Friday, 09 December 2022

News

LAKE COUNTY – It's cold this morning and may be even more frosty on Saturday according to the most recent weather forecast.


The National Weather Service in Sacramento is predicting cooler high temperatures today 5 to 10 degrees colder than Thursday with even lower overnight temperatures into Saturday morning.


Temperatures are expected to dip into the low and mid-20s tonight unless high clouds remain into the evening, according to the National Weather Service.


If clouds do remain into the evening, temperatures are forecast to hover around freezing for most areas, but if the light and variable winds the National Weather Service expects for today don't taper off early and the evening sky clears, temperatures are expected to fall.


The National Weather Service encourages Lake County residents to take cold weather precautions such as covering sensitive plants, bringing pets indoors and checking up on your elderly or sick neighbors.


They also advise to bundle up and stay warm if going out of doors.


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


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KELSEYVILLE – The holiday weekend saw turkeys of a different kind causing problems for businessman and supervisor, Rob Brown.


Brown reported that a car wash he owns on North Main Street in Kelseyville was burglarized sometime between 5:30 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m. Saturday.


The burglars did about $10,000 in damage to get at $500 in coins in the car wash coin machine, said Brown.


In addition, Brown said the burglars stole tools and other random items such as garbage bags.


A bemused Brown noted that among the rest of the items stolen were numerous packets of Armor All and cases of car air fresheners, which should make the culprits pretty easy to spot.


In the 10 years he's operated the car wash it's been hit by hoodlums before, he said. “We've been burglarized before but nothing to this extent.”


Because of the damage, Brown has had to shut down the car wash while repairs are made, which has resulted in lost business.


Brown said he's offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest of the burglars. He said anonymous tips are welcome, with no questions asked.


Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Brian Martin of the Lake County Sheriff's Office, who is handling the case, at 262-4200.


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


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THIS STORY HAS BEEN CORRECTED AND UPDATED, WITH NEW INFORMATION FROM THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION.


LAKEPORT – The story behind the murder this week of a Lakeport man took on an even grimmer tone with the confirmation that the murder victim had recently served time in prison.


Michael Anthony Dodele, 67, was stabbed to death in his home at Space 19 in the Western Hills Mobile Home Park on Tuesday morning.


That same morning, Lake County Sheriff's deputies arrested 29-year-old Ivan Garcia Oliver. Officials reported that Oliver was allegedly covered with blood and made statements admitting to attacking Dodele.


Oliver is from San Diego, where he was on parole for an assault with a deadly weapon conviction, according to a report from the Lake County Sheriff's Office.


A reader tipped Lake County News that Dodele was listed on the Megan's Law Web site, which lists registered sex offenders and their addresses.


A check of the site confirmed that Dodele was on the site, registered at the Lakeshore Boulevard address. The record noted that he was in compliance for registration.


The Lake County Sheriff's administrative office was closed Friday, so Chief Deputy Russell Perdock could not be reached for comment on the case.


Dodele, who also went by the alias Michael Salta, had been convicted of rape by force, according to the Megan's Law Web site and confirmed by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records.


Previously a resident of Sonoma County, records obtained by Lake County News showed that Dodele was committed to state prison in February of 1988 after being convicted of rape in Sonoma County. He received a 26-year sentence.


Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records show that Dodele was discharged from that agency's supervision in February of 2004.


According to court records he later was committed to the Atascadero State Hospital, which is where the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation commits patients including offenders with mental illnesses and those being held under the California Sexually Violent Predator Act, according to state legislation. However, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had no information about his time at Atascadero.


While at the Atascadero State Hospital in San Luis Obispo County, Dodele took a case to the First Appellate District Court Jan. 23, 2002. His case was argued before the court in San Francisco Jan. 29, 2003.


The court upheld his conviction, and he next appealed to the state Supreme Court, which denied his petition for a review on April 20, 2003.


It is not clear from records if that appeal was an effort to have his original conviction overturned or if it was related to his commitment to Atascadero.


While he was at Atascadero in 2005, Dodele suffered chest pains and thought he was having a heart attack. Doctors found out he had a hyatal hernia, but when they tried to arrange surgery, Atascadero personnel refused to allow the treatment, according to an article about the incident on Echoes of the Gulag, a Web site dedicated to people held under the Sexually Violent Predator Act.


In May 2006 the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of California reached a settlement concerning civil rights violations at state mental hospitals, including Atascadero, according to court documents.


An autopsy of Dodele is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27, as part of the ongoing investigation into his murder, Perdock reported this week.


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


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SACRAMENTO – Continuing a tradition which began in 2004, state Legislators are once again lending their support to a major gift donation drive on behalf of the state’s deployed members of the National Guard, Army Reserve and active duty soldiers.


At a news conference held Thursday morning at the State Capitol, lawmakers announced their intent to accept donations in their Capitol and district offices.


The fourth annual “Operation Christmas for Our Troops” drive actually began on Nov. 1; however, donations of new, unwrapped toys, new or used DVDs or video games, or retail gift cards will be accepted until Dec. 21.


A large number of retailers, churches and community organizations also are participating, as are 200 National Guard Armories, Reserve Centers and Active Duty military installations.


The statewide Operation Christmas for Our Troops and their families began in November 2004. The driving force behind the effort is Yellow Ribbon America, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization designed to unite Americans in support of the nation’s military members and their families.


The last three drives collected nearly 100,000 toys, DVDs and gift cards for California’s military families and their loved ones deployed overseas.


Brad White, Yellow Ribbon America’s national chairman, says the goal is to make this year’s donation drive “bigger and better” than ever.


“We are pleased to once again have the bi-partisan support of the California Legislature on behalf of Operation Christmas for Our Troops IV, which will bring community-based help and support for the families of our California deployed and home-based military members and their families so that they can have the best Christmas possible,” White said.


“Through the generous donations from California’s communities, we will be able to give gifts to military families especially the children of America’s military to help them through the emotional difficulties of the holidays while their loved ones are far from home.”


Among the lawmakers lending their support to this year’s effort are Assemblymembers Anthony Adams (R-Hesperia), Chuck Devore (R-Irvine), Roger Niello (R-Fair Oaks), Nell Soto (D-Pomona) and Alberto Torrico (D-Newark), Senators Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Patricia Wiggins (D- Santa Rosa), and members of the Assembly and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees.


“I am glad to be part of this wonderful, bi-partisan effort on behalf of our military and military families,” Senator Wiggins said. “Each and every one of us can, individually, make a difference in someone’s life. Together, we can make this the best ‘Operation Christmas’ drive ever, and by doing so, we can show our troops and their families that we are thinking about them during the holidays.”


In addition to Legislators’ Capitol and district offices, donations are also being accepted by the Senate Veterans Committee (room 251 of the Legislative Office Building, 1020 N St., Sacramento), and the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee (room 389 of the same building).


Wiggins' spokesman, David Miller, said she will be accepting donated items at all of her offices, Capitol and district. Her Ukiah office, located at 200 S. School St., telephone 707-468-8914, covers both Lake and Mendocino Counties.


Folks wishing to offer support in other ways can also go to the Yellow Ribbon America Web site: www.YellowRibbonAmerica.org.


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MIDDLETOWN – Officials have identified the two victims of a fatal Sunday morning crash.


California Highway Patrol Officer Josh Dye said Monday that Kelly Mankinen, 38, and Brian Quinlan, 52, both of Clearlake, died in the collision, which took place Sunday at about 5:40 a.m. on Highway 29, south of St. Helena Lane.


Mankinen was driving a 1999 Volkswagen Cabrio northbound on Highway 29 at an unknown speed, according to the CHP. Traveling southbound was Quinlan in a 2002 Honda Accord.


Mankinen's vehicle drifted to the left across the double-yellow lines and into the southbound traffic lane, causing the two vehicles to hit head-on, Dye said.


Both Mankinen and Quinlan were pronounced dead at the scene, according to the CHP. Both had been wearing their safety belts.


Just what caused the collision isn't known at this point, said Dye. “It could have really been anything at this point.”


Because it was early morning, Dye said Mankinen could have been tired and fell asleep, losing control of the vehicle and causing it to cross into the other lane.


Dye said the investigation is continuing.


Sunday's crash is the 13th fatal auto collision to take place on the county's roads this year, said Dye. In those 13 collisions, 16 people have died.


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


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This is the second of two articles on Lake County's legislators reporting on their year in the legislature.


LAKE COUNTY – State Sen. Patricia Wiggins has had a busy freshman year in the Senate. {sidebar id=35}


Like her North Coast colleague in the Assembly, Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) had nine of her bills signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by the October deadline.


David Miller, Wiggins' spokesman, said the 120-member Legislature sent 964 bills to Schwarzenegger’s desk in 2007, with Schwarzenegger signing 750 and vetoing 214.


Wiggins authored a total of 34 bills. Of those, 14 were approved by the Legislature and sent to the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, according to Wiggins' spokesman, David Miller.


Of those 14 bills, Schwarzenegger signed nine and vetoed five, Miller reported.


This year comprised the first half of the two-year, 2007-08 Legislative Session, Miller reported. He said Wiggins has 13 other bills that she introduced in 2007 that are still alive going into 2008 while, at the same time, discussing potential bills with her staff for the 2008 legislative year.


During this session, Wiggins – a member of the Senate's Veterans Affairs Committee – called for an audit of the Yountville Veterans Home and held a hearing on the matter Aug. 29.


She also worked on agricultural issues, with four ag-related bills – including Lake County's pear shed bill and legislation to get more funding for state efforts to fight the light brown apple moth – receiving the governor's signature.


Legislative highlights for 2007


Among her bills signed this year by the governor, Wiggins reported that she is most proud of her environmental and ag-related legislation, including SB 319, which extended a labor law exemption allowing Lake County minors to work longer hours during pear harvest.


“Given the support of my colleagues, and the governor, on my bill, SB 319, I am optimistic that we will be able to pass new legislation, some time in the near future, to eliminate the sunset date altogether, and make this very productive provision of law permanent,” Wiggins said.


Her disappointments included Schwarzenegger's veto of SB 565, which had sought to establish a position to oversee health care management at the Yountville Veterans Home. In his Oct. 12 veto message, Schwarzenegger said the bill was unnecessary because he said such a position already existed. He said the bill also infringed on his authority to administer state agencies and programs.


Wiggins said she also was disappointed by Schwarzenegger's veto of SB 678, which would have enabled Napa County to purchase the property known as Skyline Park from the state (the county currently leases the land for a nominal annual amount); and his veto of SB 861, which would have allowed the North Coast Railroad Authority to reallocate some of its funds toward environmental cleanup.


Wiggins said she was saddened that SB 623, her bill that would have covered the cost of drug co-payments for seniors and other individuals under the Medicare Part D program, died in the Legislature.

 

“Clearly, this year did not lack for disappointments, but I think it is important to keep things in their proper perspective,” said Wiggins. “We have yet to implement a strategy for reforming health care, which has of course been frustrating, but we are still working at it and I remain hopeful that something will come together in the near future.”


She added, “On a personal level, while I am disappointed, and in some cases perplexed, over the Governor’s decision to veto some of my bills, I am nonetheless appreciative of the fact that he did, in the end, sign nine of my bills into law this year.”


With one exception – SB 556, an “urgency” measure establishing the Light Brown Apple Moth program within the state Department of Food & Agriculture – all of the new laws created by Wiggins' legislation will take effect next January.


Those bills signed into law and brief explanations follow.


SB 106: Ratified the gaming compact between the state and the Yurok Tribe of the Yurok Reservation, allowing the tribe to operate up to 99 gaming machines at a fuel mart and future gaming facility on its reservation.


SB 108: Expands the types of nonprofit organizations able to allow wine orders to be taken by wineries at their events to include civic leagues, social organizations and “voluntary employees’ benefit associations (this is an expansion of AB 1505, a 2003 bill by then-Assemblywoman Wiggins).


SB 319: Extends to Jan. 1, 2012 an exemption to state labor law allowing minors in Lake County (16-17 years of age) to work up to 10 hours a day and up to 60 hours a week in agricultural packing plants during the harvest season (when school is not in session).


SB 556: Creates the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) program within the California Department of Food and Agriculture.


SB 568: Authorizes counties to administer necessary medications to inmates diagnosed as mentally ill and found incompetent to stand trial (the bill requires that the drugs be administered utilizing a medically approved protocol at a county jail facility, in the same manner as at an in-patient unit or state hospital).


SB 581: Transfers the Volunteer Firefighter Length of Service Award System (a program that provides a small monthly stipend to people who do perform long service to their communities as volunteer firefighters) from CalPERS to the California State Fire Employees Welfare Benefit Corp.


SB 701: Reinstates the California Forest Legacy Program, which had expired in 2007 (the program, which is designed to protect forest land, including working forests, from development pressures, is necessary for the state to receive federal funds for forest conservation).


SB 773: Allows 43-foot cattle trailers to be used in transporting livestock over certain parts of Highway 101.


SB 813: Clarifies that a specific section of the state elections code does not apply to runoff elections (the legislation was necessary due to a conflict which arose following the 2006 race for district attorney in Mendocino County).


“We expanded or extended existing laws, and created some new ones, in areas which will benefit the state as a whole,” said Wiggins.


Looking ahead at the 2008 legislative year, Wiggins said her top priorities include the wine industry, fish and game, smart growth, waste diversion, rural telephone rates and North Coast railroad issues.


Wiggins would be termed out of service in the Senate in 2014.


Visit her Web site at http://dist02.casen.govoffice.com/.


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


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LOWER LAKE – On Dec. 23, 2005, a speeding car traveling along a lonely road in Lassen County crashed into a building, bounced into a tree and caught fire. By the time rescuers were able to pull the car's passenger from the wreckage, the young woman had died. {sidebar id=39}


On Wednesday night, Judy Thein shared the horror of losing her 36-year-old daughter, Kellie, to that collision, caused by car's driver who, unbeknownst to Kellie Thein, had been drinking.


“No one deserves to die in such a cruel manner,” Judy Thein said.


Thein's emotional talk was one of several told by members of Team DUI in a town hall meeting Wednesday evening, held at the Lower Lake High School gym.


The two-hour meeting, attended by about 30 adults and teens, offered a stark reminder of the high cost that comes from underage drinking and drinking and driving.


For Thein, sharing her story has been a painful but important way of remembering her daughter, who worked as a social worker and advocate for children.


Thein recalled in vivid detail her experiences, from the moments of receiving the phone call that her daughter had died to her burial.


“That was a pain you could never, ever imagine, seeing my daughter's body lowered into the ground,” said Thein.


A contrast to Thein's story was found in that of 18-year-old Erica Harrison, a fresh-faced 2007 graduate of Middletown High School who stood on crutches, having lost her leg in a crash last year.


Harrison and Thein's partnership to speak to young people began earlier this year, Thein told Lake County News, and is an important part of the formation of Team DUI.


At the start of her senior year, Harrison went drinking with a friend one Friday afternoon before heading off to the first home football game of the season.


The last thing she remembered was getting into the car. She awoke to a chaotic scene, after having hit a tree at 65 miles per hour.


Harrison's friend survived, while she lost her leg and spent her first semester of school recovering from the crash and incurring astronomical hospital bills.


In addition, she paid thousands of dollars for an attorney to represent her on a felony DUI charge later lowered to a misdemeanor. She was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and had her driver's license suspended for a year.


None of her friends came to visit her in the hospital, and she had to struggle to make up for her lost semester in order to graduate this past June.


But none of that equaled the pain of seeing her family suffer, said Harrison. Her own little brother didn't see her during her months of hospitalization, and when he finally see her, “He hid from me and cried.”


Since then, Harrison said her goal has been to let others know the high costs of drinking and driving. “I'm trying to do the best I can and get the word out.”


Carle High School Principal Bill MacDougall shared his own story of how a DUI crash changed his life at the age of 14 and, in a roundabout way, led to his work helping children today.


MacDougall said his parents drank heavily and daily. He was 14 when his father, who had been drinking, went off a 300-foot cliff in his car, accompanied by a woman not MacDougall's mother.


The devastation that rippled through MacDougall's family resulted in his mother's suicide a year and a half later. “Due to the drinking and driving, I had no family,” he said.


His older brother took him in, and they lived above a motorcycle repair shop in San Jose. But it was the intervention of two high school coaches – MacDougall was a swimmer and wrestler – that made all the difference.


The two men championed the teen, helping him get scholarships to get into college.


“You wonder why I do what I do?” MacDougall asked.


It's to pay it forward to his students in just that same way, he explained.


Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain emphasized the important role parents play in setting a good example for their children.


“What we say to them is not nearly as important as what we do,” said McClain, the father of two teenage boys.


Every decision a person makes has a consequence, said McClain. And sometimes those consequences can be horrific.


While a young deputy sheriff 24 years ago, McClain was heading home in the Central Valley one foggy night when he came upon a crash scene. A Volkswagen bus with a family including six children and an infant had been hit by a drunk driver.


The family, he said, were deaf and could not speak, and as he tried to communicate with them he realized that they were trying to tell him that their infant daughter was under the van's wreckage.


He said he can still remember vividly helping to pull the infant from under the van. She looked like a china doll, he said, but she was missing an eye and her body was crushed.


The memory, he said, “never goes away.”


For anyone convicted of a DUI, going to jail is the easy part, said McClain. Much worse is living with the consequences.


California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia, who has been with CHP for six years, said an accident scene he came upon while a young officer in San Jose still haunts him as well.


A drunk driver had hit a man riding a motorcycle with his young stepdaughter, who Garcia estimated to be about 8 years old.


Hundreds of feet from the crushed motorcycle was the body of the little blonde-haired girl, said Garcia. When he went to her, he found she was already dead, her big blue eyes staring up at him.


“I can't tell you how much that affected me,” said Garcia.


He added, “She lives with me everyday, every night when I go to bed. I wish I could make it go away but I can't.”


Garcia said it took everything he had not to reach out and strangle the man who caused the accident, who he said had no concept of what he had done.


“As a parent, I couldn't imagine outliving my child,” said Garcia. “That's not how nature works.”


The purpose behind Team DUI's effort, said Garcia, is to encourage people to make better decisions and understand how dangerous drinking and driving really is.


As for the CHP and police, said Garcia, when it comes to DUI crashes, “We don't want your business. We really don't.”

 

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


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MIDDLETOWN – Two people died early Sunday morning in a collision that took place on Highway 29 near Middletown.


The two-vehicle accident occurred at about 5:40 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol incident logs. One vehicle had reportedly rolled over and another was reported to be close to catching on fire.


A report from the Ukiah CHP Dispatch Center said that Highway 29 just north of Middletown was shut down because of the collision, with traffic rerouted onto Highway 175 through Cobb. The CHP logs said that traffic was shut down from Butts Canyon Road to St. Helena Road.


Officers confirmed two deaths at the scene at approximately 6:10 a.m., according to the logs. The Coroner's Office was en route to the scene later in the morning.


CHP's Ukiah Dispatch Center confirmed the two deaths at noon Sunday.


Caltrans was notified to activate signs warning of the collision, with a towing service also called to remove the vehicles.


CHP reported that both lanes of the highway were reopened to traffic by 11:47 a.m.


Lake County News will publish an update as soon as more information is available.


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


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SOUTH LAKE COUNTY – A planned trip to Southern California for local fire resources won't be necessary after all.


Jim Wright is a battalion chief with both South Lake County Fire Protection District and Cal Fire. He explained that South Lake County Fire contracts with Cal Fire to run its south lake fire operations.


As Lake County News reported Thursday, local Cal Fire resources were being summoned to Southern California based on a forecast predicting high Santa Ana winds, coupled with the area's already dry conditions.


Cal Fire also had reported that an Office of Emergency Services engine at South Lake County Fire also had been notified to be prepared to leave, with a decision expected Friday morning.


That decision, however, was made Thursday, said Wright.


“That order was canceled so they are not going tomorrow morning,” said Wright. “At this point they're not going.”


Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit sent three engines to Southern California, one each from its Clearlake Oaks, Kelsey-Cobb and Middletown stations, Wright said.


Wright said Cal Fire's local resources in Southern California include several “overhead” – or fire command – personnel, along with two bulldozers and its helicopter, based on Boggs Mountain.


The helicopter, which has been in Southern California for about two weeks so far, has a 21-day commitment, said Wright.


Wright added that he has sent down two crew members as relief for the helicopter team.


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


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COW MOUNTAIN – A weekend search for a lost dirt biker ended with the man being found by some campers.


Lake County Sheriff's Office deputies were dispatched to the Cow Mountain Recreation Area on the report of a missing person at approximately 8:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, according to Lt. Cecil Brown.


Steve Vandermost, 21, of Bellflower had been dirt biking with his cousin and some friends when he got separated from the group, said Brown.


Vandermost's cousin called to report him missing, Brown said, after he and his friends looked for Vandermost but failed to find him.


Brown said deputies took a missing person's report, and Search and Rescue units were dispatched to the area. Assisting the search was Sonoma County's Henry-1 helicopter.


The search continued through the night and into Saturday, Brown said.


While the search remained under way Saturday, Brown said a group of campers called Lake County Central Dispatch at about 7 p.m. to say that Vandermost had wandered into their camp and that they were taking him to Sutter Lakeside Hospital.


Vandermost had reportedly complained of being cold, and was treated at Sutter Lakeside, although Brown said officials weren't sure exactly what condition he had been treated for while at the hospital.


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 Eleven Roses Ranch muledrawn trolley once again transported visitors around downtown Lakeport. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 


LAKEPORT – Lakeport's Main Street was transported back to Victorian times for the fourth annual Dickens Christmas Market on Saturday.


More than 60 vendors lined up both sides of Main Street throughout the day.


Thousands of curious shoppers drifted from First to Fourth streets and back examining a wide range of holiday items and seasonal arts and crafts, many created by local artisans.


Children of all ages enjoyed a ride on a miniature train or rode the now-familiar muledrawn trolley from Eleven Roses Ranch. Hundreds more waited patiently to visit Santa in Santa’s Workshop.


Everyone was treated to live holiday caroling and several persons covering all ages donned period attire to show support of the event, as well as try and win a prize for best costume.


The day was topped off by a lighted Christmas parade at 6 p.m. followed by the city's Christmas tree lighting.


A majority of downtown business owners remained open for this year’s celebration, hosted by the Lakeport Chamber of Commerce. Total attendance estimates was not available at press time.


Contact Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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Bert Hutt, attired as a Victorian gentleman, was a fixture of the day. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

 

 

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The popular miniature train toured Lakeport's streets Saturday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

 

 

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Carolers added a festive touch to the market. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

 

 

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Sandy Coelho-Davis (left) and friend at a booth downtown. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

 

 

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The wares for sale included these decorative gourds. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

 

 

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Another Christmas-themed item offered at the market. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

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LAKE COUNTY – Local fire resources may once again be headed to Southern California this week as part of a statewide firefighter staging effort.


When fires broke out in Southern California in October, Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit sent firefighting personnel equipment, as did Northshore, Lakeport, Lake County and South County Fire Protection Districts, as Lake County News has reported.


Chuck Abshear, division chief of operations for the Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit, said the unit sent 10 of its 11 crews to battle the Southern California fires in October.


Those units have since returned. But with continuing dry conditions in the south, combined with a forecast for strong Santa Ana winds through this coming weekend, state officials began ordering Cal Fire resources back to Southern California, said Abshear.


“There's potential for significant fire weather,” he explained.


Fire crews and equipment originally scheduled to leave last Sunday, however, were delayed until Tuesday, said Abshear.


Cal Fire's local unit was preparing to send a strike team of five engines, with three personnel for each engine, said Abshear, plus three more engines that would combine with Santa Clara's Cal Fire resources to form another strike team.


In addition, the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit planned to send four hand crews each from two conservation camps – Konocti Conservation Camp and a Solano County camp – plus three bulldozers, Abshear reported.


The Cal Fire helicopter stationed at Boggs Mountain has been in Southern California for the last two weeks, said Abshear.


The local Cal Fire unit will retain nine engines, three inmate crews and one or two bulldozers, said Abshear. With the recent rains Cal Fire feels confident that fire danger in the unit is reduced, he added.


Like other Cal Fire units around the state, the Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit retained seasonal employees in order to respond to Southern California's fire, Abshear explained.


“We still have seasonal employees on,” he said, adding that only about one-third of the unit's 200 seasonal firefighters have been laid off.


Local assistance also was requested through the Office of Emergency Services (OES), said Abshear, with state-owned OES engines called on to report to Southern California.


Northwestern California was to send four strike teams of OES engines, said Abshear.


South Lake County Fire has one OES engine that was called on and supposed to leave earlier this week, said Abshear.


However, Suzie Blankenship, a Cal Fire fire prevention specialist, reported that plans had changed, with South Lake County Fire waiting to hear if it actually would need to respond with a crew.


“It looks like they're on standby and that a decision will be made some time Friday morning as to whether they'll be launched or not,” said Blankenship.


South Lake County Fire officials couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.


Abshear, who said he has been with Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit for eight years, said in that time the unit has not kept on seasonal firefighters this long.


“This year is unique in terms of its continuous fire threat and that's warranted us keeping our staff on,” Abshear 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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