Saturday, 13 July 2024


CLEARLAKE – A Thursday crash on Highway 53 resulted in minor injuries, police reported Friday.

Lt. Mike Hermann of the Clearlake Police Department said the collision involved a Hey, Taxi minivan and another vehicle on Highway 53 at the Olympic Drive turnoff.

He said the minivan, traveling northbound, was turning onto Olympic.

The van driver thought the car coming from the opposite direction was slowing, so the driver pulled out to make the turn, said Hermann.

However, the other car wasn't slowing for a turn and the two vehicles collided, he said.

There were complaints of pain from the vehicles' drivers and passengers but only minor injuries were reported, according to Hermann.

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A Cal Fire helicopter drops water on the fire Thursday evening. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



KELSEYVILLE – Firefighters were able to quickly contain a fire that broke out along Soda Bay Road near Clear Lake State Park Thursday evening.

The wildland fire, about five acres in size, was dispatched at 5:21 p.m., said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Redhawk Palleson.

Several large columns of smoke in the area could be seen from Lakeport and across the lake on the Northshore.

At the height of the incident, Cal Fire – the lead agency on the incident – had one air attack, four air tankers, one helicopter, five engines, two bulldozers and four hand crews of 17 personnel each, Palleson said.



Cal Fire drops retardant on the fire. Pictured from across the lake in Lucerne. Photo by G. Morgan.


Fire protection districts from around the lake – among them nearby Kelseyville – were reported to be on scene, as was the Lake County Road Department.

California Highway Patrol closed the road from the west end of Clear Lake State Park to just east of Clark Drive near the Ferndale Resort while the firefighting effort continued. Power lines also were down in the area.

Windy conditions appeared to be pushing the fire up a hill, through timber and brush, on the west side of Soda Bay Road, in an area where homes are located. The fire made its way to the edge of a vineyard, which acted as a fire break.

Air tankers carried out about one dozen water drops on the fire, although they did not drop retardant on the vineyard.

“It's contained,” Palleson said told Lake County News at around 7 p.m. “Things are looking real good.”



The fire along Soda Bay Road was dispatched by Cal Fire at 5:21 p.m. Thursday. Photo by Dave Hendrick.


At that point, all aircraft had been released, but hand crews and engines were still on scene, he said.

Palleson said the cause of the fire was under investigation.

The cause of the blaze could have been a nearby vehicle fire reported at 5:30 p.m. by the California Highway Patrol.

A gold-colored Cadillac El Dorado was reported on fire in the 6400 block of Soda Bay Road. Officials also had asked Cal Fire's air units to be on the watch for possible suspects in the fire's cause.

CHP reported at 10 p.m. that Soda Bay Road had reopened.

Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.

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A four-engine plane responded to the scene. Photo by G. Morgan.




NORTHSHORE – Local firefighters were back home Tuesday night after spending nearly a week fighting Butte County's Humboldt Fire.

Capt. John Rodriguez, engineer Keith Hoyt and firefighter Adam Smith of Northshore Fire Protection District's Upper Lake station arrived home late Tuesday afternoon, said Fire Chief Jim Robbins.

The three men and an engine left for Butte County last Thursday as part of a strike team that included engines from Mendocino County, said Robbins.

Local fire resources were stretched too thin to send a full complement of five engines to the Humboldt, Robbins explained.

The Office of Emergency Services called Robbins on Sunday with requests for firefighters to go to the Whiskey Fire, but he didn't have anyone extra to send then, either. “Everybody was working or out of town.”

The Whiskey fire is burning in the Tehama County portion of the Mendocino National Forest. Cal Fire reported Tuesday night that the fire was 70-percent contained and had burned 7,783 acres near Paskenta.

Robbins said there are no other firefighting assistance requests currently. “Everything's kind of calmed down right now.”

Northshore Fire reported last week that this was the second time this year they had sent firefighters to an out-of-county fire. In May they went to fight the Summit Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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KELSEYVILLE – Sheriff's detectives have closed what one official has termed an “unusually complicated” case involving the stabbing last month of a young Kelseyville man, arresting a suspect Thursday morning.

Nicholas Gene Wood, 30, of Kelseyville was arrested by Lake County Sheriff's Det. Nicole Costanza just before 8:30 a.m. Thursday, according to Chief Deputy James Bauman, the sheriff's office spokesman.

News of the arrest came as a relief to Uriarte's family.

“Today was a very good day,” said his mother, Christine Diener.

Bauman said Wood was booked on felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon and assault resulting in great bodily injury for the May 16 stabbing of 21-year-old Loren Jason Uriarte, also of Kelseyville.

Judge Richard Martin signed the warrant for Wood's arrest, said Bauman. Once the arrest warrant was secured, Wood agreed to voluntarily meet sheriff’s detectives at the Lake County Jail on Thursday morning, where he was arrested and booked. His booking sheet reports he is a store manager.

Bauman said Wood was released from jail later in the day after posting a $25,000 bond.

On the night of the stabbing Uriarte and friends Darrin Sullivan and Josh Ponce had reportedly gone to downtown Kelseyville to pick up Sullivan's father, Dave, according to Diener. When they arrived, they encountered a fight in the street, during which Uriarte was stabbed.

Bauman said the “alcohol-related brawl” took place in front of the Saw Shop Gallery Bistro and involved numerous people – both male and female – many of whom reportedly had dinner at the restaurant earlier in the evening.

Wood's arrest, Bauman said, followed “a lengthy and challenging investigation.”

As Lake County News reported late last month, as many as 11 people were named in the initial investigative report, with four potential victims among them. An argument between some of the parties had apparently led to the fray.

Amidst the complexities of trying to unravel all of the witness statements, Bauman said investigators' primary focus was who stabbed Uriarte.

The young man and his friends went to his grandmother's home following the stabbing, and from there he was transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, as Diener told Lake County News last month.

He underwent a four-hour surgery on the morning of May 16 so that doctors could repair the internal damage from the knife wound, which was located on the left side of his abdomen, a few inches from his belly button. During surgery doctors removed 6 inches from his small intestine, said Diener.

Uriarte, who was hospitalized for five days afterward, is on the mend, according to his mother. “He's recovering well.”

With the relief of an arrest also comes home of moving on, said Diener. “We're just trying to put this behind us now, really.”

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LAKE COUNTY – A recently released survey shows that tobacco sales to local youth more than doubled over the last year.

The Lake County Tobacco Control Program, a state-funded program of the County of Lake Health Services Department and Lake Family Resource Center, released the results of the May 2008 Youth Purchase Survey.

It found that sales have increased from 8.4 percent in May 2007 to 19 percent in the most recent survey, with 11 stores out of nearly 60 countywide selling tobacco products to teens under the age of 18.

Michael Rupe, the tobacco program's coordinator, said the surveys began in 2005.

Rupe said he found these most recent results surprising, especially since last year's survey shows that usage had gone down over the previous two and a half years.

The surveys are conducted by sending a member of the Adult Tobacco Coalition with Youth Coalition members to selected stores, according to a tobacco control program report.

The teens survey tobacco product signage and product placement to assure that the store is in compliance with current California law. One of them then goes to the check stand, where they attempt to buy tobacco as their partner observes the situation.

If a sale is made, the two teens leave the store and give the cigarettes to the adult advisor. The team members then conduct an immediate evaluation of the sale/non-sale that includes whether identification was requested, whether a sale was made, and the age and gender of the sales clerk.

The program then notifies stores of the results, including the time and date of the sale, with information regarding the clerk training provided through Lake Family Resource Center.

Communities in Lake County with 100-percent compliance, or no sales to youth, included Lakeport, Lower Lake and Middletown, according to the survey results.

Stores in all other Lake County communities sold tobacco products to youth decoys, the program reported. The highest concentration of sales was in the Northshore area, where 36 percent of retailers sold tobacco products to minors. In Clearlake, 23 percent of stores sold to minors.

Rupes estimated that about half of the tobacco sales to youth tracked in the recent survey were for smokeless tobacco, or chew.

“They can do it at school and not get caught,” he said.

Rupe said he has found out a lot about usage trends by talking to young people as a facilitator for My Strength Clubs, groups for young men ages 14 through 18 which meet in Upper Lake and Lower Lake. The groups give young men a safe place to meet and talk about how to be proactive about respecting women. The program also focuses on peer pressure and the consequences of drug use, and has adopted a tobacco use prevention program.

Education will be a key component to turn back the growth of tobacco use, said Rupe.

Gloria Flaherty, executive director of Lake Family Resource Center, said in a written statement that the Tobacco Control Program works diligently to educate tobacco retailers about laws that prevent sales of tobacco products to underage teens.

The program also has created free training and fact sheets for owners and employees that inform current laws, required signage, identification verification and other resources, according to Flaherty.

She said the dramatic increase in sales means the program can't slow down its efforts to stop the sales.

Rupe said a Lake County Tobacco Control Program objective for the 2007-2010 period is to have at least one jurisdiction within the county accept a local tobacco retailer licensing ordinance.

“Right now we don't have any enforcement,” he said.

Tobacco sales to minors have no repercussions for businesses, such as exist for underage alcohol sales, said Rupe. That's despite the fact, as Flaherty pointed out, that selling tobacco to minors is illegal.

A tobacco retailer licensing ordinance would require retailers wanting to sell tobacco to purchase a special license to do so – much like a business license, he said. The license cost would then cover the cost of enforcement.

Rupe said the ordinances – which have been accepted in other California communities – give store owners an immediate incentive to stop selling tobacco to minors, because the laws carry fines, and could result in suspensions of their license to sell tobacco products.

“We have not approached the city of Lakeport or the County of Lake,” Rupe said. “We have approached the city of Clearlake.”

Rupe said program members have met with Clearlake Mayor Curt Giambruno and Council member Judy Thein, who are interested in taking the lead on such an ordinance.

“Tobacco is a gateway drug to just about every type of drug out there,” said Rupe.

That includes leading to alcohol use, said Rupe, a member of Team DUI, which works locally to stop underage drinking.


For more information about the Lake Family Resource Center Tobacco Control Program, or to schedule a presentation, call Rupe at 262-1611.

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CLEARLAKE – A candlelight vigil planned for Thursday will focus on protecting children in the wake of a high school student's fatal stabbing nearly two weeks ago.

The vigil will be held from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Austin Park in Clearlake.

The theme for the event is "Bringing a Community from Healing to Kindness."

Dr. Bill MacDougall, the new Superintendent of the Konocti Unified School District, will be one of the featured speakers.

The gathering will promote a community-wide effort to create an environment that honors, nurtures and protects all children. The community is invited to attend, and asked to bring friends, family and candles to light.

The vigil will fall on the two-week anniversary of the stabbing death of 17-year-old Heather Valdez of Clearlake, a student at Carlé High School.

The teen died June 5 following a confrontation that allegedly involved a Carlé classmate, 18-year-old Gabrielle Varney.

Varney is being charged with murder and remains in the Lake County Jail.


MIDDLETOWN – An alcohol and drug recovery center suffered a loss early Thursday morning when a fire destroyed one of its buildings.

A small residential unit caught fire at Hilltop Recovery, located in the hills above Middletown in the former McKinley Camp, according to South Lake County Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Dave Miinch.

Lori Carter-Runyon, the center's executive director, did not return a call seeking comment.

The fire broke out about 2:19 a.m. in the guest residence, which was vacant and being remodeled, said Miinch.

“It was fully involved by the time the fire department got there,” he said.

The 45 residents of the center were evacuated to a safe zone, and so no one was in danger or injured, said Miinch.

Fifteen fire personnel from South Lake County Fire Protection District and Cal Fire responded, said Miinch, bringing with them a total of three engines, one water tender, a fire prevention officer and a battalion chief.

“The fire was essentially contained to the structure with a small amount of vegetation that had burned,” he said.

Miinch credited Hilltop Recovery with putting a “tremendous amount” of work into clearing defensible space around its buildings, cutting and raking back vegetation by at least 100 feet, which helped prevent the fire from spreading.

The building was a complete loss, said Miinch, with damage estimated at $20,000.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, said Miinch.

He said the compound was built in the 1940s and used until the 1960s, when it was closed for a long period of time before coming back into use.

It's been a particularly busy fire season for the fire district, said Miinch.

“There has been more fire activity this year, in 2008, than there has ever been in previous years,” he said.

The areas seeing most activity are Cobb and Loch Lomond, he said.

There are many contributing factors, but Miinch said dry conditions don't help.

“We've probably been getting a structure fire every other week in the Cobb area the last month and a half,” he said.

Fires in other parts of the county also have kept firefighters on the run, including a fire along Soda Bay Road Thursday evening and a small fire near Lakeport earlier that afternoon.

Cal Fire also was still on scene at the location of a fire on Highway 20 at Highway 16, where a fire broke out at around 1 p.m. Wednesday, according to Battalion Chief Redhawk Palleson.

That fire – the cause of which also is still under investigation – burned 50 acres along the north side of Highway 20, said Palleson.

He said two engines and a couple of hand crews were still mopping up on Thursday afternoon.

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The raceboats also visited Lakeport last September. File photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – For water sport enthusiasts, Library Park is the place to be this weekend.

Two separate events with much in common – the Vintage and Historic Raceboat Regatta and the Nor Cal Ski Club Races – are scheduled to return to the waterfront in Lakeport this Saturday.

The California Speedboat Association will host the Vintage and Historic Raceboat Regatta at the north end of Library Park.

Admission is free to spectators.

The group hosted the event in Lakeport last September. The regatta has been moved to the June date due to concerns about the lake's water level and quality during the later days of summer, according to Vintage Race Director Bob Silva.

Silva’s group is a member of the California Speedboat Association, which in turn shares a connection to the American Power Boat Association.

Thirty-five vintage race boats are expected to be on display with several participating in a well coordinated series of “flybys” and sample races on a set one-mile course.

Boats will be on display all day. The flyby events are scheduled to take place starting at 11:30 am.

Race boats must be built in 1986 or earlier to qualify as vintage. Boat owners wishing to participate are encouraged to attend and registration will continue on site.

Fees for static display are $25. Other fees and regulations will apply for those wishing to run their boats at speed. Owners wishing more information may contact Bob Silva at 707-964-1711 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




Competitors will race at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour. Photo courtesy of the National Water Ski Racing Association.



Skiers plan fast-paced action

Also on Saturday, the NorCal Ski Club will hold the first of five Lake County high-speed ski events scheduled for 2008.

The racecourse for this event is laid out with two, one-mile straight-aways with a left turn at each end that traverse more than an eighth of a mile.

The skiers will travel as fast as the high performance boats that pull them can, which – depending on conditions – can reach speeds of 110 miles per hour, slowing only to 70 or 80 miles per hour around the turn areas, according to NorCal representative Roger Smith.

Smith, a former deputy sheriff in charge of the Lake County Sheriff's Office Boat Patrol, is a longtime Lake County resident, a lifelong boater and a speed skier himself who plans on participating in several classes of racing this Saturday.

Skiers are eligible to race in several classes, based on age – as young as 9 – along with experience and the type of boat used to pull them, said Smith.

Boat classes range from stock, nearly factory types on through various levels of both inboard and outboard performance levels, eventually leading to the high-speed, high-powered specialty boats capable of reaching 110-mile-per-hour speeds, he explained.

“It’s an extreme sport” – as defined by today’s standards – “and always has been,” said Smith.

It's an extreme sport that over the decades has not been limited to a single gender. Smith added that perhaps Lake County’s most successful speed skier and possibly the best female in the country throughout the 1960’s, Alice Whipple, will compete this weekend.

Saturday’s race schedule begins at 9 a.m. There is no fee to observers.

“Anyone who would like to join in and ski for the first time is welcome to try it at no cost,” said Smith.

Potential skiers should have some basic and obvious skills before attempting to compete.

More information regarding this event and the history of the National Water Ski Racing Association can be found at

The weather forecast for Saturday includes mostly sunny skies with afternoon highs in the low 90s and winds out of the west at 12 miles per hour.

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LAKEPORT – The California Highway Patrol has named the lead suspect who they're seeking in connection with a high-speed chase that took place last week.

On Tuesday, the CHP said they're filing charges with the District Attorney's Office against Evonne Sheree Donohue, 38, of Crockett, according to CHP Officer Adam Garcia.

Donohue is being charged with felony evading police, fraud, vehicle theft, possession of stolen property and other violations.

The CHP has not yet arrested Donohue, who they're still attempting to locate, Garcia said.

Donohue is alleged to have led CHP on a high-speed pursuit June 10, as Lake County News has reported.

CHP Officer Mark Crutcher spotted Donohue allegedly speeding in a stolen Dodge Ram pickup on Highway 29 at around 9:30 p.m. June 10.

When he attempted to pull the pickup over it fled. The occupants reportedly were throwing objects out of the pickup during the pursuit, but Garcia said none of those objects were recovered.

The pursuit eventually ended in downtown Lakeport, where police and sheriff's deputies joined CHP in attempting to apprehend the pickup's occupants, who fled the scene on foot.

Investigators found in the truck a number of stolen items, said Garcia, including more than 200 credit cards and identification cards alleged to have been stolen. He said it's still not been determined how the cards were illegally obtained.

Lakeport resident Marian Muniz, 49, is believed to have been Donohue's accomplice and passenger during the pursuit, said Garcia. No charges have been filed against her at this time, with the investigation – led by Crutcher – continuing.

Donohue has a lengthy criminal history, said Garcia. That includes a first-degree burglary arrest in Lake County January of 2007.

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The crash near the Rodman Slough Thursday afternoon is believed to have had alcohol as a contributing factor. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKE COUNTY – No one was seriously injured in two auto collisions that occurred Thursday afternoon.

The first of the two collisions occurred at about 2:15 p.m. It involved two vehicles on the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff about 800 feet south of the Rodman Slough bridge.

A Black 1994 Ford Mustang GT Driven by Dewey Lucas of Laytonville was traveling northbound just five minutes from his destination when he was hit by a white, two-door Chevy Cavalier driven by Teresa Mae Figueras of Nice.

Lucas suffered minor head injuries, complaining only of a headache just minutes after the collision. No one was transported to area hospitals.

According to eyewitness accounts, Figueras came off the bridge at a high rate of speed and was having a difficult time controlling the vehicle, passing into the other lane.

“I could see her expression as she tried to get control but she just kept crossing from one side to the other, 'til she completely lost it around the turn and into the short straightaway,” said Lucas. “For just a flash of a second I thought I just might get past her but at the last possible moment her car turn sharply to the left and slammed in to the left side of my car.”

Lucas' vehicle spun around at least once and traveled approximately 200 feet backwards before slamming into a large tree stump on the side of the road.

Figueras, 51, was given a field sobriety test at the scene. A California Highway Patrol officer arrested her on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. She was booked into the Lake County Jail on $5,000 bond.



No one was hurt in a crash that occurred in the 2000 block of S. Main Street late Thursday afternoon. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


A second crash occurred in the 2000 block of S. Main Street in Lakeport after 4 p.m.

Lakeport Police Officer Jarvis Leishman reported that a 19-year-old female from Finley was driving a white 2003 Ford Focus that collided with a Ford Ranger pickup driven by a 30-year-old male Kelseyville resident.

Leishman said there were no injuries, just complaints of pain.

No arrests were made and the investigation is still under way to determine fault, he added.

Elizabeth Larson contributed to this report.

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MIDDLETOWN – This weekend the Barbara LaForge Memorial, which is helping raise funds for the county's domestic violence shelter project, will be a special guest of Langtry Estate and Vineyards' Summer Night Jazz.

The event will take place from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 21, at the winery, located at

21000 Butts Canyon Road, Middletown.

Tickets will be on sale for the second raffle in the fundraiser campaign, founded by artist Gail Salituri in memory of her friend, Barbara LaForge. All proceeds go to the Lake Family Resource Center's Freedom House campaign, which is raising funds to build a domestic violence shelter near Kelseyville.

The next drawing will be Aug. 1, Salituri reported.

Two items will be offered in the August raffle; "America's Pride,” a Thomas Kinkade print, custom-framed, measuring 14 inches by 17 inches, with a value of $350; and a custom-framed beveled mirror, 24 inches by 30 inches, valued at $650.

Bids also can be placed in a silent auction, in which Salituri will offer one of her original oils, “Overlooking Carmel, Monterey Pine,” measuring 8 inches by 10 inches. The painting, valued at $475, has an opening bid of $100.

Langtry's evening of jazz will feature local artists along with live Flamenco and hors d'oeuvres.

For reservations call 987-5303.

For more information about the LaForge Memorial fundraisers call Salituri at Inspirations Gallery, 263-4366, or visit her Web page,


LAKEPORT – Students at Terrace Middle School found themselves being evacuated from their classrooms on Friday when a classmate was found with what looked like a bomb but which turned out to be a facsimile.

Lakeport Police Officer Jarvis Leishman, who is the school resource officer for the Lakeport Unified School District, said the fake device was found before the end of school Friday – which also happened to be the last day of school before the beginning of summer vacation.

A seventh grade boy had the object – made from a 12-ounce water bottle, a film canister and wires that were duct-taped together – in his backpack, said Leishman.

The boy and his friends reportedly play a game in which he planned to use the object. Leishman said the boy took it to school to show his buddies. “I don't think he really intended to scare anybody.”

Leishman said he was on his way to the school when the object was found, and fellow Lakeport Police Officer Jim Bell arrived before him to check out the situation.

Students were evacuated to the school's sports fields while the fake bomb was checked, said Leishman. It did look like a bomb, although “a poorly made one,” he said.

Bell looked it over and determined that it was a fake, Leishman said. The object felt heavy, and it turned out that the boy had filled it with dirt, which Bell confirmed after he opened it up and dumped it out.

Once the situation was determined to be resolved, the students were called back into their classrooms, roll call was taken and the children were sent home, said Leishman.

Although it was a fake, the boy may face some repercussions. “I cited him for possession of a facsimile bomb,” said Leishman.

He said the case was sent to the county's juvenile probation department, where they'll decide how to proceed.

Leishman said cases where fake bombs are prosecuted require a malicious intent, and he didn't believe that the child had intended any harm.

At the end of his first year as school resource officer, Leishman said this is the only incident of this kind to happen during his time with the school district.

There were, however, seven expulsions during the school year for students who made “active shooter” type threats against others in the district, he said.

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Upcoming Calendar

07.16.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.17.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
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07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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