Sunday, 14 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – There was some blue again in the skies over Lake County on Sunday, as winds helped clear away smoke from North Coast wildfires, among them the Walker Fire, which officials reported was contained a week after it started.

The fire, which topped out at 14,500 acres, was contained Sunday morning, although it will be a few more days before it's out, according to Cal Fire.

A total of 303 fire personnel remained in the county to continue work on the blaze, about 14 miles east of Clearlake Oaks. Total cost of fighting the fire is estimated at $3.2 million.

The fire started June 22 when a vehicle's undercarriage struck a rock in the Benmore Canyon area, according to fire officials.

Fire activity was said to be minimal, with aggressive mop up in progress, Cal Fire reported. Its Incident Command Team No. 3 was transitioning the fire back to the Cal Fire Sonoma-Lake Napa Unit on Sunday.

A red flag warning has been issued for areas near the fire, Cal Fire reported. On Sunday Walker Ridge Road was to be reopened to the public.

The lightning-caused fires in the Mendocino National Forest were still being worked aggressively Sunday, having burned a total of 5,648 acres.

National forest officials reported the four-fire Soda Complex, at 4,150 acres, had reached an overall containment of 60 percent, with 343 firefighters working on putting out the blazes.

The complex's fires include the Big, 1,400 acres, 40-percent contained; the Back, 1,600 acres, 85-percent contained; the Mill, 400 acres, 0-percent contained; and Monkey Rock, 160 acres, 0-percent contained.

Pogie Point Campground at Lake Pillsbury remains closed to the public, as does Elk Mountain Road from the Bear Creek Road junction to Soda Creek. Lake Pillsbury can still be accessed via Potter


The Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, the portion of the Yuki Wilderness Area located on the Mendocino National Forest, as well as all of the Sanhedrin Wilderness Area all are closed to public access until further notice.

Elsewhere around the North Coast, approximately 1,240 firefighters are working on Mendocino County's lightning fires, 60 of which continue to burn, Cal Fire reported Sunday.

The fires have burned 35,800 acres, according to Cal Fire, with 20-percent containment. Cost for firefighting efforts so far in Mendocino County are estimated at $7.9 million.

Air quality improves over the weekend

Lake County Air Pollution Control Officer Bob Reynolds reported Sunday that the county got a reprieve from heavy smoke from the wildfires over the weekend.

Thanks to a weather change, skies began to clear, according to Reynolds. He said southwest winds instead of the prevailing west to northwest winds are credited with the present improved air quality conditions.

Although some smoke still remains, Reynolds said the air was no longer exceeding health-based safety standards. By Sunday midday the visibility was nearing the state standard, he added.

In some other areas of Northern California – such as Butte, where fires still are actively burning – Reynolds said air quality standards have been exceeded by more than 800 percent.

The Mendocino Lightning Complex, northwest of Ukiah, remains the most likely to impact Lake County’s air, especially if prevailing transport winds return, Reynolds reported. He said those fires have been the primary source of smoke entering Lake County basin during last week.

A north wind also could transport smoke from the fires on the Mendocino Forest to the Clear Lake basin, he added.

Reynolds said residual haze and particulate in the air can be expected to continue until all the fires throughout Northern California are extinguished.

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


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

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 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


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The Mendocino National Forest is marking its 100th birthday Wednesday, July 2, by inviting the public to help celebrate by attending an open house at the Forest Headquarters Office in Willows from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The Mendocino National Forest Headquarters is located at 825 North Humboldt Ave. in Willows.

The Open House will feature historical Mendocino National Forest photos and other items on display, a 30-minute multi-media presentation prepared by Forest Archaeologist Kevin McCormick, covering the past 100 years of Mendocino history, and employees wearing Forest Service uniforms and clothing from the early 1900's.

"Please come by the office and see the displays, enjoy refreshments and meet employees and retirees," said Forest Supervisor Tom Contreras.

On July 2, 1908, the California National Forest was established by an executive order signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. On July 12, 1932, President Herbert Hoover signed an executive order that changed the name to the Mendocino National Forest. During the open house, Mr. Contreras will unveil a framed copy of the presidential proclamations signed by Presidents Roosevelt and Hoover.

The following is a summary of the history of the Mendocino National Forest prepared by Mr. McCormick.

The first surveys to determine what area should be included as a "forest reserve" were made in 1902 by Professor Lachie, a forester who was associated with the University of California. He was working under the direction of Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service in Washington, D.C.

Ultimately, the forest reserve was set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt on February 6, 1907. It was first named the Stony Creek Forest Reserve. One month later, on March 4, 1907, the forest reserve was brought into the national forest system and named the Stony Creek National Forest. Due to the logistics of managing such a large tract of land, a northern portion of the forest was shifted to the Trinity National Forest.

The final forest boundaries were agreed upon and President Roosevelt signed an executive order on July 2, 1908, creating the California National Forest.

On July 12, 1932, President Herbert Hoover signed an executive order that changed the name to the Mendocino National Forest "in order to avoid the confusion growing out of the State and a national forest therein having the same name." Apparently having a forest called "California" was confusing to those in Washington, D.C., so a local name was given to the forest.

At one point in the development of the forest there were 81 offices, lookouts and guard stations throughout the forest. As the transportation and communication systems were developed and technology improved (vehicles, telephones, and radios) many of the stations were closed.

Today, the Mendocino National Forest is divided into three Ranger Districts: Covelo, Grindstone and Upper Lake. A few of the original stations, such as Paskenta, Alder Springs, Soda Creek and Eel River, are still being used as work centers and are staffed primarily by summer fire crews.

There are also two units managed by the Mendocino National Forest which are not located within the Forest proper. They are the Genetic Resource and Conservation Center in Chico and the Red Bluff Recreation Area.

For more information, contact the Mendocino National Forest at 530-934-3316, TTY (530) 934-7724.


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..


LAKE COUNTY – Work continued Saturday to fully subdue the Walker Fire, which fire officials said was 95-percent contained by day's end, while firefighters also made advancements on fires burning in the Mendocino National Forest.

The 14,500-acre fire, located about 14 miles east of Clearlake Oaks in an area that is mostly remote wildland, had about 329 firefighting personnel on scene Saturday, according to Cal Fire.

Cal Fire spokesman Kevin Colburn said the fire is expected to be fully contained by Sunday, which will mean it will be completely surrounded by fire lines.

But the work isn't over yet, said Colburn.

“There's a difference between contained and controlled,” he said.

The latter term means the fire is out. That, said Colburn, likely won't happen for at least a few days after containment.

Many firefighters are either being sent to other fires or sent home, said Colburn.

But before Cal Fire moves to the next incident, they'll complete some rehabilitation of the area which has already begun, he said. That includes repairing some damage done during firefighting, such as line clearances, and moving dirt so that it doesn't get into creeks.

Cal Fire puts the cost to fight the fire to date at $4.1 million.

Work on the 3,560-acre, four-fire Soda Complex in the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District also continued Saturday, according to forest officials. Those fires were caused by last weekend's lightning storms.

The complex includes the Big Fire, 1,400 acres and 40-percent contained, the Back, 1600 acres, 85-percent contained; the Mill, 400 acres, 0-percent contained; and the Monkey Rock, 750 acres, 0-contained. Total containment was at 55 percent Saturday.

There have been a total of two injuries to firefighters. Thirty structures continued to be threatened, with two destroyed, according to the report.

On Saturday, the California Highway Patrol reported that the brakes failed on a very large truck traveling up Elk Mountain Road to take supplies to firefighters.

The truck crashed and injured the driver, according to CHP. A REACH helicopter was requested but visibility concerns prevented it from going into the area. Cal Fire was planning to use its own helicopter to transport the driver out, but no further information was available Saturday.

Another 1,051 acres are burning elsewhere in the forest. Those fires on Saturday triggered closures on the Sanhedrin and Yuki Wildernesses in the Mendocino County portion of the forest, according to spokesperson Phebe Brown, in order to keep the public safe and help fire suppression efforts. The Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness also was closed late last week.

Lake Pillsbury's Pogie Point Campground remains closed to the public, because it's being used as a sleeping area for firefighters, officials reported.

Elk Mountain Road from the Bear Creek Road junction to Soda Creek have been closed by Lake County due to fire activity associated with the Back incident. However, officials reported that the public can still gain access to Pillsbury Lake via Potter Valley (County Roads 240 and 301 to the Soda Creek Store).

Anyone visiting the forest should be aware of the heavy fire vehicle traffic, as well as smoke and haze, according to officials.

In Mendocino County, 60 active fires continued to burn Saturday, with 30,100 acres burned and only 5 percent containment, according to Cal Fire.

The cost to battle those fires, which have caused evacuations all over Mendocino County, is currently estimated at $6,660,000, officials reported.

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


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..


UPPER LAKE The ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC) has reached a settlement with the Upper Lake Union Elementary School District that contains a comprehensive series of steps the district will undertake to protect students from anti-gay harassment and discrimination.

The agreement is on behalf of a student who was persistently subjected to verbal taunting and physical abuse throughout elementary and middle school based on his perceived sexual orientation.

Lake County News was unable to reach a school district attorney, and Superintendent Kurt Herndon also could not be reached for comment because he is out of the office until next month.

The ACLU-NC sought this settlement in light of federal and state laws that allow for school administrators to be held liable if they fail to take adequate measures to remedy anti-LGBT harassment and discrimination.

"I can't remember a day at school when I wasn't called a faggot or gay," recalled the student. Since the third grade he has been the target of taunts, bullying and anti-gay name-calling on a regular basis.

The years of harassment finally culminated in the student being attacked by a group of boys in the school locker room after gym class last fall.

The boys knocked him to the ground and kicked him in the stomach, head and sides while screaming "fag" and "queer" at him. He received medical care for his injuries, which is when his parents contacted the ACLU to try to finally put a stop to the abuse, believing that the district was not going to independently take the appropriate steps to respond and protect him.

"We talked to the school about this harassment for years. We wanted to know that the adults in charge cared enough to make sure that our son was safe and secure at school," said the boy's mother. "I'm happy about the policy changes in the district and hope that addressing this will help protect my son and other students in the area."

The settlement agreement was reached without a lawsuit. It contains a series of proactive steps that the Upper Lake Union Elementary School District will take to create a safe learning environment for all students and to educate students and staff about preventing harassment and discrimination at school.

The district also now has adopted clear policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as required by California law.

"We're pleased the district is taking such a big step in the right direction," said ACLU attorney Juniper Lesnik. "The lesson for other schools is to address anti-gay harassment early before it escalates to violence."

Lesnik pointed to the murder of an openly gay 15-year-old in Oxnard earlier this year as a tragic example of what can happen when schools don't take harassment seriously. Oxnard student Lawrence King was murdered by a peer in February 2008 after long-term harassment went unchecked.

Among the steps the district has adopted to foster a supportive and safe learning environment are the following:

– Parent/student handbooks will be revised to include the newly adopted anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, as well as an explanation of the process for filing a complaint and a description of the steps the district will take in response to the complaint.

– Each school site will identify a teacher, administrator or staff member to serve as the point person for employees on how to prevent school-based harassment.

– The district will provide copies of a National Education Association publication addressing LGBT sensitivity and discuss it with all staff. At each staff meeting, administrators will inquire about incidents of harassment and review the steps teachers and staff should take to intervene.

– Experienced, qualified trainers will provide student training at least once each year at each school site to educate students regarding the harmful effects of discrimination.

– Experienced, qualified trainers will provide professional development to help all teachers and staff to understand the harmful impacts of harassment and discrimination and to learn intervention tools to help prevent and stop discriminatory behavior.

– The district will implement the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network's ("GLSEN") "No Name Calling Week" curriculum in all district schools.

– The district will implement programs that draw attention to anti-LGBT bullying and effective responses, such as the GLSEN National Day of Silence and the Gay/Straight Alliance Network's "Making your School a Hate-Free Zone" program.

– The district will support the maintenance of a Gay/Straight Alliance club at the middle school.

The settlement also includes a modest monetary award to the family. The ACLU has waived all attorneys' fees.


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.

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


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

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


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