Friday, 14 June 2024

News

LAKE COUNTY – The sixth-annual Lake County Wine Adventure, a two-day passport event, will be held July 24 and 25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


This year's Lake County Wine Adventure is once again being hosted by the Lake County Winery Association.


Adventurous wine enthusiasts will have an opportunity to discover the “new” wine country and taste the reason why Lake County – with a grape-growing history that extends back to the mid-19th century – is fast becoming known for its award-winning wines, ultra-premium winegrapes, resort-style wineries and friendly tasting rooms.


Throughout the weekend, “wine adventurers” will taste wines from five of Lake County's six distinct viticulture areas (AVAs) as they visit participating wineries.


Wineries taking part include Ceago Vinegarden and Tulip Hill Winery in Nice; Brassfield Estate Winery, Shannon Ridge Winery, High Valley Estate Vineyards, and Noggle Vineyards & Winery in Clearlake Oaks; Villa La Brenta in Clearlake; Gregory Graham Winery, Ployez Winery, Hawk and Horse Vineyards, and Six Sigma Ranch in Lower Lake; Langtry Estate & Vineyards and Off the Vine at Twin Pine Casino in Middletown; Moore Family Winery on Cobb Mountain;Cougar's Leap Winery, Kelseyville Wine Co., Shed Horn Cellars, Mt. Konocti Growers, Bell Hill Vineyards, Rosa d'Oro Vineyards, Steele Wines, and Wildhurst Vineyards in Kelseyville; Sol Rouge Wines will be offered at the Lake County Wine Studio in Upper Lake and Robledo Family Winery will be pouring at their brand new tasting site located on Soda Bay Road in Lakeport.


Adventure tickets can be purchased online at www.lakecountywineries.org for $35 each plus a small handling fee through July 15. Tickets also are available at every participating winery on the day of the event for $40 each.


Each ticket is good for two days of activities and entitles the holder to wine tastings and hors d'oeuvres at each winery, a logo wine glass, a tasting booklet and a reusable wine tote.


Several wineries also offer barrel tastings, winery tours, art exhibits and entertainment.


Event-goers will be entered into a raffle drawing when they leave their completed adventure tickets with the last winery they visit. The grand prize features a cellar collection of premium wines from each participating Lake County winery.


Event organizers promote responsible hospitality and encourage all participants to designate a driver.


Designated drivers are invited to enjoy non-alcoholic drinks, food, and entertainment free of charge at each site compliments of the Lake County Winery Association. Designated drivers also can turn in their special button to be eligible for some fun Lake County prizes.


For more information, call 800-595-WINE (9463), 707-355-2762, or visit www.lakecountywineries.org.


Lake County is part of the North Coast AVA, which also encompasses Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. Within Lake County, five other AVAs exist — Clear Lake AVA, Benmore Valley AVA, Guenoc AVA, Red Hills AVA and High Valley AVA.


For visitor information, contact the Lake County Visitor Information Center at 800-525-3743 or www.lakecounty.com.


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CLEARLAKE OAKS – An Esparto man sustained major injuries on Saturday when his motorcycle collided with a pickup driven by a local man.


John Medeiros, 46, was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital via REACH air ambulance following the crash, which occurred at 5:20 p.m. on Highway 20 west of Orchard Shores Drive in Clearlake Oaks, according to the California Highway Patrol.


Medeiros was riding his 1993 Harley Davidson motorcycle westbound on Highway 20 at approximately 55 miles per hour, while 39-year-old David Andrade of Clearlake was driving his 1975 Ford pickup eastbound, also at 55 miles per hour, according to a report prepared by CHP Officer Jake Bushey.


Bushey's report said that, for unknown reasons, Medeiros made an unsafe turn to the left which caused his motorcycle to enter the eastbound lane, directly in the path of Andrade's truck.


Andrade attempted to swerve to the right but couldn't avoid the collision, and Bushey's report said Medeiros' motorcycle hit the left side of Andrade's pickup.


Medeiros' motorcycle went under the left side of the pickup truck and hit the rear axle. He and the motorcycle came to rest in the westbound lane, Bushey's report stated, while Andrade's pickup ended up on the south shoulder of the highway facing westbound.


In addition to Medeiros' injuries, the collision also resulted in Andrade receiving minor injuries, Bushey said. Andrade was treated at the scene by Northshore Fire Protection District paramedics and was not transported to the hospital.


The report noted that both men were using safety equipment.


Drugs and alcohol are not considered as contributing factors to the collision, Bushey reported.


The collision is still under investigation, the report said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT – A former county correctional officer pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of possession of illegal fireworks and tracer ammunition on Friday as part of an agreement reached with the Lake County District Attorney's Office.


Russell “Rusty” Wright, 38, of Kelseyville will be on informal, summary probation while he completes 160 hours of community service and will be required to pay a small fine, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.


Shells, gun parts and magazines that were found in Wright's possession, and which are illegal, also were forfeited and ordered destroyed, he added.


“We didn't think jail time was appropriate,” Hinchcliff said.


Wright's attorney, Stephen Carter, noted, “The end result for Rusty is really excellent.”


Wright was arrested Feb. 2 and originally charged with felony grand theft, embezzlement by a public officer, receiving stolen property and possession of dangerous fireworks, as Lake County News has reported.


Based on those original charges, Wright was facing more than three years in prison, Carter said.


“We try and hold officers to a higher standard than civilians,” said Hinchcliff, but in the courts, the goal is to treat them equally and fairly.


“This would be an appropriate and natural disposition for anybody, no matter who they are,” Hinchcliff said.


He said Wright had no prior record whatsoever. In addition, Wright has already lost his position with the sheriff's office and likely won't be able to get another law enforcement job.


“He's already suffered a substantial penalty,” Hinchcliff said.


A correctional officer with the county since 1995, Wright was terminated for serious misconduct previous to the arrest, according to investigative documents.


Hinchcliff said that a Jan. 16 search of Wright's home turned up a duffel bag filled with belly chains, leg shackles and a new Taser, still in its box, which wasn't assigned to him and which was supposed to be in the jail's armory, where Wright had been a rangemaster.


Carter maintained that Wright had the items – including the Taser – as part of his job. “There was no criminal intent involved in his possession of that,” Carter said.


The items and the duffel bag were found while investigators served a search warrant on Wright's home in an attempt to locate a trigger mechanism – or sear – that they believed was taken from the armory, Hinchcliff said.


On Jan. 11 Senior Rangemaster Sgt. Don McPherson audited the 10 M16-A1 rifles belonging to the sheriff's office and discovered that the trigger of one of them had been replaced with one from an AR-15, a weapon similar to an M16-A1, according to search warrant documents.


The effect was that the M16-A1, which was supposed to be automatic, became semiautomatic due to the trigger change. Hinchcliff said a major investigation led sheriff's officials to allege that Wright took the trigger sear.


Hinchcliff said the investigation also looked into whether Wright had an automatic firearm and a .50-caliber BMG rifle in his possession. The search warrant affidavit indicated that Wright told investigators that he transported the two weapons in question to a friend in Utah.


The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives previously confirmed to Lake County News that it was involved in the investigation and working with the sheriff's office.


However, the weapons weren't found. Neither was the trigger sear, said Hinchcliff. “There was never sufficient evidence to charge him with it.”


As to why investigators pursued the weapons investigation against Wright so aggressively, Carter said he could only speculate.


However, Carter added, “It has always been Rusty's position, and my position after I saw the evidence, that he had committed no theft crime or embezzlement crime whatsoever.”


Carter said it's never been proven that Wright had any of the alleged firearms or parts. Many people, Carter pointed out, had access to the armory in addition to Wright.


The tracer ammunition was purchased by Wright in another state where it was legal, but was brought back to California where it is not legal, according to Carter.


Carter said that Wright had attempted to return the Taser, shackles and other equipment to Chad Holland, another correctional officer, but Holland “inexplicably” returned the items to Wright rather than taking them back to the sheriff's office.


Hinchcliff said after Wright was terminated sheriff's officials had to go back several times to get various items, including the key to the armory.


Carter said that Wright had simply overlooked the items, and after sheriff's officials came out inquiring about items, Wright began thinking about the gear he had as part of his job. “That's when he called Holland,” Carter said, in an effort to return the items.


Hinchcliff said Holland and Wright were friends, and Wright gave Holland the bag. Holland started to drive off with the items, had concerns about being involved, and then returned the bag to Wright.


Carter said the warrant came out a day or so after Wright attempted to give the items to Holland.


Search warrant documents stated that Holland, who along with Wright had been one of six sheriff's rangemasters, told officials in January that he had several unregistered assault weapons which he then turned over to them.


Sheriff Rod Mitchell told Lake County News in an interview earlier this year that Holland's case was investigated and he faced no criminal charges.


Holland continued his employment with the jail after that time. However, on Friday, Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said Holland's employment with the agency ended mid-June. The specifics of why his employment ended are confidential.


Holland had been a correctional officer with the Lake County Jail for five years, Bauman said.


Like Wright, Holland served in the National Guard. Both did a tour in Iraq as part of the 649th Engineering Unit from September 2007 to May 2008, as Lake County News has reported. Wright served as a combat sergeant.


Another aspect to the case is a leak of the investigative report onto the Internet, which the sheriff's office is working with the California Department of Justice to investigate, as Lake County News has reported.


There have been concerns that whoever leaked the report violated Wright's civil rights, including right to due process.


Mitchell said Friday that the investigation is continuing, and remains in the hands of the Department of Justice.


As to whether or not Wright may sue over that breach, Carter said, “He's not indicated that to me.”


Carter said a felony prosecution threatened Wright's constitutional rights, including his Second Amendment right to possess firearms, which are important to him from the standpoint of hunting and personal defense, as well as his military career.


“Anything that involved a felony would have ended his military career,” Carter said. “I was really glad to save that for him.”


Carter said Wright expects to redeploy to Iraq early next year.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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LAKE COUNTY – Another July 4 holiday came and went this past weekend, marked by parades, barbecues and fireworks.


Fireworks displays ringed the lake over the weekend, extending from Clearlake and Clearlake Oaks to Nice and Lakeport.


On Sunday evening, Lucerne photographer Ron Keas captured these photos, taken of Lakeport's display from the vantage point of Library Park.


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Just in time for the July 4 holiday, the Library of Congress has reported that a recent study has given new insight into the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.


Recent hyperspectral imaging of Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence has clearly confirmed past speculation that Jefferson made an interesting word correction during his writing of the document, according to scientists in the Library of Congress’ Preservation Research and Testing Division (PRTD).


Jefferson originally had written the phrase “our fellow subjects.” But he apparently changed his mind. Heavily scrawled over the word “subjects” was an alternative, the word “citizens.”


The correction seems to illuminate an important moment for Jefferson and for a nation on the eve of breaking from monarchical rule: a moment when he reconsidered his choice of words and articulated the recognition that the people of the fledgling United States of America were no longer subjects of any nation, but citizens of an emerging democracy.


The correction occurs in the portion of the declaration that deals with U.S. grievances against King George III, in particular, his incitement of “treasonable insurrections.”


While the specific sentence doesn’t make it into the final draft, a similar phrase was retained, and the word “citizens” is used elsewhere in the final document. The sentence didn’t carry over, but the idea did.


Fenella France, a scientist in PRTD, conducted the hyperspectral imaging in the fall of 2009 and discovered a blurred word under “citizens.”


“It had been a spine-tingling moment when I was processing data late at night and realized there was a word underneath citizens,” France said. “Then I began the tough process of extracting the differences between spectrally similar materials to elucidate the lost text.”


Hyperspectral imaging is the process of taking digital photos of an object using distinct portions of the visible and non-visible light spectrum, revealing what previously could not be seen by the human eye.


The hyperspectral imaging system is located in the Library’s Optical Properties Laboratory, on the sub-basement level of the James Madison Building.


Fascinating details of our historical heritage have been coming to light with the use of hyperspectral imaging.


For instance, recent imaging of the heavily varnished and visually obscured 1791 Pierre L’Enfant Plan of Washington, D.C., has clearly revealed invisible streets and special locations, including the “President’s House” and “Congress’ House.”


The Thomas Jefferson word correction has been suspected for some time by scholars, the Library of Congress reported.


In “The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 1: 1760-1776” (Princeton University Press, 1950), Julian P. Boyd wrote, “TJ originally wrote ‘fellow-subjects,’ copying the term from the corresponding passage in the first page of the First Draft of the Virginia Constitution; then, while the ink was still wet on the ‘Rough draught’ he expunged or erased ‘subjects’ and wrote ‘citizens’ over it.”


Incidentally, Jefferson died at age 83 on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.


Dying on that same day at age 90 was John Adams, also a former president and one of the five men – along with Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman – who sat on the declaration's drafting committee, which ultimately instructed Jefferson to draft the document.


Adams and Jefferson were friends, later becoming political rivals. However, late in life they renewed their friendship and entered into a long-running correspondence. Their letters still exist today.


Jefferson died hours ahead of Adams, who – not knowing of his friend's death – is reported to have said, “Jefferson still survives,” according to historical sources.


The rough draft of the Declaration of Independence can be explored in stunning detail in the online version of the exhibition "Creating the United States" at www.myLOC.gov (and on-site, appropriately, at the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building).


The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds nearly 145 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats.


The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning Web site at www.loc.gov.


Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at www.myLOC.gov.


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UPPER LAKE – Visitors traveling to Lake Pillsbury on Highway 20 and East Side Potter Valley Road should watch for increased traffic related to the Westshore timber sale, Mendocino National Forest officials said Friday.


Visitors should expect to encounter more traffic, including log trucks, on the popular access route to the lake through the rest of this summer, according to the report.


Drivers in the area are asked to be observant and drive safely in the area to prevent accidents. This includes observing posted speed limits, staying in the appropriate lane for direction of travel – especially on curves, and watching for trucks and other vehicles entering roadways.


The Westshore timber sale is a hazardous fuels reduction project planned and implemented through the Northwest Forest Plan. It is intended to restore forest health in the area and help protect local communities from the threat of wildfire.


For more information, please contact the Mendocino National Forest Upper Lake Ranger District at 707-275-0676 or visit www.fs.fed.us/r5/mendocino.


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THE GEYSERS – A 3.3-magnitude earthquake was reported early Sunday morning at The Geysers geothermal steamfield.


The quake, originally reported at a magnitude of 3.1, occurred at 2:07 a.m., according to the US Geological Survey.


It was centered immediately at The Geysers, five miles southwest of Cobb and six miles west of Anderson Springs, at a depth of 2.1 miles, the agency reported.


The US Geological Survey received 11 shake reports from nine zip codes, including Kelseyville, Middletown, Windsor, Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Napa, Union City, San Francisco and South San Francisco.


A 3.2-magnitude temblor was reported at The Geysers on June 22, as Lake County News has reported.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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Doug Mooney of Full Moon Farms in this lettuce field with his faithful dog. Photo by Esther Oertel.

 

 

 


 




My high school science teacher, an avid fisherman, once told me that he liked my freckles because they reminded him of a “nice, speckled trout.” I’m not sure I liked being compared to a fish; however, I do enjoy sharing my freckled identity with a type of lettuce of which I recently became aware.


The lettuce in question is “freckled lettuce,” a variety with a loosely formed head that has red blotches on its green leaves. It caught my eye while perusing the stalls at a recent farmers’ market, and, as you can imagine, I was happily intrigued by its moniker. It’s grown by Full Moon Farm in Kelseyville, and when I visited the farm recently, I enjoyed seeing rows of these lettuces growing with Mt. Konocti as an impressive backdrop.


There are hundreds of varieties of lettuce. In 1885, there were 87 varieties identified in the U.S., and while that’s an admirable amount, we’ve come a long way since then.


As many types as there are, they fall into far fewer large categories, or cultivar groups.


Loose leaf (or simply leaf) lettuce doesn’t form heads, but its leaves are joined at the stem. Examples of this variety include oak lettuce and red or green leaf lettuces.


Romaine (or cos) lettuce has a long head with sturdy leaves which have a rib down the center. The outer leaves tend to be dark. This type has gained popularity because it’s the base ingredient for Caesar salad. Its crispy texture may appeal to those who like iceberg lettuce.

 

 

 

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Full Moon Farm's freckled lettuce. Photo by Esther Oertel.
 

 

 


Lettuce in the Butterhead category has loosely formed heads, a buttery texture and mild taste. Boston lettuce, which is shaped like a blooming rose, and Bibb lettuce, which is cup shaped, are both examples of this type.


Chinese lettuces have long, sword-shaped, non-head-forming leaves with a bitter flavor. Unlike the west where lettuce is generally eaten raw, the Chinese use lettuce in stir-fried dishes and stews. (China is the world’s largest lettuce producer by far. The U.S. is a distant second, growing only half of China’s crop.)


Summer Crisp, or Batavian, forms moderately dense heads with a crunchy texture. This type is intermediate between iceberg and loose leaf types.


Finally, the Crisphead variety includes Iceberg lettuce. It is the least nutritious of the salad greens, has pale leaves, a cabbage-like head, crispy texture and mild flavor.


Lettuce is thought to have originated as a weed in the Mediterranean region and has been used in cuisine for about 4,500 years. Ancient Greek scholars identified different types of lettuces, and lettuce appears in tomb paintings in Egypt.


Christopher Columbus introduced lettuce to the new world. By the time Thomas Jefferson was president, he was growing 19 types on his farm at Monticello.


It’s interesting to note that both the Latin and English words for lettuce derive from “lac,” the Latin word for milk, possibly because of the milky juice of some varieties. In fact, in the earliest Egyptian tomb paintings, the ruler Senusret offers lettuce to the god Min, to whom milk was sacred.

 

 

 

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Teale Love in front of his shaded lettuce tent. Photo by Esther Oertel.
 

 

 


Ancient Egyptians considered lettuce an aphrodisiac, and early Greek physicians thought lettuce contained a sleep-inducing agent. The Romans held to this belief, as well, and served lettuce at the end of the meal for this reason. (The custom of serving salad at the end of a meal continues in some European countries.)


The nutritional value of lettuce varies based on the variety. In general, lettuces with darker leaves are more nutrient dense than those with lighter leaves. For example, Romaine lettuce has eight times the beta-carotene, four times the calcium and two times the potassium as Iceberg lettuce.


The darker lettuces are good sources of vitamins A, K and C, folate, manganese and chromium. All lettuces are good sources of dietary fiber, even the nutrient barren Iceberg variety. They’re also low in calories and high in water content.


Lettuce aids digestion and promote liver health. Some research shows it helps reduce the risk of cancer and ease nervous insomnia (which gives credence to the theories of the ancient Greeks and Romans).


I had an opportunity recently to visit Love Farms at the base of Cobb Mountain in Lower Lake, where Teale Love has devised a way to grow lettuces in the shade in the height of Lake County’s summer heat.


Lettuce is typically a cool weather crop; its growth is stunted in the heat and the leaves grow bitter. Love’s shaded growing tent changes all this.


The tent material is netlike, with holes for the sun to penetrate. Even so, the temperature drops significantly when one steps into it. There are spray nozzles set up along its sides that emit a fine mist to keep the developing lettuces cool, even on the hottest of days.


Love spent last year testing his method using a dozen or more lettuce varieties. He kept careful track of which ones showed more tolerance to heat, eliminating the ones that didn’t do well. The result is that we will have a crop of heat resistant lettuces available to us at Lake County farmers’ markets through the summer. Hurrah!


The recipe I offer today is an unusual Thai appetizer served in lettuce leaves. It bursts with a variety of flavors; in fact, everything we can identify on our palates – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami (savory) and piquant – is represented in the lettuce wrap.


Lettuce leaves also make interesting wraps when filled with flavorful ingredients from other world cuisines, such as China or Mexico. Be creative – the possibilities are endless!


This recipe is from Mei Ibach, a Thai cuisine culinary instructor at SRJC, and some of the ingredients are found in Asian markets. (If you’d like a list of markets, please email me.)


For a vegetarian version, simply eliminate the dried shrimp and shrimp paste.


Miang Kam


Lettuce leaves, washed and patted dry, 20 or more

¼ cup fresh roasted peanuts

¼ cup fresh toasted coconut flakes

¼ cup fresh ginger, cut into a fine dice

¼ cup fresh lime, cut into the tiniest of wedges, leaving skin on

¼ cup fresh jalapeño chiles, cut into a fine dice (seed chilies if less heat is desired)

¼ cup dried shrimp (found in Asian markets)


To serve, lay all ingredients out artistically on a large platter. (Lettuce should be presented separately.)


To eat, put a pinch of each ingredient into a lettuce leaf, top with palm ginger sauce (recipe follows), wrap, and eat in one bite.


Palm ginger sauce


½ cup palm sugar (found in Asian markets)

½ cup water

3 to 4 slices fresh ginger

½ teaspoon shrimp paste (optional)

1 tablespoon tamarind juice (found in Asian markets)

¼ cup toasted coconut flakes

Salt and pepper to taste


Bring the water to boil in a small pot, then add the palm sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the ginger, tamarind juice, and shrimp paste and stir well. Add salt & pepper to taste. Simmer and reduce until mixture has thickened a bit. Add the coconut flakes just before serving.

 

Esther Oertel, the "Veggie Girl," is a personal chef and culinary coach and is passionate about local produce. Oertel owns The SageCoach Personal Chef Service and teaches culinary classes at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake. She welcomes your questions and comments; e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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One of the young lettuces inside the lettuce tent at Love Farms. Photo by Esther Oertel.
 

MORGAN VALLEY ROAD – State fire officials are alerting the public that they're planning a controlled burn this coming Wednesday.


Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit will conduct a control burn on Morgan Valley Road near the location of the Homestake Mine on Wednesday, July 7.


The prescribed control burn will be conducted between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.


Prescribed burns are carefully planned and controlled burns which must meet strict criteria of ecological benefit, weather parameters, smoke management and fire safety guidelines, officials reported.


When all conditions and prescriptions are met, trained wildland firefighters manage the control burn while monitoring the set criteria, fire behavior and designated fire control lines.


The benefits of low intensity fire in the natural environment include cleansing of wildland debris. Cal Fire reported that excessive dead and down branches, brush and small trees are burned converting fuels that are hazards in the summer into rich soil nutrients for larger species of vegetation.


The controlled burns also provide habitat. Removal of decadent fuel encourages the growth of seasonal

grasses and leafier plants which affords highly nutritional food and habitat to a wider range of animals.


Low intensity fire also helps eliminate and control diseased plants and trees, encourages the healthy growth of new plants – especially those fire dependent for renewal or seed dispersion – and decreases the size and frequency of large uncontrolled destructive wildfires. Prescribed burns also are safer for firefighters and area residents.


For more information about fire safety or prescribed fire visit www.fire.ca.gov.


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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the establishment of a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) that will offer coverage to uninsured Americans who have been unable to obtain health coverage because of a pre-existing health condition.


The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, which will be administered either by a state or by the Department of Health and Human Services, will provide a new health coverage option for Americans who have been uninsured for at least six months, have been unable to get health coverage because of a health condition, and are a U.S. citizen or are residing in the United States legally.


The state of California is one of 29 states plus the District of Columbia that have chosen to operate their own plans. The remaining 21 states have elected to have HHS administer the plans.


California will use $761 million in federal funding made available under the Affordable Care Act and building on its experience running its existing state-based “high risk” program called the California Major Risk Medical Insurance Program which provided coverage to 7,036 individuals in 2009.


Created under the Affordable Care Act, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is a transitional program until 2014, when insurers will be banned from discriminating against adults with pre-existing conditions, and individuals and small businesses will have access to more affordable private insurance choices through new competitive Exchanges.


In 2014, Members of Congress will also purchase their insurance through Exchanges.


“For too long, California residents with pre-existing conditions have been locked out of our health insurance market,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.


Sebelius said the new insurance plan offers new option, the same insurance coverage as a healthy individual if they’ve been uninsured for at least six months because of a medical condition.


“This program will provide people the help they need as the nation transitions to a more competitive and fair market place in 2014,” she said.


The Affordable Care Act provides $5 billion in federal funding to support Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans in every state.


Some states have requested that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services run their Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. Other states, like California, have requested that they run the program themselves. For more information about how the plan is being administered in California, please visit HHS’s new consumer Web site, www.HealthCare.gov.


“Health coverage for California residents with pre-existing conditions has historically been unobtainable or failed to cover the very conditions for which they need medical care,” said Jay Angoff, director of the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (OCIIO) which is overseeing the program. “The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is designed to address these challenges by offering comprehensive coverage at a reasonable cost. We modeled the program on the highly successful Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP, so states would have maximum flexibility to meet the needs of their citizens.”


In order to give states the flexibility to best meet their needs, HHS provided states with the option of running the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan themselves or having HHS run the plan.


Beginning immediately, the national Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan will be open to applicants in the 21 states where HHS is operating the program.


In August, eligible Californians will be able to apply for coverage under the state’s new PCIP program. All states which are operating their own Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans will begin enrollment by the end of the summer, with many beginning enrollment today.


“The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is an important next step in the overall implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” said Richard Popper, director of Insurance Programs at OCIIO. “We have been working closely with the states and other stakeholders to make sure this program reaches uninsured Americans struggling to find coverage due to a pre-existing condition.”


The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan will cover a broad range of health benefits, including primary and specialty care, hospital care, and prescription drugs.


The plan does not base eligibility on income and does not charge a higher premium because of a medical condition. Participants will pay a premium that is not more than the standard individual health insurance premium in their state for insurance that covers major medical and prescription drug expenses with some cost-sharing.


Like the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Pre-Existing Condition Plan provides states flexibility in how they run their program as long as basic requirements are met. Federal law establishes general eligibility, but state programs can vary on cost, benefits and determination of pre-existing condition.


Funding for states is based on the same allocation formula as CHIP, and it will be reallocated if unspent by the states. Unlike CHIP, there is no state matching requirement and the federal government will cover the entire cost of the Pre-Existing Condition Plan.


While it took more than six months for a small number of states to establish their CHIP programs, HHS officials anticipate that every state will begin enrolling individuals in the Pre-Existing Condition Plan by the end of August.


Information on how to apply for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is available at www.HealthCare.gov.


An informational pamphlet on the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan can be found at: http://www.healthcare.gov/center/brochures/PCIP.pdf.


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NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – With warm weather and family events, the July 4 holiday can be a fun time to create great memories. It also can be a tragic time for fires and critical burn injuries.


As the weekend fun gets set to start, Carl Fire reminds all Californians that before your family celebrates, make sure everyone knows about fireworks safety.


“Fireworks not only create significant dangers to citizens when used improperly or illegally, but also increase the demands on fire departments and firefighters,” said Cal Fire Director Del Walters.


“We recommend that you and your family make memories by attending a local professional fireworks display,” said Walters. “If you live in a jurisdiction that allows fireworks, only use legal fireworks displaying the 'Safe and Sane' State Fire Marshal seal and follow common sense practices to ensure your July 4 holiday remains festive and safe.”


Consumers who choose to purchase legal fireworks need to obey local laws. State fire officials urge you to check first with your local fire department or jurisdiction to find out if fireworks are permitted in your area. If you live in a community that allows the use of State Fire Marshal approved safe and sane fireworks, make sure you only use those fireworks where you purchased them.


In Lake County, safe and sane fireworks only are legal in the city of Lakeport.


It is illegal to transport, store, use, sell or possess fireworks where they are not allowed or are illegal.


Cal Fire Law Enforcement officers in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies will have zero-tolerance for individuals that transport, possess, store, sell, or use fireworks in the wildlands or communities where they are prohibited and illegal.


The celebration of July 4 should not be an excuse to put Californians at risk of fire or injury.


If you live in a community that allows state fire marshal-approved safe and sane fireworks, Cal Fire encourages you to follow these fireworks safety tips:

 

  • Use fireworks outdoors only.

  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

  • Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves, and flammable materials.

  • Always have water handy; either by hose or bucket.

  • Only use fireworks as intended. Don’t try to alter or combine them.

  • Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.

  • Adults should always supervise fireworks activities. Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.

  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

  • Think about your pet. Animals have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed on July 4. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they will run loose or get injured.


Remember that fireworks are not toys and they should always be used in a safe and legal manner. Cal Fire wants everyone to have a safe and memorable July 4 holiday.


For more information about safe fireworks use, visit the Cal Fire Web site at www.fire.ca.gov.


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