Friday, 03 February 2023

News

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Firefighters from a strike team from Kings and Fresno counties, including engineer Bill Williams (left) and Capt. Pat Papasergia (second from left) from Bakersfield Fire, wait to find out their assignment at the Konocti Conservation Camp on Tuesday, June 24, 2008. The men had arrived earlier in the day from the Wild Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 



KONOCTI CONSERVATION CAMP – The Walker Fire made another huge leap in size late Tuesday, reaching an estimated 14,000 acres as firefighters attempted to set backfires to keep it away from homes and Highway 20.


Dan Sendek, division chief for safety and training at Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit's Delta Camp in Suisun City, said the fire – burning since Sunday – had reached 14,000 acres by 7 p.m., with only 5-percent containment.


Cal Fire is estimating the fire – located in mostly remote wildlands about 14 miles east of Clearlake Oaks – could eventually burn as much as 35,000 acres. No timeframe for containment has been given.


According to Cal Fire a total of 35 homes are threatened, 25 of them in the Double Eagle Ranch Subdivision, which was evacuated Sunday.


On Tuesday, two helicopters worked on dropping water on the fire, said Sendek, but air operations were not as extensive as they were on Monday, when Cal Fire sent in a DC-10 air tanker to drop retardant.


Firefighters lit backfires during the night and into the afternoon along Walker Ridge, said Sendek, in an attempt to stop the fire's advance toward Highway 20, which could force a closure.


The effort was "not terribly successful" due to too much humidity, Sendek said.


Incident Command Team Three is guiding the effort, said Sendek. It's one of 10 such teams in the state, four of which currently are in Northern California.


Operations are now headquartered at Konocti Conservation Camp, located off of Highway 29 between Kelseyville and Lower Lake.


By Tuesday evening, a total of 240 firefighters were on scene at the camp, said Sendek. The doubling since yesterday in the size of the firefighting force was largely due to the release of about half of the 500 or so firefighters at the Wild Fire, which burned more than 4,000 acres in Solano and Napa counties.


The Walker and Wild fires are now referred to as the Walker Complex, said Sendek, and both are being managed jointly from the camp.


A major goal was getting more firefighters on the incident in order to give some rest to the local and state fire crews who have been on the Walker Fire since Sunday. Initial responders had included all local fire districts along with Cal Fire.


"They'll work until they drop,” said Sendek. “We just don't want that to happen."


More firefighters are expected to arrive in the coming days, said Sendek, as they're released from other fire assignments.


"The expectation is, no one is going home," he said. "If they go anywhere, they're coming here."


Firefighters come from around the state


Strike teams from around the state were pulling into the camp Tuesday afternoon and evening, where they were waiting to find out their assignments for the Wednesday.


Frank Rohan, a battalion chief with the Kings County Fire Department and a leader of a strike team composed of engines from the Office of Emergency Services, and Captain Brian Torosian of the Clovis Fire Department were among those pulling into camp Tuesday from the Wild Fire. Their five-engine strike team also included members from the Bakersfield, Porterville and Fresno County fire departments.


Lake County was just another stop for the men in what has been months of firefighting. Rohan had been at the Summit Fire in Santa Cruz, and Torosian at the Humboldt in Butte County.


"People are being sent everywhere right now," said Rohan.


If there's anything they're noticing, it's that Northern California is having more trouble earlier in the season.


"Most of the action has been happening here this summer," said Rohan, rather than in the drier Southern California climates.


Engineer Bill Williams, a strike team member from Bakersfield Fire Department, said they're also seeing "more erratic fire behavior" on the fire lines. That includes trees, bushes and other vegetation that don't usually burn this time of year going up in flame.


Captain Pat Papasergia of Bakersfield Fire said sudden oak death also had proved to be a problem, with healthy looking trees suddenly collapsing in the fire areas.


Along with the firefighters arriving from the Wild Fire came a firefighter encampment that workers were in the process of setting up Tuesday evening in the little valley where the conservation camp sits.


There was a portable kitchen, a large tent area for meals, banks of portable toilets, dumpsters and other necessities put in place. Crews were busy weed whacking to clear a defensible space around the perimeter. Smoke from the region's fires hung thick in the air, turning the sun into a giant, blood-red ball.

 

 

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Inmate crews were setting up the firefighters' encampment at Konocti Conservation Camp on the evening of Tuesday, June 24, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 


As many as 800 firefighters could arrive at the camp in the days ahead, said Sendek, as more firefighters are released from other incidents.


Six inmate crews also have been sent to join the effort, said Sendek. The Walker Fire is not currently in the state's top three fires, which is where California National Guard members activated by the governor are headed.


In an effort to track the exact size of the fire, Kimberley Sone, a Cal Fire assistant state forest manager stationed at Boggs Mountain, said she'll walk the fire line on Wednesday, carrying a GPS device which will track the Walker Fire's precise dimensions.


With a big fire like the Walker, winds that come up can cause “long range spotting,” Sone explained. That means the wind picks up parts of the fire and carries them long distances, creating spot fires away from the fire's main body. Resources then need to be sent to deal with those spot fires individually.


On Tuesday Cal Fire reported that 842 lightning fires were burning throughout the state. The Associated Press reported the fires resulted from more than 8,000 strikes in the storm last weekend.


“You just can't plan for that,” Sendek said.


He added, “I'm sure there are still fires out there people haven't found.”


Sendek said the fires have hit before the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit's peak summer staffing levels, which don't begin until July 1.


There are no cost estimates yet on how much the firefighting effort will cost.


More help may be on the way. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Oregon is sending 2,400 firefighters to aid in the battle against California's wildland fires.


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

 

 

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Firefighters set up their own places to sleep at the camp on Tuesday, June 24, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 


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LAKEPORT – A Clearlake man was sentenced Friday to a lengthy prison term for charges including attempted manslaughter and a felon in possession of a firearm.


Judge Richard Martin sentenced Ronell Lee Isaac, 34, to 25 years and six months prison for the October 2006 shooting of two people in Clearlake, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.


The court found aggravating circumstances to sentence the defendant to the maximum sentence allowed based on the jury verdicts, Hinchcliff reported.


Due to the violent nature of the offenses, Isaac is only entitled to 15 percent credit off of his prison sentence, said Hinchcliff. Isaac will not be eligible for parole until sometime in 2028.


On May 15 a jury found Isaac guilty of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, Hinchcliff said. Special allegations of personal use of a firearm as well as causing great bodily injury to the two victims were found to be true.


The charges stem from a shooting that occurred in the city of Clearlake on Oct. 12, 2006 in front of the American Legion Hall, according to Hinchcliff's report.


Isaac shot two people – a male and female adult – both of whom were admitted to the hospital with serious injuries, including a gunshot wound to the female victim’s liver, and a gunshot wound to the stomach, hand, buttocks and knee of the male victim, Hinchcliff said.


The male victim was shot from behind as he was attempting to flee from Isaac. Hinchcliff said Isaac testified at trial that he was acting in self defense.


After the shooting Isaac fled to Nevada County and was apprehended there on Dec. 20, 2006, Hinchcliff said.


Mike Hermann and Martin Snyder were the Clearlake Police Department's primary investigators on the case, Hinchcliff said. Deputy District Attorney Susan Krones prosecuted the jury trial against Isaac, who was defended by attorney Jason Webster.


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CLEARLAKE – Officials are investigating the death of a man who was injured last week in an automobile crash.


William Michael Viley of Clearlake died last Friday following a crash the previous day, on what was his 58th birthday, according to the Sonoma County Coroner's Office.


Viley was injured in a Thursday crash on Highway 53 at the Olympic Drive turnoff, according to Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain.


Police officials told Lake County News last week that the crash – which involved a Hey, Taxi minivan that turned into the path of an oncoming vehicle while turning onto Olympic Drive – had resulted in only minor injuries.


McClain explained Monday that the report was based on information police had received from Redbud Community Hospital, where Viley and others involved in the collision were taken for treatment.


Viley had been one of five people in the van, said McClain. He and two other people were being transported to the DaVita Dialysis Center on Olympic Drive.


Unbeknownst to police, Viley was airlifted later on Thursday to Santa Rosa for treatment of head injuries, McClain said.


While undergoing brain surgery just after midnight on Friday morning, Viley died, said McClain.


Clearlake Police received a call later on Friday from a Sonoma County Sheriff's detective informing them of Viley's death, he added.


McClain said the Sonoma County Coroner's Office is investigating Viley's death to pinpoint the cause.


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


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CLEAR LAKE RIVIERA – Election results for the Clear Lake Riviera Community Association is in and is arguably the most active and controversial election in the history of the community.


With 1,971 votes cast for seven candidates for four positions on the board, the race was very close with only nine votes between fourth and fifth place.


“This was the highest turnout ever,” said outgoing First Vice President Sid Donnell. “We had well over 500 ballots in this election. I think the highest we had before was 412 in 1998.”


There is a possibility of 2,810 ballots that could be cast; the quorum requirement is 10 percent of this or 281 ballots.


The results are:


  • Donna Moeller, 324; appointed

  • Walter Zuercher, 312; appointed

  • Patricia Howell, 286; appointed

  • Anthony Gniadek, 280; appointed

  • James Irwin, 271

  • Darrell Watkins, 252

  • Denise Frane, 246


The new board’s term will start on July 1 and the first public meeting will be on July 22 at the association office. They will replace Alan Siegal, Sid Donnell and Sandra Orchard.


The election is not without its controversy. There was a misprint on the ballot's instruction and a followup letter was sent out in an attempt to clarify the error.


Some are claiming that this makes the ballot invalid. Lois Townsend was very vocal during the count, stating that it was an illegal election.


Several residents have been expressing their dissatisfaction with the actions of the association and advocating for it to be disbanded. There has been a letter-writing campaign to one of the local newspapers expressing their opinions. Anthony Gniadek and Darrell Watkins ran on the platform that the association be dissolved.


When asked why the association didn’t respond to the allegations the response was that they wanted to take the high road and not get involved in the controversy.


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LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Air Quality Management District reported Thursday that smoke from wildfires in the county and in Mendocino County have resulted in smoke, haze and degraded air quality that exceed state and federal health standards for particulate.


In addition to the 14,000-acre Walker Fire, multiple large fires exist to the east, south, north and west of Lake County, so smoke continues to enter the basin no matter where the wind originates, Air Pollution Control Officer Bob Reynolds reported.


All of Northern California is being impacted by severely degraded air quality and many areas are reporting markedly higher levels than Lake County, according to Reynolds.


Air monitoring data in Lakeport, Anderson Springs and Glenbrook showed violations of health-based standards to include the small respirable particulate state Ambient Air Quality Standard at all sites by 155 percent to 223 percent, Reynolds said. The federal ultrafine, inhalable, particulate air standard was exceeded by 278 percent.


These values are considered representative of areas not adjacent to fires in Lake County; Reynolds said values may be higher in those areas.


Smokey conditions can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and air passages, which can be hazardous in young children, the elderly, individuals with heart conditions or chronic lung disease such as asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.


Even though local hospitals report no unusual increases in illness likely to be related to poor air quality, Lake County health officials recommend taking simple precautions in order to stay healthy.


Because of the uncertainty of fire conditions, Lake County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Tait advises residents near the fires to be prepared. Individuals 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. 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 pain, chest tightness, or shortness of breath.


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.


If smoke is present, it will be easier to breathe indoors if air is recirculating instead of drawing smoky air from outdoors. Strong consideration should be given to moving planned outdoor events to an indoor location or rescheduling them, especially if they involve sports or similar activities.


The poor air quality is a direct result of these dispersed, numerous wildfires within the California Coastal Mountains, said Reynolds. Smoke is trapped in the cooler marine air layer and transported inland, causing the smoke impacts. At times smoke can be transported to sea within a circulation cell, and then return back over northern California in a wide band of smoke-filled air.


The smoke and sunlight cause chemical reactions in the air that further reduces visibility by forming secondary particles in addition to those already in the smoke, Reynolds explained. These particles draw the moisture out of the air, growing in number and size, making the haze even worse.


Residual haze and particulate from these fires can be expected to continue throughout areas of Northern California until the fires are out, Reynolds said.


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Sgt. James Rayburn cuts a cake during a visit with Operation Tango Mike on Friday, June 20, 2008. Photo courtesy of Ginny Craven.

 



LAKEPORT – Sgt. James Rayburn is home on leave after serving nine months there in Iraq.


The US Army veteran has only 18 short days at home before he returns to Iraq to serve another six months and complete his tour of duty. When he is not deployed, James and his wife and children live in Kentucky where his duty station is Fort Campbell.


Rayburn is originally from Middletown and still thinks of Lake County as home.


Several months ago his name and address were given to Operation Tango Mike, along with a request to send care packages to bolster the soldier’s morale. The request came from a teenager in Middletown, who attends the same church as the Rayburn family members that remain in Lake County. That young man, Tyler O’Brien, has supported Operation Tango Mike through participation via the Interact Club at Middletown High School.


Rayburn asked his local family members early last week to contact someone from Operation Tango Mike to make arrangements to meet. The soldier wanted to thank his supporters and share his thoughts and true stories of how care packages and contact from home have helped him throughout his deployment.


The sergeant and his family arrived at Umpqua Bank in Lakeport on Friday morning to a warm welcome and a cake decorated in the style of an American flag. The soldier was presented with gifts and greeting cards and was showered with thanks, hugs and handshakes.


He spoke of how difficult time away from home can be in a war zone. He then added that every card, letter and care package make it bearable.


Rayburn said the first time he received a care package from Operation Tango Mike was a truly exciting experience. Although every mail call is uplifting when your name is called, that first package was very moving. The soldier said he examined the package, saw a Lake County return address, and thought, “This is from home!”


He expressed his gratitude for the care packages and support he has received. Moreover, he repeatedly spoke of “what a great thing it is Lake County is doing” in sending care packages. The soldier said he knows with certainty there are many others deployed far from home that benefit from the support.


Operation Tango Mike will continue to send care packages and support to Sgt. Rayburn throughout his deployment.


Approximately 80 to 100 care packages are prepared and shipped monthly. Donations of goods for the care packages and financial contributions for shipping costs are always needed. Checks can be mailed to 5216 Piner Court, Kelseyville, CA 95451.


The next packing party will be June 26 at 6 p.m. at Umpqua Bank on 11th Street in Lakeport.


Volunteers are welcome and should contact Ginny Craven at (707) 349-2838 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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The flag cake was shared at a gathering at Umpqua Bank on Friday, June 20, 2008. Photo courtesy of Ginny Craven.
 


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Military Funeral Honors Team Firing Party Commander Rich Feiro directs the three-round volley. Photo by Ginny Craven.




LAKEPORT – Through the haze of a smoke-filled day a veteran was laid to rest on Tuesday.


George Oliver Elder had no known living relatives and a handful of friends, mostly his neighbors. However, this man and his service to his country were not forgotten.


The Military Funeral Honors Team of Lake County assembled at Hartley Cemetery to pay tribute to one of their own. No one from the team had ever made Elder’s acquaintance. That was of no concern as he was one of their brothers. George Elder served honorably in the Air Force from 1957 to 1961, ensuring him a place in the hearts of his comrades and fellow veterans.

 

 

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The Patriot Guard Riders on their way to Veterans Circle. Photo by Ginny Craven.
 

 


Riding motorcycles and flying flags, members of the Patriot Guard Riders made their way down the road at Hartley Cemetery to Veterans Circle, Elder’s final resting place. A group of Elder’s neighbors and patriots supporting troops and veterans gathered for the ceremony.


The funeral honors team fired the traditional three-round volley and the bugler’s rendition of “Taps” rang hauntingly through the cemetery.

 

 

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Chaplain Woody Hughes spoke at the Tuesday service. Photo by Ginny Craven.
 

 


Woody Hughes, chaplain for the team, spoke and a two-person honor guard from the United States Air Force provided flag duties, carefully folding and presenting an American flag representative of Elder’s service.

 

 

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The Air Force Honor Guard folded a flag representing Elder's service in the military. Photo by Ginny Craven.
 

 


Terre Logsdon, Elder’s neighbor, received the flag from the USAF honor guard. The flag was then provided to the Avenue of Flags, a community memorial to veterans. Elder’s flag will fly alongside hundreds of veteran flags on Memorial Day and Veterans Day every year.


George Oliver Elder was not forgotten.

 

 

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Elder's neighbor and friend, Terre Logsdon, received the flag, which was then donated to the Avenue of Flags. Photo by Ginny Craven.
 

 


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5:50 p.m. update


LAKE COUNTY – Firefighters continue to try to contain the Walker Fire near the Double Eagle Ranch, as well as fires caused by lightning in the Mendocino National Forest.


View Google Map


The Walker Fire continues to burn in remote wildlands east of Clearlake Oaks, Cal Fire reported Tuesday afternoon.


The estimated size of the fire – which a Cal Fire official told Lake County News Monday was 10,000 acres Monday night – was rolled back to about 9,000 acres. It is 5-percent contained.


The incident command was moved from the Oasis road house to Konocti Conservation Camp, where a total of 134 personnel – including 62 from Cal Fire – were staging, Cal Fire reported.


On scene are a total of 17 engines, a helicopter and 10 bulldozers, including local and state resources, according to Cal Fire.


Cal Fire reported that voluntary evacuations remained in place on Double Eagle Ranch, Bear Valley ranch land and Wilbur Hot Springs.


The California Highway Patrol's Ukiah Dispatch Center said Tuesday afternoon that Highway 20 remained open. Fire officials have warned that a shift in the winds could carry the fire toward the highway and necessitate a closure.


In the Mendocino National Forest, a report from spokesperson Phebe Brown there have been a total of 57 fires burning 2,800 acres in Lake, Mendocino and Tehama counties. Twenty-one of the fires are contained.


Brown reported that 389 firefighters – including nine fire crews – are on scene. Smoke jumpers also have been ordered.


“We have three large fires that we’re trying to gain the upper hand on,” said Brown.


They include the Back (southwest of Lake Pillsbury, 1,800 acres, 40-percent contained); Big (west of Lake Pillsbury, 850 acres, 0-percent contained); Monkey Rock (in the Yuki Wilderness, 50 acres, has a low rate of spread).


On Tuesday the county Department of Public Works reported that Elk Mountain Road, between Bear Creek Road and Soda Creek, had been closed to all traffic except emergency personnel.


Still closed is Walker Ridge Road, and Bartlett Springs Road is open on an “enter at your own risk” condition, according to Public Works.


Cal Fire said there are currently 842 fires burning around California, many of which are believed to have been caused by lightning strikes last weekend.


For information on the fire the public may call Cal Fire at 707-967-1456.


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


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The new Animal Care and Control shelter on Helbush Drive. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 



LAKEPORT – Lake County Animal Care and Control will hold a grand opening celebration this week for its new shelter.


The event will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, June 26, at the new shelter, located at 4949 Helbush Drive, across from the Lake County Jail.


The new, 7,800-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility was opened to the public April 28, as Lake County News has reported. Construction on the $2 million project began in April of 2007.


When staff moved to the new facility in April, they left behind the cramped, 1940s-era facility located behind the Lake County Agriculture Department on Lakeport Boulevard.


The shelter, in its current phase, has roughly the same number of kennels as the old – 34 kennels for dogs, 38 kennels for cats and 24 kennels for feral cats, plus 16 dog isolation kennels.


Another planned construction phase will double that capacity and add a clinic for treating animals on site. A barn and livestock pens also will be added, officials reported.


Animal Care and Control invites the community to attend the grand opening and visit the new facility this Thursday. Refreshments will be served.


For more information call Animal Care and Control, 263-0278.


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


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THE PRECISE NAME OF THE CASINO'S OWNERS HAS BEEN CORRECTED. 

 

LAKE COUNTY – A man found guilty of robbing an area casino, carjacking and kidnapping as well as using a firearm was sentenced Monday to three decades prison.


Judge Richard Freeborn sentenced John Alan Gillies, 44, of Cloverdale to a state prison term of 30 years to life for kidnapping during the course of a carjacking, second-degree robbery and two allegations involving personal use of a firearm, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.


Gillies will have to serve a period of 26 years and six months in prison before becoming eligible for parole, Hinchcliff said.


On May 15 Gillies was convicted by a jury at trial of the Nov. 6, 2006 kidnapping and carjacking of a Clearlake Oaks man at gunpoint, and of the subsequent robbery of the Twin Pine Casino in Middletown of $23,500, Hinchcliff reported.


The kidnapping and carjacking of the victim occurred while the victim was washing his truck at the Middletown car wash. Hinchcliff said Gillies forced the victim out of the truck on Dry Creek Cutoff, then drove the stolen truck to Twin Pine Casino where he entered wearing a mask and used a gun to rob the casino cash cage. Gillies pointed the gun at several employees inside the casino before fleeing with the money.


He was apprehended and prosecuted after a lengthy investigation by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the California Bureau of Gambling Control, as Lake County News has reported.


At the sentencing hearing on Monday, Judge Freeborn also denied Gillies’ motion for a new trial and his motion to continue the sentencing proceeding, according to Hinchcliff.


Hinchcliff said the court heard the testimony of Jose Simon III, speaking on behalf of the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians, the owners of the Twin Pine Casino and the victims of the robbery.


Simon requested that the court impose the maximum possible punishment in this case. He related to the court the devastating emotional impact these crimes had on the casino employees, and informed the court of the ongoing financial losses incurred by the Middletown Rancheria as a result of Gillies’ criminal conduct.


After the sentence was pronounced, Judge Freeborn remanded Gillies into the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Hinchcliff said.


Lake County Deputy District Attorney John J. Langan prosecuted this case on behalf of the People of the State of California. The defendant was represented by Mr. Thomas Quinn.


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A Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter drops 750 gallons of water on a portion of the Walker Fire at about 6 p.m. Monday evening. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


WALKER RIDGE – A wildland fire burning in a remote part of the county nearly tripled in size Monday, with winds causing the blaze to jump fire lines as it continued on its path toward dozens of homes.


The Walker Fire had burned 10,000 acres with zero containment by 7 p.m. Monday, according to Frank Kemper, a Cal Fire spokesman at the incident command center at the Oasis road house along Highway 20.


The fire was continuing to burn over the ridge toward the Double Eagle Ranch subdivision, which is located about 14 miles east of Clearlake Oaks.


Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins said the fire was heading for the Lake/Colusa County line and the Bear Valley area, where area ranches might need to be evacuated.


Sixty-two personnel and 13 engines from all county fire districts and Cal Fire were on scene Monday, fighting what has become one of the largest uncontained wildland fire burning in the state, according to Cal Fire statistics.


Thirty-five structures were reported threatened, with one older hunting cabin in Benmore Canyon destroyed, said Robbins.


There also is the very real possibility that, if winds shift and the fire change directions, it could head toward Spring Valley, necessitating evacuations, Robbins said.

 

 

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The fire burns in an area about one ridge away from the main part of the Double Eagle Ranch subdivision Monday evening. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 

Jeffrey Tunnell, a fire mitigation and education specialist with the Bureau of Land Management, said the fire was burning a mix of private property and BLM-managed wildlands.


A BLM ranger spotted the fire in the remote Benmore Canyon area on Sunday, said Tunnell.


No injuries have been reported, said Robbins. “That's our main objective – to keep everyone as safe as possible.”


Robbins said Cal Fire took over as the lead agency on the fire Sunday.


Needing more help


Local fire officials were hoping that Cal Fire would be able to bring in more resources to help in the effort. “All the local staff are really, really stretched thin,” said Robbins.


Because of the fire's size, Kemper said it has moved up the priority list. Although they're getting resources from many different parts of the state, Kemper said Cal Fire is in an unusual situation, having to find resources while hundreds of wildfires burn around California.


“We're looking at conditions we might expect to find in August and September, and here it is June,” said Kemper.


Lack of resources, winds and dry brush appeared to contribute to the fire's significant growth.


At the start of the day Monday, the fire had been reported by Cal Fire to have scorched about 3,500 acres.


Fire officials had feared that the fire could be pushed toward Spring Valley overnight if valley winds kicked up.


However, Robbins said the fire actually seemed to die down overnight, as firefighters continued their efforts to suppress it.


The weary crews finally got to rest on Monday, said Robbins. “We got them to bed down early this morning because we knew it was going to be a long day.”


More bulldozers arrived around 2 a.m. from Vacaville, said Robbins, and worked to build fire lines in the Wilbur Springs area to cut the fire off should it reach there.

 

 

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A tired Northshore firefighter takes a break Monday evening. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 


Fire kicks into high gear


The fire stayed fairly calm until about noon, said Kemper.


Then the winds returned, with Robbins reporting gusts of up to 18 miles per hour from the northwest.


“Once the winds came up it just took off,” said Kemper.


Efforts to cut firebreaks with bulldozers to contain the fire were frustrated as the fire simply went over them.

 

 

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A bulldozer works on a fire break Monday evening. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 


“It jumped a bunch of lines all day,” said Keith Leffler, a firefighter specialist with Northshore Fire who also works as a Cal Fire bulldozer operator.


Leffler did dozer work around some of the houses to get rid of brush and debris that might burn. Other firefighters stationed at homes in the subdivision also did prep and cleanup work to help protect the residences.


In response to the fire's flare up, fire officials brought in aircraft, including a DC-10 air tanker which made several fire retardant drops, said Robbins.


A mix of Cal Fire and hired aircraft – including Chinook and Sikorsky helicopters – pounded the fire with water and retardant throughout the afternoon and into the evening in the Red Rocks region east of Benmore Canyon and west of the Double Eagle.


“We're just hoping it's going to hold it,” said Robbins.


About 5:30 p.m., as the winds picked up, dark black smoke began curling up over the ridges, with the fire experiencing another flare up. The aircraft continued drops on the fire, which seemed to knock back its strength.


However, smoke created a serious visibility problem for aircraft, which included tactical units and spotters, several of them flying over the fire at once. Shortly before 7 p.m., Cal Fire began to call in the aircraft due to the low visibility, which created a dangerous situation for pilots.


Fighting fire with fire


Along Meriann Drive in the Double Eagle Ranch, a horse pasture had been bulldozed to create a safety zone where firefighters can retreat if the fire gets worse, said Robbins.


He met with Northshore Battalion Chief Pat Brown and an engine of weary firefighters just down the road from the safety zone Monday evening, where they discussed strategy moving forward.


Brown said he intended to stay on scene overnight to do a burning operation, in which he planned to set a fire and send it in a northerly direction in an attempt to try to stop the bigger fire.


He said he needed the Walker Fire to calm down overnight, and have a southerly breeze, in order to carry out the plan.


“We will save the houses,” said Brown.


Cal Fire also reported it planned to do a burn from the remote Four Corners area – where four roads, including Walker Ridge and Bartlett Springs road, meet – and have it burn toward Bear Valley Road in one direction and Bartlett Springs in the other, which should run parallel to Walker Ridge, said Robbins.


Emergency resources at hand


Many local emergency resources were on hand to assist firefighters and area residents.


Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Gary Basor was at the command center in his capacity as the county's Office of Emergency Services coordinator.

 

 

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From left, Sgt. Gary Basor, a telecommunications technician and Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins stand outside the mobile operations unit Monday evening. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 


On Sunday night Robbins put in a call for the mobile operations unit, a large trailer purchased with Homeland Security funds, featuring radios, laptops, a meeting room and other amenities for command leadership. Basor said this is the trailer's maiden voyage on a serious incident.


A Red Cross emergency shelter was set up at the Clearlake Oaks Fire Station under the direction of Pam Plank, the county's Red Cross disaster coordinator.


More than two dozen Double Eagle Ranch residents – plus some livestock and pets – were evacuated Sunday, as Lake County News has reported.


Campers at Indian Valley Reservoir also had been urged to leave, said Robbins.


As of Monday evening, the shelter had not been needed for any of the Double Eagle evacuees, so Plank and her cadre of volunteers – who had stayed at the shelter throughout the night to watch for anyone who needed help – were planning on closing the shelter.


Lake County Animal Care and Control has also been working to make sure animals were rescued from area homes.


On Monday they found a dog and a bird at a home in the Double Eagle and took them to safety, said staffer Sara Schramm.


Schramm said that no more livestock has been evacuated since Sunday, when four horses and about a dozen goats were removed to safety.


She and other Animal Care and Control staff got back to the shelter in Lakeport close to 11:30 p.m. Sunday after being on call most of the evening, she said.


There were concerns, however, that Double Eagle residents were trying to return to their homes as the fire's approach continued.


Robbins said they couldn't take the chance right now of letting residents back in.


Barricades and a California Highway Patrol cruiser were stationed at the entrance late Monday in an effort to discourage reentry into the subdivision.


Basor said it was for the residents' own safety that they had been asked to leave. If the winds were to shift the fire could move through the subdivision quickly, he said.


The county Department of Public Works reported Monday afternoon that it had closed Walker Ridge Road to all traffic with the exception of emergency personnel due to the fire.


Bartlett Springs Road is “enter at your own risk,” with no passage through to Indian Valley Reservoir, Public Works reported. Robbins said it's best of the public stays away from those areas for now.


In addition, he said there were still concerns that the fire could still burn down to Highway 20, forcing a closure.


The incident command post is expected to be moved to the Konocti Conservation Camp along Highway 29 on Tuesday afternoon, said Kemper.


That location will provide a larger facility for staging more firefighters – as many as a few thousand – and equipment should the fire grow larger, said Robbins.


Officials have stated that they believe the fire was caused by a lightning strike. Robbins said his units found the origin of the fire in Benmore Canyon on Sunday. Cal Fire investigators were reportedly investigating the scene Monday in order to make an official determination.


Area residents who have fire-related stories and experiences they wish to share are welcome to e-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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Spring Valley resident Vincent Stornaiuolo captured the bright orange sunset, caused by the fire's haze, from Spring Valley Monday evening. That area still could face evacuations if the fire shifts directions, officials reported.
 

 

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WALKER RIDGE – Firefighters were battling the Walker Fire by both land and air Monday in an effort to keep the fast-moving fire from spreading.


Cal Fire reported that the fire had burned more than 3,500 acres since it was discovered Sunday afternoon in the Walker Ridge area near the Double Eagle Ranch subdivision, east of Clearlake Oaks. There is zero containment reported so far.


Due to limited firefighting resources, Cal Fire has stated that the fire could grow to 10,000 acres in size.


A DC-10 tanker was brought in on Monday morning to make a retardant drop on the fire, Cal Fire reported.


It was due to make another drop after 2:30 p.m. Monday, with officials on scene reporting that the fire was making “a significant run,” with winds reportedly blowing from the south southeast.

 

A total of 35 homes were said to be in danger Monday afternoon, Cal Fire reported, up from 10 that were listed Sunday. More evacuations could be possible.


Cal Fire reported that a total of 62 personnel were on scene Monday, along with 13 engines, three bulldozers and three water tenders.


The Walker Fire was burning down toward Highway 20, according to Cal Fire. One area where the fire was getting close to the highway was near the Oasis, a road house located between Clearlake Oaks and Williams.


However, the California Highway Patrol reported that Highway 20 was remaining open, and that they did not anticipate having to close it any time soon.


The county Department of Public Works reported it was shutting down Walker Ridge Road to all traffic with the exception of emergency personnel due to the fire.


Bartlett Springs Road is “enter at your own risk,” with no passage through to Indian Valley Reservoir, Public Works reported. The public is urged to stay away from the area in order to allow fire equipment to get to the fire line.


CHP said Bear Valley Road was being shut down from the Colusa County side.


Lake County News will continue to follow the story as it develops.


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


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