relleno in a special
sauce, and much more.
The centerpiece of the evening is the auction, and it promises
to be one of the best ever. Many Three Rivers artists have provided recent
works, all of which will be on display prior to the opening bid and throughout
It is this annual event that raises the most money for the
Foundation, which, in turn, directly benefits Three Rivers School.
And the money is well-spent. In fact, without it, TRUS wouldn’t
have a band teacher. And a school without music is like a child without
Please come, have a great time, and help the school.
For tickets, call Pamela Lockhart, 561-3450, or Lee Crouch,
Bill Haxton of Three Rivers contributed this article.
WHS football begins
on the road
In last Friday night’s varsity football game, there
were plenty of highlights for the Woodlake Tigers who ventured westward
to play Tranquillity in the season opener. The game was really a tale
of two halves, the first of which was won by Woodlake; the second dictated
by the home team with help from the officials.
When the final gun sounded, Woodlake was on the short end
of a 32-20 score. But the Tranquillity Tigers and California Interscholastic
Federation (CIF) may not have heard the last about this game. That’s
because the Woodlake coaching staff is sending a videotape of the game
in protest to CIF sectional officials.
not one to complain about the officiating, but what happened out there
was unbelievable,” said Brian Costa, head coach. “We actually
dominated most of the game but after they called back three of our touchdowns
and flagged us for more than 30 penalties there was no way we could possibly
Costa said the majority of the penalties were “phantom
calls” and made it easy for Tranquillity, who won West Sierra League
championships the past two seasons, to find a way to score enough points
to overcome a six-point halftime deficit.
Woodlake scored on short runs by seniors Souk Stephens (two
yards) and Daniel Tiller (one yard). After Tranquillity scored its second
TD in the second quarter, junior Carlos Acosta, a speedy wide receiver
and kick return specialist, dashed 80 yards with the ensuing kickoff for
the go-ahead score.
But that was all the scoring Woodlake could muster as the
visiting Tigers were blanked in the second half. Tranquillity’s
Gerardo Villa scored two of his four touchdowns on the night in the second
half and that was the extent of the game’s offense.
But even with the questionable officiating, Costa saw plenty
of positives that he says will translate to wins this season. With the
return of Ryan Baker, junior quarterback and defensive safety, in time
for this week’s Kingsburg game, the Tigers figure to be an even
more formidable foe.
have more depth this year than we have had in quite some time,”
Costa said. “We can present multiple packages on offense and defense.”
Last year’s Tigers finished with only one win, but
Costa, now in his second year as Woodlake’s head coach, is certain
that this team is a big improvement.
of our guys really stepped up in that first game and played outstanding,
Costa said. “Chance Carrizosa played some great linebacker on defense
and Eddie Perez led the offensive line in blocking. I also liked the play
of our skilled position players and the fact that we didn’t turn
the ball over. Tiller and Acosta were very impressive.”
In the junior varsity game, Woodlake thumped Tranquillity
28-14. The JVs are led by Matt McMillan, frosh quarterback.
Friday night’s games at Kingsburg are scheduled to
start at 5:30 p.m. For driving directions, call 564-3307.
Local couple rides
trail of Chief Joseph
The Chief Joseph Trail Ride is considered one of the most
historic trail rides in the U.S. today. Since 1964, the Appaloosa Horse
Club has retraced, as closely as possible, the 1,300-mile trek that the
Nez Perce took in 1877 during their “flight to freedom” to
avoid being forced onto a reservation.
The Chief Joseph is a progressive ride, meaning that it moves
camp daily and yearly to follow the exact trail of the retreat. Each year,
the ride covers 100 miles during a one-week period and takes 13 years
to complete in its entirety.
The ride started again for its third consecutive 13 years
in July 2004. Joining 200 other riders and their registered appaloosas
in this most current feat were Steve and Christy Wood of Three Rivers.
The Woods have made a commitment to participate each year
through 2016 and will eventually ride through four states — Oregon,
Washington, Idaho, and Montana. They finished their second week in as
many years on July 17 to 23, 2005.
is not a pleasure ride through a meadow,” explained Christy Wood.
“You and your horse better be in top shape to handle a 4,500-foot
ascent up the side of Hells Canyon, only to descend the next day down
the other side to the Salmon River.”
The extreme terrain and the canyon and river crossings are
a true test of teamwork between horse and rider, she said.
Although a doctor, veterinarian, farrier, water, portable
toilets, and catered meals are provided, there are no showers, phones,
or other modern luxuries. Of the couple hundred riders and their mounts
who begin the weeklong expedition each year, about one-fourth drop out
by week’s end.
Chief Joseph and the appaloosa
Chief Joseph was the tribal chief of the Nez
Perce nation. He peacefully resided in the Wallowa Valley in northeast
There he raised the coveted appaloosa horse that was known
for its speed and agility in difficult terrain. The quality of the appaloosa
was known as early as 1806 with notes acknowledging its existence that
came from Lewis and Clark during their expedition.
Chief Joseph had a peace treaty with the U.S. government
that allowed the Nez Perce to stay in the Wallowa Valley.
In 1877, a conflict between some white settlers and a few
Indian braves in Idaho marked the beginning of the Nez Perce war. When
the U.S. Cavalry attempted to force Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce nation
onto a reservation, they retreated but not to the reservation.
For more than three months that summer and fall, Joseph led
his followers on a 1,300-mile or more journey, which is the route of the
Appaloosa Horse Club’s Chief Joseph Trail Ride today. The band outmaneuvered
the pursuing troops, which outnumbered Joseph’s warriors by at least
three to one.
He was admired by many whites for his humane treatment of
prisoners, his concern for women, children, and the elderly, and because
he purchased supplies from ranchers and storekeepers rather than stealing
The Nez Perce were finally surrounded in Montana within 40
miles of the Canadian border. On Oct. 5, 1877, Joseph surrendered and
delivered an eloquent speech:
“My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will
fight no more forever.”
in Giant Forest
Just in case someone is living in a bubble and hasn’t
noticed, the Park Service ignited a prescribed fire on Tuesday, Sept.
13. Thus the smoky mornings experienced by local residents this week.
The ignitions of the current “Quarry Fire” were
scheduled to continue for four or five days, but due to the smoke accumulation
in the Middle Fork canyon, park officials made the decision Thursday to
postpone the ignitions.
are approximately 75 firefighters on scene [Thursday] to hold and patrol
the burn,” said Jody Lyle, parks fire information officer. “Beginning
tomorrow, the forecast calls for improving conditions, which will bring
westerly winds. With the weather shift, crews plan to finish ignitions
by Friday [Sept. 16].”
The 352-unit is located within the Giant Forest grove. Trail
closures will be marked.
Reducing smoke exposure-- The following disclaimer appears on
the local Park Service’s prescribed-fire press releases to warn
those in the smoke’s path:
smoke is not healthy for anyone, but people with asthma and other respiratory
diseases are at greater risk. If you are sensitive to smoke, limit your
outdoor activities or plan them for times and places with low smoke levels.
breezes occur during the day that will often take smoke into higher elevations.
At night, these winds change direction and bring smoke down-slope to lower
residents and visitors in the Giant Forest and Lodgepole area should keep
windows in buildings closed during the burn.
of Three Rivers should keep their windows closed at night.”