Monday, 15 July 2024


LAKEPORT – A fire that broke out Saturday afternoon in the Alterra Drive area of Lakeport had panicked residents fighting the blaze with water buckets and shovels alongside firefighters.

Alterra resident Tyler Elsa said he looked across the street and saw smoke coming from a field behind residences on the north side of Alterra Saturday afternoon.

Neighborhood residents, still shaken up by a fire that broke out in the area on June 23, grabbed shovels and buckets of water to try to contain the fire.

Elsa said he called 911 to ask for more help as the fire started burning toward a woman's house. By that time he said the first firefighters already had arrived on scene.

Captain Rick Bergem of Lakeport Fire Protection District said Sunday that the fire call came in about 4:15 p.m. Saturday.

Lakeport sent two engines and a water tender to the fire, said Bergem. In addition, Kelseyville Fire and Northshore Fire's Upper Lake station sent one engine each, with the US Forest Service sending an engine and water tender. About 15 firefighters responded.

Bergem said several neighborhood residents were using garden hoses to keep the fire off the fences lining Alterra.

Alterra Drive's water system has low pressure, said Elsa, which made it difficult to use hoses on the fire.

Firefighters didn't have issues with the neighborhood's low water pressure thanks to the water tenders, said Bergem.

The fire burned a pumphouse, partially damaged the garage of a home on Wright Lane and scorched about two acres of grass in an adjacent field and got into some trees in an old walnut orchard in the area, Bergem said. No other structures were in immediate danger.

Firefighters were at the scene until 6:30 p.m. mopping up, said Bergem.

Elsa said his neighbors' fast action was responsible for stopping the fire from doing more damage. Even children were out working to stop the fire, said Elsa.

The fire's cause is still under investigation, although it appears to have started in the field next to the homes, said Bergem. The field had been mowed but some cut grass hadn't been removed.

The June 23 fire on Alterra was caused by a man who was mowing a lot in the heat of the day, sparking the fire, adjacent to the neighborhood of about 30 homes.

That fire caused several homes to be evacuated while 36 firefighters from Lakeport, Northshore, Kelseyville, Lake County Fire Protection, the Forest Service and Cal Fire fought the blaze with 10 engines and air tankers, according to a report from Lakeport Fire Chief Ken Wells.

The 4.5-acre blaze destroyed a barn, one family's playhouse, neighborhood fences and some junker vehicles, as Lake County News previously reported.

Local and state fire officials have reported that equipment such as mowers are a leading cause of fires during the summer fire season.

Bergem said the fire season for Lakeport Fire has been “pretty quiet,” with a lot of little incidents but no major fires so far.

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UPPER LAKE – Caltrans is negotiating with landowners along Highway 20 to purchase parcels the agency said it needs to complete a safety project to widen the highway, and it's possible that eminent domain could be used in the process.

Phil Frisbie Jr., Caltrans' spokesman for its operations in Lake and Mendocino counties, said Caltrans is planning a $9.4 million safety project to widen the two-lane highway, provide 8-foot shoulders, and upgrade culverts and public road approaches.

The project, which runs between Upper Lake and Nice, originally was scheduled to be constructed next summer, but had moved ahead rapidly enough that Caltrans expected to start work this summer, said Frisbie.

However, Caltrans originally needed to acquire 46 property parcels along the road's right-of-way to have the area needed to complete the improvements, said Frisbie.

Negotiations have put the project back on a 2008 construction schedule. “We are still hoping to have this go out to bid spring of 2008,” said Frisbie.

Now, they're down to three parcels and three landowners, Frisbie explained. “We hope that we will still be able to settle directly with them.”

However, the agency is preparing to file eminent domain proceedings should they be unable to resolve the negotiations, said Frisbie.

“The courts have not been involved at this point,” said Frisbie. “We are just proceeding with the paperwork.”

Because of the nature of the negotiations, Caltrans would not release the names of the property owners in question.

Supervisor Denise Rushing said she was called by two of those property owners who were concerned about how much of their property Caltrans intended to take.

One landowner, an older man, is losing a significant portion of his land, which is covered by heritage oak trees and located along a blind curve that Caltrans wants to eliminate, Rushing explained.

Rushing said she has spoken with Caltrans and they're negotiating with the man in order to settle the matter without resorting to eminent domain.

A woman who was set to lose a larger portion of her land also contacted Rushing and Assemblywoman Patty Berg's office, who sent a representative to sit in on the negotiations, Rushing said.

In the case of both property owners, said Rushing, “They felt the Caltrans offer was inadequate.”

The property owners also were concerned about the process being used to take their property, said Rushing.

Frisbie said Caltrans would rather settle amicably with the property owners, but will move forward with eminent domain if necessary.

“We are still fully working with the landowners, still hoping for a quick resolution,” he said.

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LAKEPORT – The City Council voted to forward an ordinance changing the city's right-of-way rules to a public hearing on Aug. 21.

City Engineer Scott Harter presented four possible resolutions to the council, meant to address how improvements on a property parcel trigger expensive – sometimes exorbitant – right-of-way improvement costs, including curb, gutter and sidewalk installation.

John Magee and wife Jennifer Fox brought the issue of unreasonably high right-of-way costs to the council's attention at its Feb. 6 meeting.

The couple wants to renovate their 100-year-old, 1,000-square-foot home on Ninth Street. Homes next to them don't have curb and gutter for most part, they said.

Their property includes four frontages – almost an entire block, Harter stated at the time – which could end up costing them more than their property is worth, which they estimate is about $350,000.

Even if the city deferred the right-of-way improvements until later, Magee said he and Fox couldn't pay them.

City Community Development Director Richard Knoll at the February called Fox and Magee's situation "the classic example of how our right-of-way ordinance doesn't work very well in some cases."

It was then that Knoll suggested rewriting the ordinance.

He also had suggested adding a "hardship waiver." The versions of the ordinance Harter took to the council Tuesday included a stipulation that the city manager can defer right-of-way improvements if they cause an undue hardship, but the ordinance does not state whether or not the deferral would have a time limit or would be permanent.

All of the sample ordinances suggested raising the valuation threshold that triggers right-of-way improvements from $26,000 to $45,000 over a three-year period.

Harter said, based on that value, it would allow a homeowner to add the equivalent of about 400 square feet to their home, a reasonable amount of property improvements before a property owner incurred the burden of right-of-way improvements.

The new $45,000 valuation and the three-year period would allow homeowners to stage their improvements over time, Harter explained.

Two of the sample resolutions included staff recommendations on specific exemptions for improvements made to increase energy conservation (energy efficient windows, solar, high efficiency heating and cooling, as examples); improvements to accommodate accessibility needs of the owner/occupant; and improvements meant to elevate the home within a floodplain to meet current standards.

Councilman Jim Irwin wanted a mechanism included in the ordinance that would prioritize fixing sidewalks on Main Street rather than in "isolated" areas of the city. It's also along Main Street that Irwin's father is developing his Victorian Village townhouse subdivision.

Harter said he and City Attorney Steve Brookes discussed it and decided that policy could increase the city's financial burdens.

Brookes explained after the meeting that if the city had a property owner's right-of-way obligation in another part of town go toward Main Street, the city itself would be obligated to make right-of-way improvements on that property owner's land in exchange.

Irwin questioned the solar/energy efficiency exemption. Councilman Buzz Bruns agreed the exemption should be removed, saying solar is extremely expensive. Mayor Roy Parmentier said more exemptions meant fewer sidewalks in the city.

Irwin also appeared poised to request the removal of the exemption of accessibility improvement projects until Knoll said they have one such project pending now, to add a wheelchair ramp to a woman's home.

In addition, Irwin questioned reducing the five-year valuation period to three.

When Irwin again attempted to broach the idea of right-of-way improvements being added first to Main Street, City Manager Jerry Gillham cautioned Irwin that it wasn't a good idea in the long-term.

"I think we're creating more machinations and more internal legal turmoil than the idea justifies," said Gillham.

Gillham said there aren't many right-of-way improvements that come through the city; Harter reported the number ranges between five and 10 annually.

If it's not a big deal, Irwin asked, then why the ordinance?

Councilman Bob Rumfelt moved to approve a version of the ordinance that kept the length of time for improvements at five years and removed the energy conservation improvements exemption.

The council approved the ordinance's first reading 5-0. It will be scheduled for a public hearing at the council's Sept. 4 meeting, after which it likely will be adopted.

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HOPLAND – If you want to educate yourself on a more sustainable way to live here in Lake County, you’re in luck – the 12th annual SolFest is just around the corner and up over the Hopland grade.

Leading experts in all things sustainable, green and organic will be on hand Aug. 18 and 19 at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland to answer questions and give workshops with hands-on demonstrations.

In addition to the workshops, over 150 exhibitors will be showcasing the latest in energy and fuel-saving technology and products.

While you’re browsing the exhibits and attending workshops getting inspired about what you could incorporate into your life and home, you can sample tasty organic foods, beer and wine as well as listen to world-class music and entertainment.

District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing believes events like SolFest are important for Lake County residents to attend.

“We have a great deal of work to do to create a healthy relationship with this place in which we all live,” Rushing said. “That work starts with imagining what is possible.”

Rushing believes in sustainability so much that for the last year, Massey Burke, a Solar Living Institute instructor who specializes in natural building and permaculture education, has been leading workshops on Rushing’s organic walnut farm to construct a straw bale and cob cottage where some Lake County residents are learning what natural building is all about.

“At Solfest, we can learn and share: we learn what others are creating and share information and great ideas including ways to harness energy from the sun, natural building materials and methods, ways to restore damaged lands and waters, and ways we can sustain our own spirit and joy in the work ahead,” Rushing said.

Speakers and entertainers at this years’ event include world-renowned author Alice Walker, legendary songwriter and guitar wizard Bruce Cockburn, singer and songwriter Dar Williams and even the Big Tadoo Puppet Show that will ride into Hopland in their bus fueled by vegetable oil.

“One of the most exciting elements of SolFest is the opportunity to attend over 60 workshops related to almost every aspect of sustainability,” said Lindsay Dailey, workshop director for the Solar Living Institute. “From business opportunities in solar to green burials to international community-building.”

There are workshops on how to drought-proof your land, home wetland/gray water systems, natural building, the future of food, permaculture, pumping water with wind power and much more.

“There will be experts traveling from around the country to share their expertise in our six workshop tents,” Dailey said, “and we invite the local community to partake in this unique educational opportunity.”

For more information, visit the following sites.

Denise Rushing’s cottage in progress:


Schedule for SolFest:

Solar Living Institute:


MIDDLETOWN – A motorcyclist who may have been drinking received major injuries in collision Friday evening.

The California Highway Patrol's incident logs reported that a solo motorcycle collision took place at about 6:30 p.m. at 20700 Jerusalem Grade Road at Canyon Road near Middletown.

The rider, who witnesses said had “a lot to drink,” was flown to a Sonoma County hospital, but the CHP did not specify which hospital in particular.

Because of the extent of the rider's injuries, CHP was unable to get a statement. They did report that the subject may have possible bleeding on the left side of the brain.

A blood sample was ordered from the motorcyclist due to concerns about driving under the influence.

No further information about the crash or the rider's condition was available Friday night.

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INDIAN VALLEY – A Dixon man sustained major injuries in a Monday afternoon ATV crash in the Indian Valley area.

The crash occurred just after 2 p.m. Monday, as Lake County previously reported.

California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia reported Tuesday that Tyler Bensen, 22, crashed his ATV and was taken by a private vehicle to the Wilbur Springs Cal Fire station.

Bensen was subsequently flown to UC Davis Medical Center with a broken collar bone.

Garcia said that because Bensen was transported from the accident site, CHP had not been able to locate the scene.

No further information on the collision's cause was available.

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LUCERNE – As concerns begin to mount about potential new rate increases for Lucerne's water system, two groups who focus on the town's water issues will host a community meeting this week.

Lucerne residents will meet Saturday, Aug. 18, to discuss the latest rate increase requested by California water service (CWS). The meeting will be at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, country club Drive at 10th Ave., at 12:30 p.m.

Lucerne Community Water Organization and LucerneFLOW sponsor the meeting. They offer a 50-percent rebate on breakfast at the senior center to those who attend the meeting. Breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to noon and costs $6. Both organizations will open nominations for new members of their boards of directors. Elections will be in September.

The current application from CWS affects several other of their water districts in California, including Chico, Salinas, East Los Angeles, Livermore, Los Altos, Mid-Peninsula, Stockton and Visalia, with requested increases ranging from 21.3 percent in Lucerne to 49 percent in Chico.

The company serves about 500,000 customers in California and has districts in New Mexico, Washington State and Hawaii.

The CPUC public advisor's office said this week that organizations or individuals which wish to intervene in the case must file a notice of intent within 30 days of the CPUC pre-hearing conference, which has not yet been scheduled.

The company said the current request is necessary because the California public utilities commission (CPUC) is attempting to streamline its process, and the next general rate increase will not be filed until July 1, 2009, with rates agreed on from that filing to be effective Jan. 1, 2011 or later.

The purpose of the current filing is to pass on to the rate payers centralized services costs in 2008 but delay the next general rate increase until January 1, 2011. Cal Water filed a General Rate Case for the Redwood Valley District's Lucerne system in August 2005, which resulted in a 121-percent rate increase that became effective in August 2006.

Because of discounts negotiated when attorney Steve Elias intervened before the CPUC on behalf of Lucerne, most ratepayers saw increases of about 65 percent. The company had asked for a 246-percent general increase.

Centralized services costs include payroll, benefits (including employee health care and pension costs), taxes, transportation/fuel, and facilities maintenance that are common to all operating areas.

In contrast, the General Rate Case review examines local costs specific to each district, such as local operation and maintenance expenses, plus a reasonable return to the company and its stockholders for the investments in infrastructure, including water treatment facilities, main replacements, wells, and storage tanks.

On Aug. 1, the San Jose corporation announced its second quarter 2007 financial results and declared its 251st consecutive quarterly dividend. The dividend per common share is $0.37, compared with $.31 per common share in the second quarter of 2006. Net income was reported at $7.7 million, up from $5.7 million for the second quarter of 2006.

Revenues increased by $14.7 million, or 18%, to $95.8 million, attributed to a $9.9 million increase in water sales to existing customers, a $4 million increase in rates, and $0.8 million in sales to new customers.

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LAKE COUNTY – As the wave of home foreclosures continues to climb across the state and the nation, new numbers suggest a steady increase of foreclosures also is occurring here in Lake County.

A report from DataQuick Information Systems of La Jolla, a company that tracks foreclosure rates statewide, found that lenders sent California homeowners the highest number of mortgage default notices in over a decade in this year's second quarter.

Those high default numbers are the result of flat or falling prices, anemic sales and a market struggling with the excesses of the 2004-2005 home buying frenzy, according to DataQuick.

Lenders filed 53,943 Notices of Default (NoDs) during the April-through-June period, DataQuick reported, up 15.4 percent from 46,760 for the previous quarter, and up 158 percent from 20,909 for second-quarter 2006.

The second quarter's default level was the highest since 54,045 NoDs were recorded statewide in fourth-quarter 1996, according to DataQuick. Defaults peaked in first-quarter 1996 at 61,541. A low of 12,417 was reached in third-quarter 2004.

Trustees Deeds recorded, or the actual loss of a home to foreclosure, totaled 17,408 during the second quarter, the highest number in DataQuick’s statistics, which go back to 1988. That was up 57.8 percent from 11,032 for the previous quarter, and up 799.2 percent from 1,936 for last year’s second quarter.

The prior peak of foreclosure sales was 15,418 in third-quarter 1996, the low was 637 in the second quarter of 2005, according to DataQuick.

DataQuick reported that most of the loans that went into default last quarter were originated between July 2005 and August 2006. The median age was 16 months. Loan originations peaked in August 2005. The use of adjustable-rate mortgages for primary purchase home loans peaked at 77.8 percent in May 2005 and has since fallen.

On primary mortgages statewide, homeowners were a median five months behind on their payments when the lender started the default process. The borrowers owed a median $11,126 on a median $342,000 mortgage.

On Notices of Default, the county with the highest percentage increase statewide was Yuba with a 280-percent increase; the lowest was Kings with a 50-percent rise.

For trustee deeds, the high number belonged to Yolo County, which skyrocketed 10,200 percent. Santa Cruz's trustee deeds climbed 253.8 percent in comparison, the lowest number reported in the state.

Lake County's foreclosure rates below state average

DataQuick spokesman Andrew LePage said Lake County's numbers are higher than recent years, but they're still below the staggering state average. And the most recent numbers also indicate a slight dip from the previous quarter.

In the first quarter of 2006, there were 51 Notices of Default in Lake County, said LePage. A year later, 97 Notices of Default were recorded in the first quarter of 2007, a 90.2-percent increase, LePage said.

In 2006's second quarter, there were 58 Notices of Default, compared to 2007's 109, an 87.9-percent increase over the year to date but down 3 percent from the first quarter of the year, said LePage.

As for trustee deeds, where the foreclosure process is completed and a home is taken away, there were seven in the first quarter of 2006 versus 31 in 2007's first quarter, LePage said, a 342.9-percent increase.

In the second quarter of 2006, there were 11 trustee deeds; in second quarter 2007, there were 48, a 336.4-percent jump but, again, down slightly – about 6 percent – from the previous quarter.

Neighboring counties recorded the following numbers for the second quarter, with percent increases indicating the rise from the same quarter the previous year:

  • Notices of default – Sonoma, 462, 128.7 percent increase; Napa, 128, 172.3 percent increase; Yolo, 232, 201.3 percent increase.

  • Recorded Trustee Deeds – Sonoma, 163, 805.6 percent increase; Napa, 34, 1033.3 percent increase; Yolo, 103, 10,200 percent increase.

“The key thing to watch is if things will level out in the next few quarters,” said LaPage.

If it doesn't level off, it means the problems are deeper than just peak lending activity to late summer 2005, he added.

Recent foreclosure activity “probably has more to with bad lending and borrowing decisions,” said LePage.

Many of the lending practices pointed to as likely causes for the climbing foreclosure rates – teaser and adjustable rates, and interest-only loans – were not new, LePage said.

If here was anything that was new, said LePage, it was how widely those loans were used.

Home sales don't appear heavily influenced

Thomas Pelandini, the Lake County Association of Realtors president for 2007 and operations manager for CPS Country Air Properties, said the local real estate market is fluctuating, but those changes don't appear linked with foreclosure activity.

The California Association of Realtors' most recent report on home sales stated that sales in June decreased by 24.7 percent compared with June 2006 while, at the same time, the median price of existing homes increased 3.2 percent. The association reports that the focus on foreclosures is causing some homebuyers to take a “wait-and-see” attitude, while homes priced to sell continue to move.

The same is true in Lake County, said Pelandini. “Pricing seems to be the critical element.”

Looking at residential statistics countywide from January through July of 2006, Pelandini said there were 550 listings sold with a median price of $299,000.

During the same period this year, the number of listings sold was 472, a 10-percent decrease, said Pelandini. The median price for the homes sold was $275,000, a 9-percent drop, he said.

“It seems to be fluctuating month to month,” Pelandini said. “There's no consistent upward trend or downward trend.”

The market is expected to enjoy a rebound in 2008 and 2009, Pelandini said.

Historically Lake County hasn't had a major foreclosures problem, said Pelandini.

As for current activity, “There are foreclosures here, and most agents have done a pretty quick cram course on short sales,” he said.

In recent years, with an influx of homebuyers coming to the county to look for second or retirement residences, the buyers tend to have higher incomes and more secure financial footings, which help avert foreclosure activities, Pelandini explained.

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LAKE COUNTY – A San Jose woman who traveled around Northern California earlier this summer – with a stop to visit Clear Lake – has contracted West Nile Virus.

Test results delivered Aug. 2 confirmed the 48-year-old woman had contracted a mild form of West Nile Virus, said Joy Alexiou, Santa Clara County's public information officer.

The woman took a three-week camping trip during the mid to latter part of July, said Alexiou, traveling all around Northern California with some friends.

One of her stops was in Lake County, said Alexiou.

“We don't know exactly where she got it,” Alexiou said of the virus.

Although this is their second human case of West Nile Virus this season – the other was diagnosed shortly before this one – Alexiou said, in the woman's case, “We're confident that she did not get it in our county.”

On July 3, the woman – who just recently had returned from her camping trip – started to feel ill, said Alexiou. But it wasn't until later in the month that doctors began testing for the virus. “My guess is she didn't go to her doctor right away,” said Alexiou.

The symptoms the victim reported included a fever, body aches, fatigue and a body rash, said Alexiou. Health officials aren't sure the rash was related to the case of West Nile, however.

Luckily, the woman's case of West Nile was the mild – not the severe – form, said Alexiou. The severe form, she added, includes severe inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and can lead to death.

In mild cases, the symptoms match the San Jose woman's, and also sometimes include nausea and vomiting, Alexiou said.

Alexiou said Santa Clara County notified the state but didn't contact Lake County's health officials, which Dr. Craig McMillan, Lake County's public health officer, confirmed.

The reason Lake wasn't contacted, McMillan said, is likely “because the West Nile Virus is everywhere.”

West Nile has symptoms that resemble other diseases, like meningitis, a fact which the county's doctors are aware of, said McMillan.

The Santa Clara West Nile victim “probably thought it was something else” before she finally went to see a doctor, McMillan said.

So far, 2007 has proved to be a heavy year for West Nile cases statewide. So far there have been 64 human cases – more than tripling last year's figure of 20, according to the California West Nile Virus Web site. So far four people have died from the disease.

This year, the disease has been found in 42 counties, versus 43 in 2006. In 2006, there were 13 horse cases 299 dead birds, 349 mosquito samples, 83 sentinel chickens and no cases of squirrels with the virus, the California West Nile Virus Web site reported.

In comparison, this year there have been five horses diagnosed with West Nile, 502 dead birds, 402 mosquito samples, 66 sentinel chickens and seven squirrels, according to the state.

Here in Lake County, there have been no West Nile cases in humans, horses, chickens or squirrels, the West Nile Virus Web site reported. There have, however, been five mosquito samples that tested positive.

McMillan said he's “happily surprised” by those very low numbers. “That doesn't mean it's not out there,” he cautioned.

Alexiou said the woman is recovering but still feeling very tired. “If you get it you're down for a while,” she added, noting victims need weeks, sometimes months, of recovery time.

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LAKE COUNTY – A Cal Fire battalion chief said Friday that the agency has been able to determine causes for two out of three large fires that took place in the county in July.

Eric Hoffmann is battalion chief for fire prevention in the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit, which also covers Solano, Colusa and Yolo counties.

Hoffmann investigates the causes of fires throughout the unit. He gave a report on the causes for the July fires.

– July 28: A fire that originated at the back of Robinson Rancheria's property burned 128 acres as it moved up into the hills and in the direction of Nice. A few small sheds were destroyed but no major structures were in danger, and no injuries were reported.

The blaze's cause, said Hoffmann, was children with matches.

Because of the circumstances, Cal Fire is putting together a package to bill the parents of the child responsible, although he said they haven't determined the specific child.

The fire required extensive use of aircraft, including four air tankers for the space of a few hours, and three helicopters throughout the fire's duration. Although the fire was contained that same day, firefighters remained on the scene until Monday to put out hot spots.

Hoffmann estimated the cost would be over $50,000. “We don't even have an estimate right now.”

Children playing with fire cause about 1 percent of the fires Cal Fire deals with every year, said Hoffmann. Locally, he added, the percentage of playing with fire cases is slightly higher.

Cal Fire's fire prevention specialists train on how to deal with juvenile fire setters, said Hoffmann. They have a special program geared toward children ages 6 through 11, which is intended to educate them about the dangers of fire and playing with matches.

Hoffmann said for more of those younger children, fire is an object of curiosity. By the time the children hit their early teens, their fascination with fire can cross the line into reckless fire starts.

The program has been successful, said Hoffmann; he said a veteran fire specialist reported she never had a child go through the program who was a repeat offender.

– July 16: A fire that ignited in the afternoon moved quickly through 100 acres of dry grassland near the Noble Ranch subdivision off of Spruce Grove Road between Lower Lake and Middletown. There were no structures damaged and no injuries.

The tentative cause of the fire was a plastic tarp that blew into a power pole. The tarp caused two lines on the pole to short, Hoffmann said.

The short caused one of the lines to break, Hoffmann explained, and when it hit the ground it ignited the grass.

– On July 14, a fire broke out along Highway 20 in Clearlake Oaks, burning between 15 and 20 acres.

That fire, said Hoffmann, was the only one of the three for which they were unable to find a cause.

Hoffmann said the biggest cause of wildland fires in the Cal Fire unit is a combination of equipment and vehicles, which account for about 30 percent of fires.

Among pieces of equipment, which alone account for a 25 percent of fires, the No. 1 culprit is the lawnmower, especially those heavier mowers made for irrigated lawns, now dry fields, said Hoffmann. Welding, cutting and grinding tools also have caused fires.

Vehicles account for about 12 percent on their own, said Hoffmann, with fires usually starting due to faulty exhaust systems that come in contact with vegetation. That was the case last summer, with fires along Highway 29 near Middletown attributed to a catalytic converter.

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SACRAMENTO – The return of West Nile virus to California this year is renewing calls for horse owners to make sure their animals are vaccinated.

So far in 2007, five horses have been diagnosed with the disease – all have been either unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated.

None of those equine cases were found in Lake County. However, two were in Sonoma, two in Kern and one in Sacramento County.


“Outbreaks of West Nile virus are still a risk for horses,” said California State Veterinarian Dr. Richard Breitmeyer. “Horse owners should contact their veterinarians as soon as possible to ensure vaccination status is current. If people get the necessary shots for their horses now, the animals will have optimal protection against the disease.”


Signs of West Nile virus include stumbling, staggering, wobbling, weakness, muscle twitching and inability to stand.

Horses contract the disease from carrier mosquitoes and are not contagious to other horses or people. Not every horse exposed to the virus will die.


California's Department of Food & Agriculture is collaborating with state, federal and local agencies to detect and respond to the disease in California.

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Former owners of S-Bar-S Ranch, Ernest and Polly Kettenhofen, pictured here in 1976, established the Kettenhofen Family Foundation, which has pledged a $100,000 donation to the Ely Stage Stop and Country Museum Project. Courtesy photo.



LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Historical Society is pleased to announce a private donation of $100,000 has been pledged to the Ely Stage Stop and Country Museum.

In August, the Ely Stage Stop and Country Museum Project will receive a donation of $100,000 from the Kettenhofen Family Foundation, a charitable foundation established and funded by the estates of Ernest and Polly Kettenhofen who owned the S-Bar-S Ranch from approximately 1960 to 2000. Ernest died in 1996; Polly died in 2006.

The Kettenhofen Family Foundation called for the donation recipients to be selected by remaining family members, so in looking for a charity in Lake County, the family discovered the Ely Stage Stop Project through the Lake County Historical Society web site.

Randy Ridgel, president of the Lake County Historical Society, expressed gratitude on behalf of the Society to the Kettenhofen family for the very generous donation.

Linda Marshik, daughter of the Kettenhofens, said, "We recognized the building as the one our father had told us used to be the Stage Stop at the Lost Springs Ranch, later called the S-Bar-S."

She said the family had been looking for a charity but hadn't expected to find a project that would be so fitting of the family's past connection to Lake County and be a long-term asset for Lake County.

"We were so pleased to learn about the Beckstoffer family's generous donation of the building and land for the project," Marshik said.

Andrew Beckstoffer of Beckstoffer Vineyards donated both the historic structure, considered by some to be the oldest "stick-built" building in Lake County dating to the late 1850s, as well as the five-acre parcel for the new site.

On July 29, the historic Ely Stage Stop structure was relocated just across Highway 29 to the future site of the museum, at 9921 Highway 281, approximately one mile north of Kit's Corner, in Kelseyville. The site features dramatic views of Mt. Konocti and overlooks the former S-Bar-S Ranch.

Ridgel said the society intends to use the Kettenhofen family funds for physical improvements such as building and foundation work in the early stages of the project, and also for future conservation efforts.

He said these efforts may include "old history" in the form of an operating windmill to pump water to supply the museum, as well as "new history" in the form of solar power to supply the museum with electricity.

Once completed, the Ely Stage Stop and Country Museum will be owned by the county and will provide a permanent home for the Lake County Historical Society. The site will function as a historical and agricultural visitor center with reconstructed old barns, displays of farm equipment, as well as agricultural demonstrations and living history exhibits.

Opportunity to give back

Acknowledging the generosity and hard work of others that had brought the project to this point, Marshik said the family felt fortunate that the timing of the Ely Stage Stop Project gave them a chance to give something back to Lake County.

Marshik said, "Our parents believed you should always give something back" and Lake County was a place they cherished. She said that although family members now reside from San Diego to Vancouver, British Columbia, they each carry warm memories of the beauty of Lake County.

"It was at the center of many years of our family gatherings and the hub of activities," Marshik said.

She recalled memories of hiking, hunting, and birdwatching, blackberry picking, rock collecting and star-gazing, even water-skiing and county fairs.

"My father also had a keen interest in the history of the land and the stories of the people who had been on the land before," Marshik said.

She said the members of the Kettenhofen family agree that their parents, Ernest and Polly, would be truly happy at the chance to help with the Ely Stage Stop Project.

"We know it's a huge undertaking, and it has already taken an impressive amount of work with a great deal more to come," Marshik said. "The donation from our parents' estate comes with our warm wishes for the project's future success."

Monetary contributions as well as donations of farm equipment and old barns are still being sought.

Anyone interested in contributing to the project may contact Greg Dills, chairman of the Ely Stage Stop and Country Museum Project for the Lake County Historical Society at 707-263-4180, extension 12.

For more information, contact Eric Seely at the Lake County Administrative Office at 707-263-2580.


Upcoming Calendar

07.16.2024 9:00 am - 12:30 pm
Board of Supervisors
07.16.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.16.2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Lakeport City Council
07.17.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Free veterans dinner
07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile

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