Tuesday, 16 July 2024


Smoky skies didn't manage to keep away visitors looking to enjoy some homemade wine on Saturday. Photo by Ross Christensen.


KELSEYVILLE – On Saturday the Kelseyville Business Association and Clear Lake Performing Arts (CLPA) hosted the sixth annual Lake County Home Wine Maker’s Festival.

The event allowed home winemakers a forum to show off their hobby, and local wineries a place to give tastings of their products.

The festival is the largest annual fundraiser for CLPA, which promotes music education, community concerts and student scholarships in Lake County.

It was a well-attended event with people from all areas of Northern California including Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma, Yuba, Colusa and other counties.



Wine tasting took place along Kelseyville's Main Street Saturday afternoon. Photo by Ross Christensen.


Thanks were given to North Coast Sen. Pat Wiggins and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for making this Lake County’s first technically legal home winemaking festival. (For more about Wiggin's legislation, see http://lakeconews.com/content/view/4494/764/.)

The festival was open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to the offerings from home brewers, small wineries and some of the larger local wineries, there was food, live music, and arts and crafts available.

There was a silent auction and several raffles held throughout the event, along with ribbons awarded to the brewers. Local businesses were open including Focused On Wine, Rosa D’Oro, and Wildhurst tasting rooms.

Providing tastings were:

Laujor Vineyard


Eastside Winery

Cesar Toxqui Cellars



Nowhere Near Loreto

Mount St. Helena

Mother Mountain Wines


Tulip Hill

Glory Hole

Honeycutt Vineyard

Steele Wines

F Street Ale Works

Shannon Ridge

Tres Amigos


Paul Smith


Cobb Mt. Brewing Co.


Screeching Peacock

Bell Hill

Koenig Family Cellars


If you would like to learn more about the Clear Lake Performing Arts, you can visit them online at www.clearlakeperformingarts.org or contact them at Clear Lake Performing Arts, P.O. Box 974, Lakeport, CA 95453.

Ross A. Christensen writes about food and wine for Lake County News.



A piece of winemaking gadgetry on display at the event. Photo by Ross Christensen.



NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – Caltrans reported on Friday that numerous highways around Northern California were closed due to the wildland fires that continue to plague many areas of the state.

For those planning on traveling this weekend, the following is the most current list of closures as of early Saturday morning.

Route 299: Closed from 11.9 miles west of Junction City to Junction City in Trinity County; intermittent one-way controlled traffic at various locations from two miles west to two mile east of Ingot in Shasta County. Highway 299 has numerous wildfires burning near the highway, 15 miles east of Redding and 10 miles east of Burney in Shasta County. One-way traffic control will be in effect when needed to clear road of debris. Motorists should expect delays due to the fire.

Route 36: Closed from the junction of Highway 3 in Trinity County to 32 mile west of Red Bluff in Tehama county in Tehama County is currently closed 30 miles west of Red Bluff to the junction of Route 3 in Trinity County.

Highway 32: One-way traffic control from 12 miles to 7 miles west of the junction of Highway 36 in Tehama County due to fire and emergency equipment in the area. Motorists should expect delays when using this route.

Highway 70: Closed from 7.6 miles west of Pulga in Butte County to the junction of Route 89, 10 miles west of Quincy in Plumas County to Big Bend Road in Butte County. There is no estimated time to reopen.

Highway 96: Closed from 14 miles east of the Humboldt/Siskiyou County line to 18 miles west of Happy Camp in Siskiyou County due to a wildfire burning along the highway. There is no detour available and no estimated time to reopen the highway.

Motorists should watch for emergency equipment and personnel. Be advised that roads can close at anytime if conditions change.

For the most up-to-date highway conditions, call Caltrans' highway information line at 1-800-427-7623 or visit the Caltrans Web site at www.dot.ca.gov.


LAKEPORT A man accused of stabbing to death a neighbor last November was due to appear in court for a preliminary hearing Thursday, but the case has had another delay.

Ivan Garcia Oliver, 30, was due in Lake County Superior Court Thursday morning.

He's accused of the murder of Michael Dodele, 67.

Oliver is alleged to have stabbed Dodele to death in the trailer Dodele recently had moved into in the Western Hills Mobile Home Park in Lakeport. He also is facing charges for having been in possession of shank he had fashioned from a toothbrush in the Lake County Jail.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff said the Thursday preliminary hearing was canceled because Oliver didn't have an attorney to appear with him.

Oliver's defense attorney, Bruce Laning, last week left his position with Lake Legal Defense Services Inc., which provides indigent defense services in Lake County, said Stephen Carter, who administers the program.

Hinchcliff said the case was held over until Monday, at which time they'll discuss rescheduling the preliminary hearing.

"I think it's just going to be continued to August to get an attorney appointed for him," said Hinchcliff.

Carter agreed that the case may not return to court until August, which he said will be determined Monday.

This isn't the first time Oliver's preliminary hearing has been delayed.

His preliminary hearing, which will determine if he will be held for trial, was originally scheduled for May.

Oliver had been transferred by the US Marshal's Office to San Diego County, where he's facing federal charges in an illegal dumping case, as Lake County News has reported.

Although officials had assured Hinchcliff that Oliver would be back in Lake County in time, he didn't arrive in time for the hearing, having been taken at one point to Kansas City.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


OK, there is no denying it, I’m a big guy. I’m 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weigh around ... well, we’ll just leave it at “I’m a big guy.” I’ve been around awhile and so have had a good long while to get that way.

However your typical broiler/fryer chicken in your grocery store doesn’t get that chance. It has lived only between 6 and 10 weeks before it was processed (translate – “slaughtered”). That’s right, it isn’t even old enough to celebrate a three-month anniversary.

This is not only economical for chicken ranchers so they don’t have to feed a critter for years before sale and profit, but it raises the chicken to the perfect size for frying, and the consumer gets the benefit of a young healthy animal that wasn’t on this earth long enough to pick up toxins and disease. This last particular fact is why I collect chicken livers over a brief period and make liver and onions with them rather than with the traditional beef livers. They have a cleaner and more delicate flavor than beef liver.

Capons, however, are something else. To be precise, a capon is a castrated rooster. He got to live a long life (minimum of 16 weeks), and as he did he got fatter, bigger and actually tastes more “chickeny” than the broiler/fryer.

Since you are what you eat and chicken feed is largely soy-based, the broiler/fryer only gets the opportunity to taste like tofu. However, the average capon gets a more diverse feed including free range forage, so they have the opportunity to develop more flavor.

Capons are something you have to try not only for the flavor but for the cheap price, and the fun in telling your family dinner is a chicken eunuch. Capons are typically castrated between 3 to 6 weeks old but can be done well up to 20 weeks. The process makes them more docile, and they can even be used to act as surrogate mothers for chicks (why do my articles always seem to end up talking about chicks in some way or another? Be quiet, that was rhetorical). It also causes them to put on weight more than average and become less active (translate – couch potatoes). I guess you can say that castration turns roosters into middle-aged married men (too ... many ... jokes ... entering ... brain ... at ... one time!).

You can find capons in most major grocery stores in the frozen meats area. Look around where the frozen turkeys, ducks and geese are kept. Capons are larger than a chicken but smaller than a turkey. Due to having been on this planet longer, being castrated and having nothing to do, capons are massive beasts and are really fatty. This makes them poor candidates for frying because by the time the meat is fully cooked the skin is burned. This high fat content also makes them “self basting” and so they hold up well to long, slow cooking methods. Because of this, in the past capons were called “stewing hens” or “roasting chickens.”

I prefer to buy a capon (usually one a month), thaw them and butcher them myself into parts. The breasts are massive so you can actually cut one of them in half and serve two people with it. Since the capon is fuller-flavored you can make better-tasting dishes, and since they are larger they are easier to work with.

It’s almost a treat to make Chicken Kiev or Chicken Cordon Bleu because the breasts are large and easy to work with. The thighs are easy to de-bone and put on skewers to make yakitori. The larger wings I save and make impressively massive Buffalo wings (see recipe below). When I’m finished dismembering the capon, I pick the carcass clean of scraps and throw them to the cats and the bones go into the soup pot. The offal is turned into gravy or cat food. Yeah, my wife has really spoiled cats. Many people want to die and come back as one of my wife’s cats.

The other thing about capons is that they’re cheap, typically right about $2 a pound. One capon will typically feed eight people. We are talking about a cheap, more flavorful “alternative” to chicken, even though they are chicken. If you are broiling or frying a chicken then “broiler/fryers” are the thing to get, but if you have other plans then reach for the capon.

You’ve read previously about my love of spicy foods. Well here is my ultimate-yet-simplified recipe for Buffalo wings that I am particularly proud of. The sauce is thick, smooth and clings perfectly to the wings.

Buffalo wings


4 dismembered capon wings minimum (making eight winglets, use more if you got them)

¼ cup sriracha sauce (available in the Asian section of your grocery store)

6 tablespoons melted butter

I prefer to pan fry the wings until done. This allows me them to get a nice crispy skin and I can control the temperature myself. You can deep fry them if you prefer.

Meanwhile mix the melted butter and sriracha. Toss the cooked capon wings in the sauce. Serve. Have something cold to drink (and lots of it) nearby.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


A Cal Fire hand crew winds down for the day on Thursday, June 26, 2008. The firefighters had been working to clean up the burned acreage along Walker Ridge Road. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


WALKER RIDGE Fire investigators have concluded that a vehicle was the cause of the Walker Fire, which on Thursday had reached 50-percent containment while making no additional gains in acreage.

Cal Fire Division Chief Dan Sendek said late Thursday that the Walker Fire was still at 14,500 acres in size, located mostly in remote wildland areas about 14 miles east of Clearlake Oaks.

The fire is expected to be fully contained by Saturday, Sendek said.

Originally, it was thought that the Walker Fire was one of hundreds of fires caused by lightning storms last weekend.

However, Sendek said it was sparked when metal likely on the undercarriage or other metal part on the underside of a vehicle scraped a rock.

In one day, the fire's containment grew significantly, from 10 to 50 percent containment, which Sendek credited to a lot of bulldozer work over the previous 24 hours, with 31 bulldozers on scene.

The winds were pushing the fire in a north northwest direction, said Sendek.

"With the continuing wind patterns, it doesn't appear to be a direct threat to Spring Valley," he said.

Nor was it a threat to Wilbur Springs, were residents had returned.

Cal Fire reported that residents were being allowed to return to the Double Eagle Ranch subdivision east of Clearlake Oaks, where evacuations had taken place last Sunday.

Sendek said the biggest concern for the Walker Fire was not a wind switch but rather unstable weather, with the possibility of thunder storms in the coming days.

Also on Thursday, the number of firefighting personnel on scene jumped from 592 the day before to 758 of which 487 were with Cal Fire with more hand crews arriving, said Sendek.

Late Thursday afternoon, along Walker Ridge Road, a few miles from where it turns to go toward Bartlett Springs, hand crews and bulldozer operators were at work on the steep hillsides, their work difficult to see from the road because of the thick pall of smoke that hung over the hills and valleys.

With the Walker Fire now nearing containment, firefighters and other personnel including Sendek are being demobilized and sent to other fires. "We're keeping what we need but not a person more," he said.

Personnel from the Walker Fire are being sent to areas including Butte and Shasta counties, where the fires are threatening communities, said Sendek.

"The big push is on the valley," he said, where the north wind is kicking up and more storms also are expected in the coming days.

Asked how the public can help the firefighting effort, Sendek said the main thing they wanted was the continued support of residents, and that donations were not necessary.

National Forest fires still growing

While the Walker Fire appears to be winding down, lightning-caused fires in the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District are continuing to grow.

Forest officials reported that four large fires on the Upper Lake District had been broken out from the 49 others on the forest, and are being managed by the Northern Rockies Interagency Incident Management Team.

The fires, located about 15 miles northeast of Upper Lake, include the Big, 850 acres; the Back, 1,800 acres; the Mill, 400 acres; and the Monkey Rock, 450 acres. Thirty structures are threatened, two have been destroyed.

Those fires, referred to as the Soda Complex, total 3,500 acres and are 5-percent contained. Another 385 acres are burning elsewhere in the forest, officials reported. Of the 495 personnel fighting those fires, 412 are committed to the Soda Complex.

The situation also is worsening in neighboring Mendocino County, where 72 fires are actively burning in the Mendocino Lightning Complex, according to county and state officials.

The fires have burned 27,000 acres and are only 5-percent contained, with numerous communities under evacuation warnings and 900 residences threatened, officials reported.



Heavy equipment was working near a Cal Fire repeater along Walker Ridge Road on Thursday, June 26, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Calculating costs and damages

The total cost to fight the Walker Fire is estimated at $1.3 million, compared to $4.7 million for Mendocino County's fires. Sendek said the money to fight the fires comes from the state's Emergency Fund.

Only a hunting cabin in Benmore Canyon, where the fire began, was lost, officials reported.

The Woodland-based Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, which operates Indian Valley Reservoir, suffered some losses, said General Manager Tim O'Halloran.

The district has a communications tower on Walker Ridge that links it to the reservoir as well as Cache Creek Dam. "On Sunday night, that was overtaken by the fire and all the equipment on it was destroyed," he said.

The equipment destroyed included solar panels, radios, antennas, cabling and a backup generator, he said. They're now working to replace what was lost, and are using temporary satellite service in the meantime.

Damage is estimated at around $75,000, he said, which could double if the communications tower's structural integrity was compromised by the heat.

The fire reached Indian Valley Reservoir, said O'Halloran, where the district temporarily shut down the campground until the situation is stabilized.

O'Halloran said Cal Fire protected the district's water tanks and structures at the campground, including the hold damtender's residence. "The fire got right up to the campground but didn't enter it."

The district worked with Monte Winters, a Lake County Office of Emergency Services liaison who lives in Spring Valley. O'Halloran said Winters kept the district up to date on the fire situation.

O'Halloran said the district was concerned that the fire might reach its hydroelectric plant and a transmission line that goes over the hill to a Pacific Gas and Electric substation. "We were concerned about losing that in the fire," he said.

On Tuesday, district officials shut the power plant off manually due to concerns the fire might reach it, which he said could cause the plant's two operating turbines to trip offline. That, in turn, could have shut off the district's 250 cubic feet per second water release, which could have disrupted water delivery to its water customers.

O'Halloran said Cal Fire allowed district staff into the area to turn off the power and shift the water being released to another outlet.

In the end, the district didn't lose any power lines, nor was service to its water users interrupted, O'Halloran said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


SACRAMENTO – Two state Senate policy committees have approved a bill by Assemblywoman Patty Berg and Assemblyman Lloyd Levine that would require doctors to answer their terminally ill patients’ questions about dying.

The state Assembly already approved AB 2747 by a 42-34 vote on May 28. The bill now heads to a vote of the full Senate.

The bill, which had effectively been stalled by religious and professional groups, reportedly gained new momentum late Wednesday when a series of last-minute hallway negotiations prompted the Catholic Church to drop its opposition.

Once Catholic representatives and a group of oncologists were satisfied that the bill was not an endorsement of assisted suicide, Assembly Bill 2747 was approved in both the Senate Health Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“This bill is about information, plain and simple,” said Berg, D-Eureka, who drew a firestorm of controversy in recent years for her attempts to enact an Oregon-style Death With Dignity law in California. “This bill does not make anything legal that isn’t legal now. But it does say that you can’t keep a patient in the dark just because you’re uncomfortable talking about dying.”

Opponents had been leery of AB 2747, which they feared could be a stalking horse for another attempt at allowing patients to control their own dying.

Californians Against Assisted Suicide, a group that opposes the bill, say it's another attempt by Berg and Levine to get an assisted suicide bill passed. Berg and Levine's Compassionate Choices Act legislation has failed over the past three years.

In staff analysis of the bill, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund argued against AB 2747, saying “the information and timeframes set forth in the bill are not always medically or legally appropriate, and the bill fails to require that information be provided to surrogates or family members when appropriate.” The group also argued that that medical prognoses often are wrong and physicians can't be sure when patients will die.

Berg's office reported that she overcame uncertainty about the bill by amending it to remove mention of the existing medical practice of palliative sedation, in which patients are kept under continual sedation while they die.

She also took a number of minor, clarifying amendments designed to make clear that the bill had nothing to do with her previous efforts on Death With Dignity.

“I think we’re finally getting to a place where we can put patients first,” said Berg. “What we’re talking about is the right to be informed.”

In testimony, Berg pointed to a recent study funded the federal government which found that patients who were told what to expect in their final days fared better during the dying process than those who received no such information.

The study said informed patients were less likely to be depressed, more likely to receive hospice care; and their families were better able to deal with their deaths than the uninformed.

The study also pointed out that only one in three terminally ill patients were likely to receive thorough information about their conditions. Berg’s bill aims to turn those numbers around, at least in California.

Among supporters of the bill are the California Medical Association, the California Psychological Association, California Nurses Association, California Commission on Aging, AIDS Project Los Angeles and Conference of California Seniors.


LAKE COUNTY – The wildfires that have burned thousands of acres of wildland in Lake County and filled the air with thick smoke over the past week continued to diminish on Friday as firefighters increased containment levels.

The Walker Fire east of Clearlake Oaks and the Soda Complex in the Mendocino National Forest both continued to slow, according to reports from Cal Fire and the US Forest Service, respectively.

Cal Fire reported that the Walker Fire, at 14,500 acres, was 85-percent contained. The fire was caused, according to investigators, by the metal undercarriage of a vehicle striking a rock, as Lake County News reported Friday.

A total of 592 personnel with 15 Cal Fire crews, 37 engines, three helicopters, 21 bulldozers and 11 water tenders continued working on putting out the fire on Friday, officials reported.

The cost to fight the fire to date is now $2.2 million, Cal Fire reported. It's expected to be fully contained by Saturday.

The four-fire Soda Complex on the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District had burned an estimated 2,830 acres by Friday, according to a report from National Forest spokesperson Phebe Brown. An additional 446 acres is burning in 51 fires – referred to as the June ABCD Misc Complex – in other parts of the forest.

The lightning-caused fires include the Big, 775 acres, 40-percent contained; the Back, 1,500 acres, 80-percent contained; the Mill, 400 acres, 0-percent contained; and the Monkey Rock, 160 acres, 0-percent contained, according to Brown. The entire complex was reported to be 50-percent contained.

On Friday fire crews continued to complete the control lines on the Big and Back fires, Brown reported. Reconnaissance started on the Mill Fire and the Monkey Rock Fire was being be monitored.

One firefighter among the 245 reported to be on the Soda Complex suffered an injury, although particulars on the injury were not available late Friday. Another 83 firefighters were working on the forest's other fires.

Brown reported that Pogie Point Campground at Lake Pillsbury is closed and being used as a sleeping area for firefighters. Elk Mountain Road at the Bear Creek Road junction and near Soda Creek remain closed by Lake County officials due to the Back Fire.

While the fires are dying down in Lake County, they continue to rage in Mendocino County, where officials reported late Friday that a series of lightning-caused fires have burned 27,000 acre, with only 5-percent containment. Seventy-two fires remain active.

Air quality remains poor

The Mendocino fires have been the primary source of the smoke entering Lake County's air basin, Air Pollution Control Officer Bob Reynolds reported Friday.

Reynolds said there may be a weather break Saturday that could temporarily improve local air quality, with winds predicted to come from the southwest instead of the prevailing west to northwest winds.

Local monitoring has shown Lake County's air quality is violating state and federal health-based standards, Reynolds said. In the case of particulate in the air, the standards have been exceeded by as much as 277 percent, and are characterized as moderate to unhealthy air quality.

Reynolds said air quality conditions are expected to continue until the fires are out.

Lake County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Tait advises residents near the fires to be prepared. People with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other lung or heart diseases should make sure that they have at least a five-day supply of any prescribed medications, according to Tait. Individuals with asthma should carefully follow their asthma management plans. Anyone, regardless of known health

conditions, should seek medical attention if they experience unusual symptoms of chest

Residents who live near the affected areas should be prepared to stay indoors, avoid vigorous physical activity and check for a "recirculation" function on the air conditioner, Tait advised. Sports or other outdoor activities should be moved indoors or rescheduled.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LAKE COUNTY – With California a veritable tinder box this summer, the Lake County Fire Chiefs Association and Lake County Air Quality Management District say they're pleading with the public not to use fireworks this year in order to lessen the fire hazard.

The message from the chiefs and the Air Quality Management District comes a day after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made the same request, asking California residents not to buy even safe and sane fireworks this year because of the fire danger, according to a Sacramento Bee report.

With the resource demand of fire agencies depleted, any additional wildfires – even if they are small – will overburden firefighters and further degrade local air quality, they reported.

The statement put out by the fire and air quality officials Thursday urged county residents to enjoy the county's many larger fireworks shows that are conducted in a fire-safe manner – over the lake and far from personal exposure to individuals.

Safe and sane or personal fireworks only are allowed to be used or sold within the city of Lakeport and are illegal in all other parts of the county and the city of Clearlake, fire officials reported.

City Manager Jerry Gillham said they are moving ahead with allowing several nonprofit groups to have fireworks booths in the city this year.

Lakeport Fire Chief Ken Wells said safe and sane fireworks are an issue because many people purchase them and then take them outside of the city limits.

“Safe and sane fireworks will still start fire in grasslands,” he said.

He added that the fireworks need to stay within Lakeport's city limits, where they can be displayed in certain areas.

Wells noted that fines for illegal fireworks usage are going up.

On Wednesday California State Fire Marshal Kate Dargan issued a statement in which she put illegal fireworks traffickers on notice. "Consider this your first and only warning,” she said. “We don't care if you do it for fun or profit ... We are determined to put a stop to it.”

Illegal fireworks in California include sky rockets, bottle rockets, Roman candles, aerial shells, firecrackers and other miscellaneous types of fireworks that either explode, go up in the air, or move about the ground in an uncontrollable fashion, according to Dargan's statement. Any device that has not been classified as "Safe and Sane" ("State-Approved") in California is deemed by law to be "dangerous" and "illegal."

She said that Senate Bill 839, which became effective Jan. 1, increased the penalties for illegal fireworks while also removing a number of legal, procedural and practical hurdles to enforcing illegal fireworks statutes in the state.

SB 839 – whose supporters included the California State Firefighters Association, California Fire Chiefs Association and Cal fire – can raise the fines for illegal fireworks, depending on the gross weight of the fireworks found to be in a suspect's possession, to as much as $50,000 and/or not more than 1 year imprisonment in a state prison or county jail, according to Dargan.

In addition, parents may be held liable for any fire damage or injury caused by their children using illegal fireworks, Dargan reported.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Anthony Wanzer of Lakeport was among several private bulldozer operators working to cut fire lines on Wednesday, June 25, 2008. Photo by John Jensen.


WALKER RIDGE – Walker Ridge Road winds through thousands of acres of remote land, the trees and vegetation – once green with vegetation – now smoking, black and skeletal. {sidebar id=87}

Here and there, however, there are islands of still-green bushes and plants, and the occasional undamaged pine tree, usually surrounded by a newly cut bulldozer line.

There are also signs of life – a bird flying overhead, looking for a place to land amidst the charred landscape; quail running alongside of the road. There's even a rattlesnake lying on the gravel, washboarded road. He decides it's time to leave and eases over the edge of the road as he becomes the subject of a photo.

This charred landscape is what's left behind after the Walker Fire – burning since Sunday, about 14 miles east of Clearlake Oaks – has passed through.

Dan Sendek, a Cal Fire division chief for safety and training, said that the fire was making constant runs along Walker Ridge Wednesday afternoon, but by evening there was no active fire to be seen for miles.

It was a day of significant gains for firefighters, who kept the fire from gaining much ground.

The night before, dozer crews cut 20 miles of line in an effort to keep the fire from spreading, said Cal Fire Firefighter Talon Sutherland.

By day's end Wednesday the fire had reached 14,500 acres, with 10-percent containment, said Sutherland. There were 592 firefighting personnel in the county to work on the fire.

Sutherland said the fire was moving south southeast toward Highway 20; however, the highway remained open Wednesday night.

During the afternoon, Sendek said that more aerial water drops on the fire had taken place.



A rattler makes his exit from the gravel roadway. The snake was one of a few signs of wildlife still present in the area on Wednesday, June 25, 2008. Photo by John Jensen.



He also reported that the cause of the fire was not lightning-related, although the official cause wasn't yet determined.

On Wednesday evening, most of the fire crews had been pulled out of the Walker Ridge area and sent to base camp at Konocti Conservation Camp, located along Highway 29 between Kelseyville and Lower Lake.

Keeping a watch at Walker Ridge

Staying on scene at Walker Ridge for the night were strike teams from Monterey and Placer counties, keeping an eye out to make sure there were no flareups.



Robert Foxworthy is a member of a Monterey County strike team staying on scene on Walker Ridge on Wednesday, June 25, 2008. The team was scheduled to stay overnight to watch for flareups. Photo by John Jensen.


Farther down along the road, at about 7 p.m., was a crew of bulldozer operators who had previously been at the Wild Fire, which burned more than 4,000 acres in Solano and Napa counties.

The men are private contractors hired by Cal Fire to come in and put their bulldozing skills to work building containment lines.

The lines also will clear up the area so hand crews can come in and do the intensive work of cleaning up flareups, said Anthony Wanzer of Lakeport, who owns A/T Wanzer Grading and Excavating.

Wanzer and other members of the team – Adam Peters of RB Peters in Lakeport, Gary Calvi who owns his own Sebastopol-based construction company, and Jerry Shuck, also of Sebastopol – arrived at the fire about midday Wednesday “and went right to work,” said Wanzer.

The men said they've been receiving other calls from all over to come to work on other fires – including those in the Mendocino National Forest.




The scorched landscape left behind by the Walker Fire stretches for miles along Walker Ridge Road. Photographed Wednesday, June 25, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



They also agreed than they've had more calls for fire work this week that in the past five years.

Wanzer pointed across a draw to a nearby hill, where a path of white ash led up one side. He explained that the ash indicated an area where the fire had burned very hot.

The men were tired but seemed in good spirits Wednesday evening, despite the fact that they missed out on a steak dinner back at the base camp.

Calvi said they would remain there overnight. They've been sleeping in their trucks for days.

Local firefighters get a rest

Wednesday was a day of rest for members of the Lake County strike team, said Lakeport Fire Chief Ken Wells.

The firefighters – coming from all county fire protection districts – were the first responders over the weekend. The first day and a half on the Walker Fire, they didn't get much rest, said Wells.




The smoky air turned the sunlight bright orange. Photographed Wednesday, June 25, 2008, along Walker Ridge Road. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Now, they're on a cycle of 24 hours on duty, 24 hours off, he said.

Wells said the local teams are supposed to be back on duty at 7 a.m. Thursday.

Elsewhere around the county, it's been fairly quiet, said Wells. Mostly his department is receiving a lot of calls about the smoke, and fielding questions from area residents concerned about how the air could possibly affect their health.

Area residents seem more vigilant and aware of fire concerns right now, he said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




In the distance, a water tender and, beyond that, equipment on a far rise along Walker Ridge Road on Wednesday, June 25, 2008. Photo by John Jensen.



NORTH COAST – With much of California still under siege from fires in wildlands and near homes, California' s Congressional Delegation is asking the president for help.

The 28 members of Congress – including Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson – sent the letter to President George W. Bush on Friday, seeking a disaster declaration for the state.

“This is a disaster of major scope and consequence,” the delegation wrote.

The letter states that more than 8,000 lightning strikes and record-low rainfall led to an estimated 1,088 fires burning in 30 counties throughout California, with 265,000 acres burned, 284 homes lost or damaged, and thousands of people evacuated.

The “overwhelming” number of fires has stretched state and local resources to the limit, the letter stated.

All of the state's firefighting resources are battling the blazes, yet 15 percent of the fires still don't have even a single firefighter working on them. “This is not due to negligence – our fire agencies have had to make the hard choices to abandon some fires in order to battle others,” the members of Congress wrote.

More lightning strikes and more fires also could be on the way, they stated.

The delegation asked the president to make an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act in order to provide “the essential federal resources” needed to save the homes, property and – potentially – the lives of state residents.

On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office reported that he, too, had sent a letter to President Bush requesting a state of emergency for California.

On Thursday Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Mendocino and Shasta counties. He's made similar declarations for five other counties as well – Butte, Monterey, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Trinity.

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LAKE COUNTY – With lightning-caused wildfires raging around Northern California, the forecast for more chances of thunderstorms beginning on Friday evening is not welcome news.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento has issued a special weather statement for Lake County forecasting an upper level flow to move up from Southern California some time Friday into Saturday, which should help clear out some of the smoke filling the Clear Lake basin.

However, the flow may just exchange the current smoke with smoke from other nearby fires.

But more troubling is the threat of thunderstorms to return to the surrounding mountains starting on Friday.

With 54 fires started by lightning strikes in the Mendocino National Forest last weekend, the National Weather Service forecast for more storms with limited moisture is not welcome news, although moisture with these storms should increase through the day on Saturday.

Nighttime thunderstorms are a possibility through the weekend for most of Northern California, where fires are still raging many of them unattended according to the National Weather Service.

To track lightning strikes, visit http://www.sloweather.com/lightning.htm.

E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Among the major firefighting efforts continuing around the North Coast are those in the Mendocino National Forest, where about 3,000 acres have burned in a series of 54 lightning-cased fires that began last weekend.

Forest spokesperson Phebe Brown reported Wednesday that the fires – now about 20-percent contained – are estimated to be fully contained by June 30. Of the 54 reported fires, 12 are contained, six are controlled and nine are in patrol status.

Brown said six fires are staffed and 13 have no personnel on them currently, with three of the fires burning together.

The majority of the acreage burning is on the Upper Lake Ranger District, said Brown.

The largest of the fires is the Back, located southwest of Lake Pillsbury, which has burned 1,800 acres and is 42-percent contained, said Brown. Also in Lake County is the Big Fire, west of Lake Pillsbury, which has scorched 850 acres and has zero containment.

Other major fires across the forest are the Monkey Rock Fire in the Yuki Wilderness, at 50 acres with 0-percent containment, and the Mill Fire, which has burned 40 acres and also has no current containment level, according to Brown.

Brown reported that two structures were destroyed in the Big Fire in Lake County. Another 40 structures are threatened across the entire forest. No evacuations are in place.

The fires are burning in 6-foot chaparral, oak woodlands, grass, timber and mixed conifer across the forest's three ranger districts in Lake, Mendocino and Tehama counties, Brown reported.

Resources committed to the fires currently include 410 personnel, among them 10 fire crews, from the US Forest Service, Cal Fire, US Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Indian Affairs and private contractors, according to Brown.

On scene are 28 engines, three bulldozers, seven water tenders, five helicopters and fire support personnel, Brown reported. An Interagency Incident Management Team arrived Wednesday to assist in managing the fires on the Upper Lake District.

No injuries have been reported, according to Brown.

There is no current cost estimate for fighting the fire.

Due to the fire, Brown said Elk Mountain Road (M-1) at the Bear Creek Road (M-10) junction and near Soda Creek has been closed by Lake County due to fire activity associated with the Back


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