Tuesday, 23 July 2024


A REACH helicopter takes off from Upper Lake County Park at around 5:30 p.m. following a crash a short time earlier on Wednesday, September 9, 2009. Photo by Mike Smith.


NORTHSHORE – The Northshore's stretch of Highway 20 saw two serious crashes on Wednesday afternoon.

The crashes occurred near Nice and Upper Lake, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The first crash occurred around 1:45 p.m. near Ceago Vinegarden, outside of Nice and west of Lucerne.

Two vehicles were involved – an older model silver Ford Ranger and a green Ford Taurus. Reports from the scene explained that the pickup had put on its brakes quickly and the Taurus hit the back of it.

The highway's westbound lane was closed for about 45 minutes as Northshore Fire personnel and CHP responded to the scene.

Major injuries resulted, with a helicopter landing nearby to transport the injured. But CHP and Northshore officials were unavailable to give further detail late Wednesday, in part because they were shortly on their way to another crash scene.

The second crash occurred shortly before 4:45 p.m. near Upper Lake. Reports indicated a vehicle pulled out in front of a Dodge pickup towing a travel trailer.

A helicopter was once again summoned to transported injured from the crash.

Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins had to have players leave the soccer field at the nearby county park so the helicopter could land.

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LAKEPORT – The annual Lake County Fair came to a close at 11 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 6, after four great days of fun and excitement at the fairgrounds in Lakeport.

“We had incredibly good weather, lots of great activities and fantastic support from throughout Lake County,” said fair Chief Executive Officer Richard Persons. “Everyone had a good time and we got lots of very positive comments. The staff and volunteers are all tired, but planning has already started for another great run in 2010.”

Persons said they're still crunching the numbers, but it appears the fair was about even in total gate revenues and up in other areas, like the carnival and food sales.

He said preliminary carnival numbers indicated an increase of nearly 12 percent in ride revenues, largely driven by the free hour of admission offered on Friday evening.

“That one free hour brought in 3,087 people, and admission ticket sales the rest of the night were nearly average for a Friday, so everything else on the fairgrounds benefited from that bump in attendance,” he said. “Saturday saw nearly a 10-percent jump in ticket sales at the gate.”

The Lake County Fair does not release specific gate attendance figures, but Persons explained that he expected the final total attendance numbers to be up slightly, with many people taking advantage of discounted tickets that were available in the weeks prior to the event.


Once again, the junior livestock program was a main attraction for fairgoers, with the number of animals entered in the 4-H and FFA contests about even with 2008, he said.

Persons said there was a shift from the market animal contests into the breeding animal contests, which Persons said is good for the long-term health of the programs.

“Breeding animal projects require a longer term, more intensive commitment from the kids, which in turn encourages more involvement from their siblings and friends, and all of that leads to better knowledge and understanding of animal husbandry and agriculture in general,” said Persons.


Other animal attractions included miniature farm animals provided by Oops Ranch, an open goat show, and draft horse wagon rides from Eleven Roses Ranch.


This year's attractions in the main grandstand included an invitational sheep dog trials, the traditional demolition derby, mud bog races and the California State Finals of the WGAS Tuff Truck Races. The main grandstand arena was sponsored by Robinson Rancheria Resort and Casino.

“The motorized entertainment continues to pack the seats at Lake County Fair,” said Persons, adding “the sheep dog trials struggled to find an audience, which is too bad really. It's a fascinating and intense sport, and we'll be discussing the possibility of 2010 show, but it'll take some more intensive promotion if we go that way again.”

Local acts and attractions were the rule at the 2009 Lake County Fair, he said.

Entertainment on the Theatre Main Stage included local acts like the Hip Replacements, Side of Blues, the Mark Weston Band, Bill Noteman and the Rockets, the Bottle Rock Blues and Rhythm Band, and the Lake County Amateur Talent Competition.

The Enhance H2O Stage hosted Mike Wilhelm and Jim Williams playing solo guitar, the Carter and Chambers Duo, and the Kustom Cuts playing rockabilly.

Special appearances by magician Ken Garr, and Mickey the Clown were complemented by the performances by Chaz Marquette the juggling unicyclist.


“We want to thank all of the fairgoers, participants and sponsors of this year’s event,” said fair board president Janeane Bogner of Clearlake Oaks. “This event is truly a celebration of life in Lake County, and it takes participation from everyone to make it a success.”

UPPER LAKE – A downed wire resulted in hundreds of Upper Lake residents going without power for several hours on Sunday evening.

The outage began at approximately 5:34 p.m. Sunday and lasted until 12:36 a.m. Monday, according to Pacific Gas & Electric spokesman JD Guidi.

Guidi said 569 customers were without power during that time.

A failed insulator led to the issues with the wire, which was reported down at 615 E. Highway 20, Guidi 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 .


CACHE CREEK WILDERNESS – By day's end on Wednesday a fire on Bureau of Management Land in the Cache Creek Wilderness Area had burned an estimated 1,400 acres.

The Oasis Fire moved into its second full day on Wednesday, with approximately 1,114 firefighters – 1,059 of them with Cal Fire – on the ground trying to knock the fire out.

The fire, which broke out Monday evening, is located south of Highway 20 and six miles west of Highway 16.

It's located both in Lake and Colusa counties, burning on federal land and in the Northshore Fire Protection District, according to Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown.

The Oasis Fire reached 55-percent containment Wednesday, with 75-percent containment reported Thursday morning. Cal Fire said it's expected to be fully contained on Friday.

The cause is still under investigation, officials reported.

Three injuries have been reported so far, according to Cal Fire.

Since it began the fire, which is burning in oak and brush on steep terrain, has jumped fire lines and even Cache Creek itself. On Wednesday afternoon, it jumped a retardant line.

Firefighters had to deal with hot, dry conditions on Wednesday, according to Nancy Carniglia of Cal Fire.

Road access to the area where the fire is burning is limited, so bulldozers, air tankers and helicopters have played an important in the fight.

Cal Fire reported that 15 bulldozers are being used to get access for ground crews, while several air tankers and eight helicopters continued water and retardant drops.

On Wednesday air tankers were being brought in from around Northern California, including McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento, according to reports from the fire scene.

Resources on scene Tuesday included 40 engines, 43 fire crews and 14 water tenders.

Brown, who is working with Cal Fire as an agency representative and medical unit leader, said Northshore Fire resources include one engine from Lucerne and a water tender from Clearlake Oaks, as well as a medic rig that is staffing the fire's base and another medic rig that is transporting injuries out of the Oaks station.

In addition to Northshore Fire and Cal Fire, cooperating agencies include Williams Fire Department, BLM, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and California Highway Patrol.

Costs to fight the fire have been estimated at $1.7 million so far, Cal Fire reported.

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CACHE CREEK WILDERNESS – A wildland fire that broke out Monday night was reported to have grown to 700 acres by Tuesday and was jumping fire lines.

The Oasis Fire, reported just after 6 p.m. Monday, is located near Highway 20 six miles west of Highway 16 in the Cache Creek Wilderness Area in Colusa County, according to Cal Fire.

The 700-acre fire was reported to be 15 percent contained, Cal Fire said Tuesday afternoon.

But reports from the scene Tuesday indicated that firefighters were having challenges, as the fire began to make runs in the morning that resulted in it jumping from the south side to the north side of Cache Creek and escaping containment lines.

Aircraft were being called in from Redding and Ukiah to help fight the blaze, officials reported.

At about 1:30 p.m. reports from the scene indicated that the fire was “progressing aggressively” on the south side of Cache Creek.

Cal Fire was requesting a California Highway Patrol reconnaissance flight to help with the effort, but availability was an issue, so other local government agencies with aircraft were being sought.

More updates on the situation will be posted as information becomes available.

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 .

I am excited and impressed by the flurry around and interest in the Lake County Oldtime Bluegrass Festival next week at Anderson Marsh in Clearlake.

Don’t misinterpret my intent. I don’t know a whole lot about bluegrass. I do know that bluegrass combines elements from more than one culture which, in my mind, is a good thing. I am aware of folks like Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson. I also know a local picker, Patrick Ickes, whose band is playing at this year's event and I’m itching to hear them play. (Unfortunately, it won’t be at this year’s Bluegrass Festival.)

It’s good that Lake County is making a dent in the festival scene, period. The handwriting is already on the wall suggesting that musically speaking the community here is growing out of the only-one-kind-of-music-will-sell-here exile that has been heaped upon us concert after cry-in-your-beer concert for a lot of years now.

You might say, “What the heck is the CyberSoulMan raving about now?” Is he bashing country music? Is he not bashing bluegrass?

Well no, I’m not bashing country. Yes, I am similarly not bashing bluegrass. Whether or not they are similar or dissimilar is a matter of personal preference. What I’m angling at here is that there is room for more that one musical artistic palette here.

The mission statement of the Oldtime Bluegrass Music Festival is “a community benefit to help support education in science, history and performing arts for the children of Lake County.” That is a noble notion to help the children of Lake County. They’ve got a long way to retirement and need all the help we can give.

Over in Upper Lake, a very successful third annual Blue Wing Blues Festival was recently held. Up on Cobb Mountain, merchants present a yearly music festival.

Whatever the venue or the genre, all the music festivals I’ve been to have been outstanding. This year, as I’ve reported, I have been to several blues festivals. They include the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa; the Monterey Bay Blues Festival in Monterey; and the Reno Tahoe Blues Festival in Reno.

The people I run across at festivals are always interesting, the food is usually superb. Oftentimes, I am able to hang out with performers. They are usually some of the nicest people ever.

At the Russian River Blues & Jazz Festivals in the past I have seen pristine performances by the likes of Etta James, Ike Turner, Little Richard, Chaka Khan, Ledisi, Boney James and Bettye Lavette – and that’s just the short list. I met Blues Queen Koko Taylor there twice. The last time, a couple of years back, we hung out together backstage for close to 30 minutes. Sadly she passed away this year.

Next weekend, I’ll be heading down to the Russian River for the first-ever combined Jazz & Blues Festval. That’s why I won’t be able to hear Patrick Ickes and his band at the Lake County Old Time Bluegrass Festival this year. Headlining at the Russian River are Al Jarreau, Dr. John and The Neville Brothers. Next week I’ll bring you a full report.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Labor Day Special In The Garden: Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings plus Gerald Mathis & Starlight. 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 7. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone 707-275-2233, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

Roy Zimmerman, 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, at the Kelseyville Senior Center, 5345 Thirds St.

Front Porch Blues, Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe Sunday Brunch, Sept. 13. Brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; music from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone 707-275-2233, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

Fourth annual Old Time Bluegrass Festival, featuring Laurie Lewis and Nina Gerber, and Susie Glaze and the Hilonesome Band. 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12. Anderson Marsh State Historic Park, Lower Lake. A community benefit to help support education in science, history and performing arts for the children of Lake County. Information: 707-995-2658, www.andersonmarsh.org/Bluegrass/AMIA-Bluegrass.htm or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival, Saturday, Sept. 12, and Sunday, Sept. 13. Johnson’s Beach, Guerneville. Saturday's jazz festival lineup includes Al Jarreau, Jazz Attack, Rick Braun, Jonathan Butler, Richard Elliot, East Bay Soul, Jackiem Joyner, Mads Tolling Quartet and Times 4. On Sunday, the blues festival includes the Neville Brothers, Dr. John, The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue, Tommy Castro Band, Bernard Allison, Rick Estrin, Janiva Magness, Otis Taylor, the Delta Wires and MoFo Party Band. Information: 707-869-1595.

Petaluma Summer Music Festival, through Sept. 13. For lineup go to www.cinnabartheater.org/cinnabar.2009-petaluma.summer.music.festival.html or call 707-763-8920

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at www.teewatts.biz.

CACHE CREEK WILDERNESS AREA – Officials say a wildland fire in the Cache Creek Wilderness Area burned more acreage on Wednesday morning.

The Oasis Fire, which started Monday evening south of Highway 20 and six miles west of Highway 16, was reported to have burned 1,350 acres by midday Wednesday, according to Cal Fire. The cause is under investigation.

The fire currently is at 40-percent containment, with Cal Fire officials estimating full containment on Friday.

On Wednesday morning, six air tankers and five helicopters were making drops on the fire, said Nancy Carniglia with Cal Fire.

That air contingent was small compared to the nearly 1,100 firefighters on the ground, Carniglia said.

Moderate wind conditions weren't causing issues for firefighters on Wednesday, but Carniglia said weather conditions were expected to be hot and dry – with temperatures in the high 90s and low humidity.

Because there are no established roads in the fire area, bulldozers have played a big part in fighting the fire. In addition to building new fire lines, Cal Fire reported the dozers are reopening old dozer lines and improving them to allow vehicles access.

On scene Wednesday were 50 engines, 41 fire crews, five helicopters, 15 dozers and 13 water tenders, according to Cal Fire.

The costs for suppression to date are approximately $461,965, Cal Fire 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 .



LAKE COUNTY – The Labor Day weekend saw several sizable earthquakes occur around the county.

Before the weekend even got started, a 3.7-magnitude quake was reported in The Geysers area at 3:20 a.m. Friday, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's earthquake array.

Then, on Saturday, The Geysers saw two quakes measuring 3.0 in magnitude within eight seconds of each other.

The first 3.0 quake, which occurred at 1:48 a.m. at a depth of 1.6 miles, was centered one mile west of Anderson Springs, four miles south of Cobb and five miles east southeast of The Geysers, according to the US Geological Survey.

The 3.0 quake that followed it seconds later was measured at a depth of 0.6 of a mile and was centered in the exact same area one mile west of Anderson Springs, the US Geological Survey reported.

While no shake reports were made to the survey regarding the first quake, they received numerous reports on the second, with reports coming from Middletown, Covelo, Santa Rosa and Eureka to as far away as Santa Clara and Palmdale, the latter over 600 miles away.

Then, on Monday the US Geological Survey reported a 3.2-magnitude quake occurred near Lake Pillsbury at 1:22 a.m.

That quake, at a depth of 6.6 miles, was centered three miles east southeast of Lake Pillsbury, 16 miles north of Upper Lake and 19 miles north of Nice, the survey reported.

Only one shake report was received on the Pillsbury quake – it came from the San Francisco area, according to US Geological Survey records.

The last series of quakes to hit the county measuring 3.0 or above occurred early in July, when The Geysers area experienced five such quakes in just a few weeks, as Lake County News reported earlier this summer.

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 .

SACRAMENTO – When a big rig truck crashes with a passenger car, the laws of physics determine the outcome. Most often, the passenger car bears the brunt of the damage.

The Insurance Information Network of California, the California Highway Patrol and the California Trucking Association have joined forces to focus attention on truck and passenger vehicle driver safety this Labor Day weekend.

Trucks often weigh 20 to 30 times more than a passenger car and have a harder time maneuvering around an emergency situation.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that 4,602 people died in truck collisions in 2007. Of these deaths, 16 percent were truck occupants and 70 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles.

The CHP estimates that more than half of the 7,262 collisions involving big rigs last year were caused by passenger vehicle drivers.

“Motorists need to know that sharing the road with a big rig requires patience and understanding how to recognize and avoid a truck’s blind spots,” said Candysse Miller, executive director of the Insurance Information Network of California.

“Truckers in California maintain the highest standards of safety and need the help of passenger drivers to keep the roads safe,” added CTA Chairman Bob Ramorino.

“The number of trucks using the California highway system will inevitably increase over the coming years,” said Deputy Commissioner Skip Carter. “For that reason, the CHP is working to create public awareness about driving around commercial trucks; and thus, minimizing truck-involved collisions and fatalities.”

The CHP urges motorists to understand these basics of sharing the road with big rigs:

  • Allow plenty of room when changing lanes in front of a truck;

  • Pass trucks quickly and don’t linger beside a truck;

  • Pass a truck on the left, not on the right, because the truck's blind spot on the right runs the length of the trailer and extends out three lanes.

  • Allow a lot of room around trucks. Try to leave a 10-car length gap when in front of a truck and 20-25 car lengths when behind a truck.

  • Check a truck's mirrors. If you are following a truck and you cannot see the driver's face in the truck's side mirrors, the truck driver cannot see you.

  • Allow trucks adequate space to maneuver. Trucks make wide turns at intersections and require additional lanes to turn.

Leona Butts of Clearlake Oaks captured this picture of the Oasis Fire's smoke column at 11 a.m. Tuesday, September 8, 2009, as she traveled along Highway 20 toward Yuba County. The fire is located in the Cache Creek Wilderness Area.

CACHE CREEK WILDERNESS – Tuesday proved a challenging day for firefighters battling a wildland fire in the Cache Creek Wilderness Area, as the blaze nearly doubled in size and jumped fire lines.

The Oasis Fire is located south of Highway 20 and six miles west of Highway 16 in Colusa County, according to Cal Fire.

Officials reported that the fire had grown to 1,200 acres with 30-percent containment. Full containment is expected Friday. The cause is still under investigation.

Stacie McCambridge of Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit, which is in charge of handling the fire, said one minor injury has been reported. In that case, a firefighter suffered a 2-inch by 1-inch burn to the face, and was being evaluated by a medic Tuesday evening. An abandoned trailer also burned in the fire.

The fire broke out Monday night and has been burning in steep terrain featuring brush, oak and grass, said Tammy Rossi of Cal Fire. She noted it's been a long time since that area burned.

On Tuesday, the battle from the air continued, with six helicopters and seven air tankers hitting the blaze with water and retardant drops, with a DC-10 also ordered, Rossi said.

In the afternoon, the fire jumped containment lines and went over Cache Creek, where it began burning on the creek's north side, according to reports from the scene.

Shortly before 7 p.m. reports indicated that firefighters were working on six hot spots, and that the fire had made several runs at the dozer line but the helicopters were able to knock it back.

Rossi said the fire was moving to the east toward Baldy Mountain, and was burning on Bureau of Land Management property, as well as land owned by the Payne Ranch, which also is the location of a firefighter camp.

Resources reported on scene late Tuesday included 680 Cal Fire personnel plus another 29 firefighters from local government agencies, BLM, Williams Fire and the California Department of Corrections.

In addition, there were 32 engines, 24 fire crews, five helicopters, 10 bull dozers, nine water tenders on scene.

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 .



Johnna Ornbaun of Williams sent this photograph of a view of the Oasis Fire's smoke cloud from the Sacramento Valley not long after the fire started on Monday, September 7, 2009. Her father, Brent Wiggin of Arbuckle, is on the fire lines running his dozer.

The smoke plume of the Oasis Fire seen from Lake County on Labor Day evening, Monday, September 7, 2009. Photo by Eric Cox.



COLUSA COUNTY – On Monday evening a wildland fire broke out in an area of the Cache Creek Wilderness Area in Colusa County, not far from the Lake County line.

The Oasis Fire was reported just after 6 p.m. Monday, according to Cal Fire.

The fire was burning both in and outside of the Cache Creek Wilderness, in an area between Highway 20, Morgan Valley Road and six miles west of Highway 16, according to reports from the scene.

Several residents of south Lake County reported seeing the fire and the aircraft headed to it Monday evening.

Cal Fire estimated the blaze to be between 300 and 500 acres, with no containment reported late Monday.

No cause was given, but shortly after 1 a.m. Tuesday firefighters reported finding an abandoned camp with food and a campfire that may have been the source of the blaze. Investigators are expected at the scene on Tuesday.

Cal Fire incident command said Cal Fire personnel and firefighters from Colusa County were responding. Scanner reports indicated Northshore Fire and personnel from Middletown also were going to the scene.

Ground units were having difficulty accessing the fire, which was being fought principally by air, with several helicopters and air tankers, along with and one fire air command on scene, according to fire observers with www.wildlandfire.com .

Firefighters had to access the fire from a Bureau of Land Management road east of Walker Ridge Road, according to reports. They also were staging at Morgan Valley Road and Reiff Road.

Six dozers were reporting to the scene, where they were being used to gain access for ground crews, build fire lines and go through a brush field. The dozers, which also were working in several areas, including along a ridgetop, were said to be making good progress early Tuesday morning.

Firefighters were trying to cut the fire off at the creek, and spent time burning brush patches throughout the early morning hours.

Reports indicated that fire camp was begin set up at the nearby Payne Ranch, and strike teams en route from Mendocino and Sacramento counties. A helicopter base was being set up in the area as well.

Shortly before 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, firefighters reported spot fires across Cache Creek. Engines weren't able to access the spots by ground, so they planned to start hitting the spots with aircraft Tuesday morning.

It was noted that the weather appeared to be working in firefighters' favor.

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 .

Heather Anderson and her dog, McGruff, were separated for more than two months when a chance visit to a fire station helped reunite them. Photo courtesy of Diana Anderson.



LAKE COUNTY – A young local woman who was severely injured in a June crash recently had a happy reunion with one of her best friends.

Heather Anderson and her little wired hair rat terrier McGruff were reunited last month after a crash that nearly killed her and which also resulted in him being lost and on his own for weeks.

The story began when Anderson, who is a member of the Robinson Rancheria Pomo, was involved in a serious vehicle collision near the Wilbur Springs Fire Station on June 15.

Scott Ross, a Middletown resident and a Cal Fire firefighter stationed on Wilbur Springs, said the crash happened on Highway 20 west of the Wilbur Springs station on Highway 16.

He said a vehicle went over the side of the road, with three injuries resulting – one major, one moderate and one minor.

Anderson, who was living in the county at the time, was in a car driven by a friend that day, and McGruff was with her. They were headed to Red Bluff at around 8:30 a.m. when the driver lost control of the vehicle, with the brakes locking up and the vehicle going off a cliff.

The crash resulted in Anderson being ejected through the car's back window, and McGruff with her.

“I don't remember any of that,” she said, noting that she didn't fully wake up until weeks later.

Ross and fellow firefighters responded to the crash scene, where they cared for Anderson, who was later transported to Santa Rosa for medical care.

Anderson was so badly injured, Ross noted, “None of us there expected her to live.”

Indeed, her injuries were severe.

Diana Anderson, Heather's mother, said her daughter – the youngest of five daughters who also has two brothers – suffered extensive injuries, and for the first three weeks after the crash, they weren't sure she would live.

The young woman was on life support, with a breathing tube placed through a tracheotomy. Diana Anderson said her daughter sustained a broken neck, as well as breaks to her scapula, ribs on both sides, cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, a broken pelvis in two places and a dislocated right hip. The contusions on her lungs had caused her to go into acute respiratory failure.

She also suffered a lacerated liver, kidney and spleen. Both bones in her lower left leg were broken – the tibia so badly that they inserted a metal rod from the knee to the ankle and screwed it in place to repair the fracture, Diana Anderson said.

The young woman's C4 vertebrae also was shattered in the front and had to be replaced with one from a cadaver, then her C3 through C5 vertebrae were fused together, with a titanium plate with screws in the front of her neck to hold the repair in place, Diana Anderson explained.

On top of that, the young woman also has suffered both short- and long-term memory loss, her mother said.

“There's a lot of stuff wrong with me,” Heather Anderson said.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the crash, little McGruff had gone missing.

Approximately two weeks after the crash, on the morning of June 29, a little dog in bad condition, his coat matted with stickers and a foxtail in his eye, showed up at the station. Ross said it took several hours before he would even approach the firefighters.

Later that day, the Rumsey Fire broke out, and Ross and his fellow firefighters responded.

Middletown's Cal Fire engine came over to cover their station, and when they returned the next day, the Middletown firefighters had bathed and groomed the little dog, removed his stickers and the fleas that were plaguing him, and even removed the foxtail from his eye.

The cover crew even took a sleeve off a shirt with a Cal fire logo, cut holes in it, and made the little dog a spiffy outfit.

“He was happy as a clam,” said Ross.

The Wilbur Springs firefighters kept the little dog – who they dubbed “Wilbur” – at the station with them for two weeks before their chief started dropping hints that maybe he should go to a new home.

Ross took the dog home to Middletown and tried to help him find the dog a new home for over a month. He had lots of interest in the cute little dog, but no one committed to take him home.

Anderson, who had been in the hospital for more than a month after the crash and was still unable to walk had, by that time, moved to Paradise to be with family while she recovered.

She was worried and upset about McGruff, who she hadn't seen since the crash. Her sisters had taken two trips to the area of the crash scene to look for him, but had been unsuccessful in finding any trace.

So she made flyers and on Aug. 18, with the approval of her mom, she and her sisters set off for a trip in her mom's car to Lake County to see if they could find the little dog.

The young women handed out flyers that day, but hadn't heard of a McGruff sighting.

With their last flyer in hand, they stopped at the Wilbur Springs Fire Station, where Anderson said her sisters stopped to ask if they could post the flyer.

Ross was at the firehouse when they drove up. One of the sisters explained to him the story, and Ross immediately realized that they were talking about the June 15 crash. Then, to his surprise, he saw Heather Anderson – who he thought might not make it – sitting in the car's front passenger seat, wearing a neck brace.

“We never find out if they're OK,” he said of the crash victims they help.

The next surprise Ross got was when he saw the flyer with the picture of the dog, who he instantly recognized as the dog that he'd known as Wilbur.

He told Anderson and her sisters that he knew where McGruff was. He gave them his home number and they called his wife from the nearest spot will cell reception to arrange to go and pick up the dog.

When Ross' wife got the call, she called McGruff by his real name, and he got so happy he started dancing in circles, Ross said.

The sisters went directly to Ross' home in Middletown. McGruff started barking when the family showed up. He went up to the sisters and then, when Heather Anderson – who was unable to get out of the car – called to McGruff, he jumped into the car and settled into her lap, where he stayed. When he went home, he got to take his goodies, including his Cal Fire shirt.

Since then, Anderson is back in Paradise with her family and McGruff, who turns 5 this November.

She's had McGruff since he was just a puppy, who her sisters found wandering as a stray in Chico.

Even though they were separated for a few months, they quickly got back to normal, Anderson said.

They go everywhere together, she said. “He's just like the old dog I left.”

She said she's also doing better, which her mother confirms.

Diana Anderson said her daughter is determined to be on her own as soon as she can, works hard in her therapy sessions and doesn't like to be a burden to anyone. She added that her youngest daughter has always been strong willed.

“Finding her dog McGruff has been the greatest healing for her,” she said.

Diana Anderson added that she's grateful to the “wonderful” firefighter who found her daughter and saved her life.

“Everyone who heard it just seems to think it's an amazing story,” said Ross.

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 .

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07.23.2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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