Thursday, 26 January 2023

News

EUREKA – Due to cool nighttime temperatures, Caltrans has temporarily suspended paving operations on a highway preventive maintenance project located on Route 29 from Lower Lake to Kelseyville in Lake County.


Caltrans reported the nighttime temperature has been dropping below 60 degrees, which is the minimum required for a chip seal coating to be applied to the current asphalt.


In order to minimize impacts to traffic, most of the paving is being performed at night.


Caltrans anticipates that by July 7 the nighttime temperature will be warm enough for paving to resume, and be completed by the end of July.

 

In addition to paving, this project will place weed mat around guardrails to reduce future maintenance costs, and restripe the roadway. The project is anticipated to be completed by the end of August.

 

For the most current information on all California State Highways, please call 1-800-427-7623 or visit www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo.


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CLEARLAKE – Officials are investigating an officer-involved shooting that occurred Monday night when police allege a man pointed a shotgun at officers.


In addition to the one death, another man is reported to be injured after being struck in the arm by a fragment of a bullet or another object.


A Clearlake Police officer responding to a call involving a fight at York's Mobile Park on Old Highway 53 shot and killed the man, Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain said Tuesday.


The man who died was David Vestal, who was in his 60s, said park manager Lizbeth Alvarez. He had only lived at the park about a month, moving from Clearlake Oaks.


Three cars and four officers arrived at the scene at about 9:30 p.m., where several people were reported to be in the fight, said McClain. The area where the park is located has a high number of calls for police service, he said.


When the officers arrived on scene, McClain said Vestal was armed with a shotgun.


“That's what he pointed at the officers,” said McClain, resulting in the shooting.


He would not name the officer involved, who has been put on administrative leave according to department policy as the investigation takes place.


Alvarez, who said she heard three shots, disputed the police account.


“The police made a mistake,” said Alvarez.


Alvarez said the police shot Vestal without knowing what was going on. She didn't see the incident, but claimed Vestal had been holding a BB gun.


“It wasn't a BB gun,” said McClain.


Alvarez said she didn't know why police shot Vestal, who she described as a good person, when they arrived. “There was no shooting before that.”


Vestal's daughter and her husband had been arguing, which Alvarez said led to the police's arrival. His family, including his 4-year-old grandson, were standing nearby when it happened, she said.


A neighbor standing on his patio across the street from the incident was hospitalized after being hit in the arm by a fragment, possibly of the bullet or of something it had struck, said McClain.


“Doctors have just told us it was a fragment,” he said. “They won't know until they get it out.”


The man's injury is not life-threatening, McClain added. He's to undergo surgery to have the fragment removed.


Department of Justice criminologists arrived overnight to process the crime scene, said McClain.


Other subjects reported to have been involved in the fight were interviewed, he said. Some of them had warrants but he did not have immediate information on whether or not any had been arrested or cited.


The District Attorney's Office is now investigating the incident to determine if the shooting was justified under the law, said McClain. “At this point, while we're talking, they're still conducting interviews.”


Police investigators also will make a determination on whether or not any department policies were violated, he added. Six of his officers and investigators are working in conjunction with the District Attorney's Office.


Alvarez said the park had been closed down until about 1 p.m., with tenants not allowed to come or go. Vestal's body had remained on scene until about noon, when authorities finally removed it, she said.


Investigators have been on scene since the incident occurred Monday night, said McClain.


“They should be trying to wrap things up,” he said, at which point the tired officers will be sent home to get some sleep and continue work on the case Wednesday.


McClain said police records didn't show previous contacts with Vestal.


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


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LAKE COUNTY – A Ukiah man was injured Sunday when his vehicle rolled down an embankment on the Hopland Grade.


The California Highway Patrol reported that Emanuel Mandujano, 27, sustained moderate injuries in the crash, which took place at 6:50 p.m. on Highway 175 west of the Lake County line.


Mandujano was driving his 1996 Dodge pickup eastbound on the Hopland Grade at an unknown rate of speed when, for an unknown reason, his pickup crossed over the double yellow lines and entered the westbound traffic lanes, the CHP reported.


After narrowly missing a head-on collision, his vehicle rolled down an embankment and came to rest approximately 100 feet from the roadway, according to the CHP.


Mandujano was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with unknown, moderate injuries, the CHP reported.


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GLENHAVEN – A head-on crash on Highway 20 Tuesday afternoon left two people injured – one seriously – and closed down the highway while emergency personnel rescued the victims. One of the drivers also was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence alcohol.


Injured in the collision were Dana Traw, 45, of Santa Rosa, who was later arrested for suspected DUI, and 60-year-old Donald Seeley of Ukiah, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia.


At about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday Traw was driving a 2001 Saturn eastbound on Highway 20 west of Gladys Street near Glenhaven when she passed over the double yellow lines and hit Seeley head-on in his 2000 Ford pickup, Garcia said.


Traw, who wasn't wearing her seatbelt, sustained major injuries, said Garcia, and was flown by REACH air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.


She was arrested for suspicion of DUI but released to the care of the hospital due to her injuries, Garcia said.


Seeley sustained minor injuries, said Garcia, and was not transported by an ambulance.


Garcia said the CHP had received calls of Traw’s erratic driving but was unable to stop her prior to the collision. He said the public is encouraged to call 911 to report suspected drunk drivers.


Officer Erica Coddington is investigating the incident, Garcia said.


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


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Steve Herdt, 17, with the mural that he designed especially for Victim-Witness' new Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 



LAKEPORT – Along N. Brush Street sits a new, tidy little cottage dedicated to protecting children and assisting law enforcement in prosecuting child sexual abuse cases. {sidebar id=89}


The District Attorney's Office Victim-Witness Division celebrated the opening of its new children's Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center – or MDIC – at a gathering on Monday evening.


The new interview center already is considered the best facility of its kind in the state, according to Sam Laird, administrator of Victim-Witness.


But the real story behind the little building is the amount of community effort that went into making a good idea a better reality, with men and women – and even children – from all walks of life pitching in to offer supplies, labor and a lot of love to make it happen.


The sentiment that best sums the effort up is on a plaque that Rian Sommerfield, president of the Kelseyville Sunrise Rotary, presented to the center, with the names of everyone who participated engraved on it.


The plaque begins with the words, “This house was built with love.”


District Attorney Jon Hopkins told the group of community members and local leaders that victimized children need a comfortable, safe place where investigators can interview them with the least amount of trauma. The new building will serve that purpose, he said.


Last year, Hopkins and Laird began discussing the idea of building the center behind the Victim-Witness main building, in the location of an old shed that once had been a chicken coop.


For years, abused or sexually molested children who were part of a criminal investigation have been taken to a cramped little room – a converted broom closet, according to Laird – in the Lake County Courthouse, just up the hill from Victim-Witness.


There, they are interviewed by an investigator while, next door in the District Attorney's Elder Abuse unit, other investigators would crowd around a closed-circuit television in one corner of the room to monitor the interview.


It hasn't been an ideal situation, but the worst part of it, in Laird's opinion, was the walk the investigator and the child would take up the hill to the courthouse. Along the way, there was a risk the child could be seen by their abuser or others who might recognize the law enforcement officer with them.


"It was kinda like the Walk of Shame, walking them up there and down," Laird said.


Hopkins took the idea of an interview center to a department head meeting where Supervisor Rob Brown happened to be sitting in. When Brown heard about the idea, he gave it his enthusiastic support.


Both Hopkins and Laird credited Brown with helping give the project the overwhelming momentum that has carried it to completion after about eight months.


"Without Rob's involvement, none of this would even have been a blip on the radar screen," said Laird.

 

 

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Rob Brown works to excavate the building site last fall. Photo courtesy of Sam Laird.

 


Brown told Lake County News at the event that he didn't ask anyone for a donation, but simply shared the plan with community members and groups, including the Kelseyville Sunrise Rotary, of which he is a member.


"Everybody said, 'What can we do?'" he said.


He suggested the desire by so many to participate was their way of reaching out to help children who have gone through the worst kinds of abuse imaginable.


Hopkins added that he thinks the effort touched people because the need for the center was explained from the perspective of a child who has been abused.


Many businesses came forward to make outright donations of materials or else offer them at cost, said Brown. Others donated their labor for such essentials as plumbing, electrical and flooring.


Brown said the effort got under way last October. He and Laird were on the site a lot, especially on weekends, with Brown using an excavator for site preparation. After that came the foundation and pouring cement.


Then the building went up. “We raised it like an Amish farmhouse,” said Laird.

 

 

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Volunteers work on framing the building last December. Photo courtesy of Sam Laird.
 

 

 


Inmate trustee labor also played a big part, said Laird, with the men doing landscaping and irrigation, laying graving pathways and other important work that saved an estimated $40,000.


Public Services Director Kim Clymire's crews came over and added another finishing touch, an attractive wood fence that runs along the interview center's side that faces N. Brush Street, offering another barrier of safety, said Laird.


In all, Laird said he and Brown estimated that the center's total construction costs ranged between $200,000 and $250,000, with most of it donated by the community, outside of the work Public Services put in, and a District Attorney's Office allocation of $10,000 to pay for the center's audio and video equipment.


On Monday, in addition to presenting the plaque, Sommerfield also had the honor of handing over the building's keys to Laird, who responded with an enthusiastic, “Right on!”


Building has unique touches


The building's construction is unique. Its framing has about twice the amount of lumber one would normally see in such a project. Laird explained that is because it allowed them to hang more sheetrock in order to insulate it for privacy.


The building, which is about 560 square feet in size and painted a shade of green called “alligator pear,” has two age-appropriate interview rooms, which have double windows, again, to create more of a sound barrier. There's also an area outside of the interview rooms where a flat panel television screen hangs on a wall next to camera controls and audiovisual equipment for monitoring the interviews.


The Lakeport Women's Civic Club made a $10,000 donation to the project, which Brown said paid for a nearly quiet heating and cooling system.


There's another special touch, completed on Monday afternoon. Walk into the little building, and one of the walls – formerly painted white – is now fabulously alive with color and life in the form of Disney characters.


The mural was the concept of 17-year-old Steve Herdt II, a Kelseyville High Senior and son of Sheriff's Deputy Steve Herdt.


The talented young artist and his high school art teacher, Deb Ingalls, started work last week drawing a grid for the mural, which is Herdt's first. After about five days of painting, it was completed at 1 p.m. Monday afternoon, just in time for its debut.


Ingalls credited Herdt with the design – “I just worked for him,” she said.


Herdt's assignment was to make the room less sterile and more welcoming to a child.


“I started with Nemo,” he said of the popular fish cartoon character.


Herdt's mural depicts Nemo and other characters such as the Little Mermaid, Snow White and the creatures from “Monsters Inc.” circling around the word “Believe” in gold letters.

 

 

 

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A view of Herdt's amazing mural, completed Monday afternoon, with the help of his high school art instructor, Deb Ingalls. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 


Center prepares for service


Laird said it will be about two weeks before the investigations will be fully transitioned over to the new center.


The team of investigators who will work primarily at the center includes District Attorney's Office Investigator Von Morshed, Det. Mike Curran of the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Crystal Martin of Victim-Witness and prosecutor Ed Borg, who is taking over the child sexual abuse prosecution caseload from fellow deputy district attorney John DeChaine.


DeChaine said he has worked such cases for four years, and it was time to move on to other casework. “It's good to get out of it so you don't get burned out,” he said, explaining the high level of stress that goes with the assignment.


Prosecuting cases involving children is a complex and delicate business, DeChaine explained. The District Attorney's Office is involved from the beginning, working to safeguard the child, making sure they have medical care and supervising interviews with the child by qualified forensics interviewers. Both Morshed and Curran hold such qualifications, as does Officer Jim Bell of Lakeport Police, he said.


“It's all designed to minimize the impact on the child,” he said.


For those adults involved in the law enforcement side, it can be an unforgettable experience. Laird told Lake County News in a previous interview that hearing a child recount being victimized is something that a person never forgets.


Is law enforcement seeing more cases involving children who are abused, sexually and otherwise? “I think there's a growth in reporting,” Hopkins said.


He believes the center and its new approach to investigating such cases also will encourage more people to come forward, knowing children will have an extra measure of safety and security in the process.


It also will assist, they believe, in putting together the best cases possible. “When a good case is put together and there's no wiggle room for them, a lot of them will plead guilty,” said Hopkins.


Careful investigations, said DeChaine, also are crucial to clearing the innocent and preventing someone from being wrongly accused.


That's important because of the stigma associated with sexual abuse. “Just an arrest for something like this can follow someone,” added Borg.


“This is going to assist us in weeding out the nonprovable cases from the provable,” said Hopkins.


There's another goal for everyone, too. It's that, someday, the little green building won't be needed for its original purpose anymore.


To see a photos of the MDIC being built and its finishing touches, visit the gallery page at http://lakeconews.com/component/option,com_wrapper/Itemid,37/.


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


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Lt. Dane Hayward was commander of the Clear Lake CHP office for the last seven years. His retirement became official on Sunday. Courtesy photo.

 


LAKE COUNTY – After 31 years as a member of the California Highway Patrol and seven years as commander of the CHP's Clear Lake office, Lt. Dane Hayward is retiring from the agency. {sidebar id=88}


Hayward, 60, is at the CHP's mandatory retirement age. But don't expect him to be sitting around on the porch.


Although his retirement from the CHP became official on Sunday, on Monday he starts work with the Lake County Sheriff's Office Boat Patrol. There, he'll get to put his love of boating and the water to good use.


“I've really enjoyed working with him,” said Officer Adam Garcia, who added that Hayward's involvement in the community is a model for others.


Officer Josh Dye offered his own perspective on his outgoing boss. “He's an interesting mix of progressive, new ideas and old-school philosophy.”


Succeeding Hayward on July 1 will be Lt. Mark Loveless, who's coming from Redding to take the position. Loveless isn't a stranger to Lake County, having served here as a CHP officer in the 1990s.


Hayward and his wife, Phil, plan on staying in Lake County. “It's very nice here. Nice people, excellent weather, no traffic,” he said.


He took over as the Clear Lake office commander in March 2001, following 24 years in offices around the state – serving in Los Angeles, West Valley, Venture and Baldwin Park.


In the three decades he's been in the CHP, Hayward has seen a major change in technology, with computers, radar, tasers and automatic weapons expanding the CHP's ability to protect the state's highways and roadways. Likewise, the agency is seeing its force of officers growing in both size and diversity, with more people becoming interested in working for the CHP.


It was as a city policeman that Hayward got his start in law enforcement in the 1970s. After answering barking dog calls and reports of missing manhole covers for a year, Hayward decided he liked patrol best, and entered the CHP Academy in October 1977, graduating in February 1978.


When Hayward got his start, new CHP officers were still doing an obligatory term of service in Southern California. He worked in central Los Angeles until January 1982.


It was during his time there that he confronted one of his most life-threatening situations.


In 1980, a young man in the area who was turning 24 left a note to his father saying he was going to kill his wife and baby. Authorities were called and the CHP encountered the young man, who was armed.


Hayward was the fourth officer to roll up onto the scene. He said the young man shot at him and Hayward returned fire, killing him. It was a case, said Hayward, of “suicide by cop,” although that term wasn't applied back then.


Following his time in central Los Angeles, he took other assignments in Southern California, reaching the rank of lieutenant in 1997. In the midst of that, he managed to earn four lifetime college credentials, including a master's degree in psychology from the University of California, San Francisco, in 1989. He's used his psychology degree in his work as a CHP officer, and also assists with debriefings of first responders in tragic and stressful situations.


He wanted his own command, and when the Clear Lake office opened up, he came north.

 

 

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After a year as a city police officer, Hayward joined the CHP in 1977, enjoying patrol and finding his new duties more interesting. Courtesy photo.

 


A commander's many responsibilities


As the Clear Lake office commander, Hayward said he was responsible for 1193 duties – literally – in the CHP manual, from reports and budgets to mounds of paperwork. He also continued to do enforcement, pulling over speeders and, as late as a few months ago, ramming a car in a pursuit as part of a maneuver to end the chase.


The Clear Lake office has 26 officers and 12 cars, one of the largest lieutenant commands in the state, he said. They patrol 867 miles of roads in Lake County, including seven miles of freeway. They're responsible for all roads in the county with the exception of those in the cities of Clearlake and Lakeport.


“We are consistently the second or third busiest area in all the areas of the Northern Division,” he said, with the Northern Division stretching all the way to the Oregon border, and including 17 commands.


The greatest misconception the public has about the CHP, in Hayward's opinion, is that it's law-enforcement driven, or all about handing out tickets.


Not so, he said. It's really about safety, and getting people to take responsibility for themselves while on the road.


For example, Hayward said the two biggest causes of fatalities the CHP sees – driving under the influence and not using seat belts – can be prevented. Take those out of the equation and you'll stop most highway fatalities, he said.


DUI isn't higher per capita in Lake County, he said. But the county does see an annual summer influx of visitors, going from a population of about 63,000 to 150,000 in the summer, numbers he said are increasing.


Last year Lake County had 16 roadway deaths, Hayward said.


In Lake County, as elsewhere, Hayward said many drivers fail to look far enough ahead – only focusing on what's in front of them or a few car lengths ahead – rather than keeping a farther visual horizon, which can help them spot hazards, especially on Lake County's winding roads.


One problem that is unique to Lake County are slower drivers, Hayward said, which is an outgrowth of the larger senior population. If you have five or more cars behind you, you must pull over to let them pass. That, he said, helps prevent people from becoming frustrated and making passes on dangerous curves.


If there's anything he doesn't like about his job, it's the “paperwork mass,” some of which was still stacked on his desk as he was preparing to vacate his office for the last time. The paperwork, he added, is “sometimes enough to drive you nuts.”


Hitting the retirement bubble


The CHP, which doubled in size in the late 1960s and early 1970s, is now experiencing a “retirement bubble,” said Hayward.


Many officers who, like him, joined during those years are now reaching the mandatory retirement age. He said that retirement surge – along with lack of retention in some cases – has resulted in 500 vacancies statewide. But he adds that vacancies and retention are an issue for all law enforcement agencies.


Unlike when he started, new officers can now bypass Southern California and start new assignments farther north. The Northern CHP Division, he said, hires four officers for every hundred applicants, which he said is higher than some other areas of the state.


Hayward said some of the traits he's noticed in CHP officers are a strong sense of right and wrong – or “a strong moral compass.”


While offering an exciting career with a lot of good benefits, there also are dangers when working on the state's roads and highways, said Hayward.


There is one statistic about the CHP that Hayward, with his psychology training, is especially keyed into, because he's received special training in it. That's the suicide rate.


In 2006, the CHP had the highest suicide rate of any law enforcement agency in the United States, said Hayward.


That year, there were eight CHP officers in the state who took their own lives, he said. While most law enforcement agencies have a suicide rate of 18.5 per 100,000, CHP's that year was 200 per 100,000.


Hayward has taken training called “Not One More Suicide,” which explores the issue.


The question of why is happens, he said, is the hardest to answer, because the people with the answer are gone.


Making Lake County a safer place


Hayward has taken seriously his job to make Lake County a safer place to live and drive.


His office has received awards for increasing use of child safety seats and reducing intersection collisions.


Looking back over his time as Clear Lake's commander, there are a few things Hayward points to when asked which of his achievements leave him with the most satisfaction – and both are about safety.


“I haven't lost an officer,” he said. “That makes me very happy.”


Then there's the Northshore pedestrian safety grant, which the CHP received in 2003 thanks to Hayward's efforts.


He took on the project after a little girl in Lucerne was killed early one morning in 2002 while walking to the school bus.


“That was it for me,” said Hayward.


The result was that CHP received a $500,000 grant to fund an additional 1,500 officer hours – 1,000 for CHP and 500 for the Lake County Sheriff's Office – to make the Northshore communities safer.


Caltrans also joined in the effort, spending another $500,000 to add a continuous turn lane through Nice, Lucerne and Clearlake Oaks; install flashing pedestrian safety signs; an add “piano key” crosswalks throughout the communities.


There hasn't been a pedestrian death since then, said Hayward.


He added that Caltrans has been an important partner in local highway safety efforts, and he's had an excellent working relationship with Charles Fielder, director of Caltrans' District 1 division, which includes Lake County.


Hayward, who is a member of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 8-8, loves time on the water, and says he's looking forward to a new assignment with the Sheriff's Boat Patrol. Continuing work with the public is a good fit, because he said he likes meeting people.


He's also looking forward to more time with his family, especially his 7-year-old grandsons, who live with his son in Ventura. The Haywards' daughter lives in Pennsylvania.


“It's been a wonderful experience,” Hayward said of his command at the Clear Lake office. “Couldn't ask for a better way to end your career.”


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


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LAKE COUNTY – The Hidden Valley Lake Association say it's rescheduling its July 4 fireworks display, but the show is going on for other displays around the county.


Connie Stuefloten, activities manager for the Hidden Valley Lake Association, said they're postponing the fireworks display after they were notified by the South Lake County Fire Protection District that they would not have firefighters available to be on standby during the annual display.


“They're all out on call,” she said.


Stuefloten said they're hoping to reschedule for the Labor Day weekend.


Matt Gilfillan, a fireworks show producer for the company Pyro Spectacular – which does Hidden Valley Lake's display – said it's too early to tell if the fire season and the draw on resources could cause other cancellations.


He added, however, “There's a number of shows that will be affected.”


He said the company is hoping the weather changes and the shows go on, because July 4 is also an opportunity to celebrate the contributions firefighters make.


Rest of county's shows ready to go this weekend


The show is going on for other displays around the county.


The 10th annual Maxine Sherman Memorial Fireworks in Clearlake Oaks, sponsored by the Clearlake Oaks/Glenhaven Business Association, is a go, said event chair Margaret Medeiros.


“We are all set for the fourth,” said Medeiros.


She has guided the event for the last nine years, following the 1999 death of Maxine Sherman, who took over the fundraising and planning for the fireworks in 1996.


Medeiros said she checked with Northshore Fire Protection District earlier this week and there were no concerns about moving forward with the $9,200 display.


The fireworks show will take place on Friday, July 4, beginning at dusk, Medeiros said. The fireworks will be shot off over the lake at Widgeon Point.


Likewise, the Lakeport display on July 4 is still on track, said Lakeport Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Melissa Fulton.


That show, like most others in the county, is shot off from the water, said Fulton.


Lakeport Fire Chief Ken Wells said he's not concerned about the chamber's annual show. “The public displays are not a problem,” he said.


Fulton said there is another concern about the display.


“Our big challenge, of course, is will anybody be able to see them?” she said, referring to the recent hazy conditions due to wildfires. “We certainly are hoping that they will be.”


Tammy McClain at the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce said plans are still going forward for the July 5 display, which also is set off over the lake.


Robinson Rancheria's fireworks show is scheduled for dusk on Thursday, which makes it the first display of the holiday weekend.


Konocti Harbor confirmed that its fireworks show will follow the July 5 Boston and Styx concert. Also on July 5, Konocti Vista Casino will hold a display at dusk at the casino's marina.


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MIDDLETOWN – A 23-year-old Lompoc man died Friday when his pickup struck a group of trees outside of Middletown.


California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia reported that Robert Gescheider died in the crash, which occurred at 11:50 p.m. Friday.


Gescheider was driving a 1997 Dodge Pickup – registered out of Middletown – westbound on Highway 29 and west of the Dry Creek Cutoff when the crash took place, Garcia reported.


Garcia said Gescheider was unable to negotiate a curve in the road and traveled off the road's north edge, where his pickup struck a group of oak trees before it came to rest partially in the westbound lane.


Gescheider sustained fatal injuries as a result of this collision and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Garcia.


The collision investigation is still in progress but alcohol and speed is believed to have been a contributing factor in this collision, said Garcia reported.


Garcia said Officer Kory Reynolds is investigating the incident.


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


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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

Valley.


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..


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MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The battle to subdue a complex of large lightning-caused fires is continuing on the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District.


Forest spokesperson Phebe Brown reported Tuesday that 403 personnel, 21 engines, four water tenders and two helicopters continued working on the Soda Complex in remote areas of the ranger district.


The Soda Complex includes the Big Fire, Back Fire, Mill Fire and Monkey Rock Fire.


On Sunday, the Back Fire was declared 100-percent contained at 1,600 acres, while on Monday crews continued to patrol and mop-up the fire perimeter, according to Brown.


The Big Fire, which is currently estimated to be 2,200 acres, is 75-percent contained, Brown said. Crews completed control lines along the southern flank of this fire on Monday, with mopup and patrol continuing on the fire's northern and eastern flanks.


Brown said both the Mill Fire, at 550 acres, and the Monkey Rock Fire, at 750 acres, are 0-percent contained.


She said crews continued work on control lines on the Mill Fire Monday, but the Monkey Rock Fire remained unstaffed, with both fires located in step terrain with limited accessibility.


The western flank of the Mill Fire is burning in the Sanhedrin Wilderness Area, and the Monkey Rock Fire is entirely within the Yuki Wilderness Area, Brown reported.


The Northern Rockies Type II Incident Management Team, in charge of managing the fires, plans to hold control lines and continue mopup on the Big and Mill Fire lines, and monitor the Monkey Rock Fire, said Brown. They'll also have crews available for initial attack should new lighting fires result from predicted storms in the area.


Due to the remoteness of the fires and limited road access, Spike Camps have been established near the fires to limit crew driving time and exposure to the risk factors presented by the steep, winding and dusty roads, according to Brown.


As a result, officials have closed several areas near the Pillsbury Lake to public use, including Pogie Point Campground, a portion of Elk Mountain Road, the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness and a portion of the Yuki Wilderness.


Cal Fire on Tuesday also reported that firefighters were gaining ground on the Mendocino Lightning Complex, which was 40-percent contained at 37,800 acres.


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


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LAKE COUNTY – Air quality continued to improve and more blue sky was visible in Lake County Monday, although some residual haze was visible in parts of the county as wildfires are still burning in the National Forest and Mendocino County.


The Lake County Air Quality Management District credited continuing southwest winds with causing air pollution levels to drop back into more normal range, after having exceeded state and federal air quality standards last week.


Some haze was still visible in the south county, where the Walker Fire is 100-percent contained and nearly controlled, according to Cal Fire.


Only a “couple dozen” fire personnel remained in the county Monday for the Walker Fire, which is largely finished, with most firefighters being released to other blazes elsewhere, Cal Fire reported.


The northern part of the county also had a smoky haze, which is coming from Mendocino County's lightning fires, which Cal Fire reported are 38-percent at 37,600 acres.


The Soda Complex, consisting of four fires burning on the forest's Upper Lake Ranger District, had reached 4,970 acres by Monday, according to a report from forest spokesperson Phebe Brown. The complex is 55-percent contained.


Another 2,000 acres is burning in the Yolla Bolly Complex in Mendocino and Tehama counties, according to Brown. That includes numerous fires previously referred to as the June ABCD Complex. Late last week, forest officials closed down that wilderness area due to the firefighting effort.


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


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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.


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