Monday, 15 July 2024


CLEARLAKE – Federal officials conducted raids on several medical marijuana dispensaries around Northern California on Wednesday, including one in Clearlake. {sidebar id=81}

Ken Estes' Holistic Solutions on Olympic Drive was the site of an enforcement action by Drug Enforcement Administration agents, accompanied by the Lake County Narcotic Task Force.

The Clearlake dispensary, along with other dispensaries Estes manages in San Mateo and Richmond, as well as the homes of his managers and grow sites in Oakland, San Leandro and Humboldt County, were targeted, according to a statement from California's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Lt. Mike Hermann of Clearlake Police confirmed that the raid took place, but said the department wasn't directly involved. DEA, he said, notified the department that their agents were in town for the operation.

One Clearlake Police officer who is on the Lake County Narcotic Task Force was present, Hermann said.

The Lake County Narcotic Task Force referred questions about the Wednesday action to DEA.

A brief statement issued by the DEA to Lake County News confirmed that an “enforcement operation” had taken place, but added that all documents relating to it were under court seal.

“Searches were conducted at several locations throughout the Bay Area and Northern California,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Peña said in the statement. “Items of evidentiary value were seized from these locations. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.”

Dave McCullick, whose D&M Compassion Center has been in Clearlake for the last two years, said his business partner, Matthew Ward, witnessed the DEA at Estes' business in the early afternoon.

Lake County News was unable to reach Estes Thursday. McCullick said Holistic Solutions has been in Clearlake for three years, and in its current location on Olympic Drive for less than a year.

California NORML and McCullick called what took place at Holistic Solutions a “smash and grab” where agents take all the operation's cannabis and patient records, along with any money on hand or in bank accounts.

“The last couple of years when they've been doing the busts, people aren't arrested or even charged,” McCullick said.

McCullick said there's no rhyme or reason to why certain dispensaries are targeted, and the DEA hasn't indicated why they pursue some rather than others. Based purely on manpower, McCullick said he doesn't believe DEA can get to all of the state's numerous dispensaries.

The California NORML statement noted that Estes “believes that the raids were initiated on the tip of a former associate who was facing a lengthy federal sentence on cultivation charges.”

McCullick said his business hasn't had any issues with the DEA.

Nor has had he had any problems with Clearlake Police, according to McCullick, who said he has worked to keep the lines of communication open with Police Chief Allan McClain as well as with other local officials.

However, last October, the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized nearly 100 marijuana plants from his business partner's home in Lakeport. Ward, who was at the compassion center when the raid took place, maintained that the plants were part of a legal medical marijuana grow.

A few months earlier, in August 2007, the FBI seized 30 mature plants from the Lakeport home of Howard Holtz, as Lake County News reported.

McCullick pointed to the ongoing friction between state and federal law, which he says is placing both medical marijuana patients and law enforcement in the middle. Dispensaries like his, he said, are just trying to give patients access to good, safe medicine.

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LAKE COUNTY – A strike team of local firefighters should be on its way home later this week following the containment of a major fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Cal Fire reported Tuesday that the Summit Fire was 100-percent contained at 4,270 acres. Full control of the fire is expected Friday.

Last week, firefighters from Cal Fire, Lakeport Fire, Northshore Fire, Kelseyville and South Lake County fire districts, along with personnel from Mendocino County's Redwood Valley and Anderson Valley fire districts, made the trek south to do battle with the fire, as Lake County News has reported.

Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins said Tuesday he had spoken to some of his firefighters who are still on scene, and they are expected to be released to come home on Thursday.

As of Tuesday night, Cal Fire reported a total of 2,519 personnel had been involved in the firefighting effort.

Officials reported that road closures in evacuated areas were being lifted and residents were being allowed back to their homes.

The fire has cost $12.2 million to fight, and resulted in 12 injuries, and the destruction of 31 residences and 63 outbuildings, according to Cal Fire.

The cause remains under investigation, Cal Fire reported.

Getting the firefighters home likely will be a relief for local districts and Cal Fire as fire season gets into full swing. A large retinue of Cal Fire personnel had been sent to the Summit Fire last Thursday, a day after the 450-acre Braye Fire near Lake Berryessa was ruled contained.

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KELSEYVILLE – As the June 3 primary approaches, Lake County News presents questionnaires answered by District 5 supervisorial candidates Robert Stark and Rob Brown.

The questions included in the questionnaires came from community residents and those who attended the District 5 debate at the Lake County Courthouse on May 7.

Find them here:

District 5 candidates questionnaires: Robert Stark

District 5 candidates questionnaires: Rob Brown



THE GEYSERS – Residents from Cobb to Kelseyville and as far south as the Bay Area reported feeling one of the county's largest quakes this year which occurred late Thursday.

The US Geological Survey reported a 4.1-magnitude, 0.7-mile-deep earthquake occurred at 9:48 p.m. three miles southeast of The Geysers, four miles west of Anderson Springs and five miles south southwest of Cobb.

The big quake was preceded by approximately 16 seconds by a smaller, 3.-5 magnitude quake centered two miles east southeast of The Geysers. That quake was not added to the US Geological Records until later in the day Friday.

Cobb resident Roger Kinney reported the quake lasted about six to eight seconds. After it began there was a lull and then the motion increased again, he said.

A series of smaller earthquakes followed within an hour, with the largest being a 2.6-magnitude temblor centered two miles east of The Geysers, according to the US Geological Survey.

A total of 105 reports were made to the US Geological Survey by people who felt the large quake, most of whom – approximately 20 – were in Middletown. The area with the second-highest number of reports was Healdsburg, with 18. The San Francisco area also had numerous reports from those who felt the evening temblor.

According to Lake County News records, this is only the second quake of 4.0 magnitude or above to occur in the county this year.

Another quake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale occurred on Feb. 23, one mile north of The Geysers.

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Snows Lake's Red Hills winegrapes have won international awards. Courtesy photo.


LOWER LAKE A local winery has garnered the highest honors given to a US winery in a prestigious international wine competition.

Snows Lake Vineyard has won a "great gold" and three gold awards at the 2008 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles International Wine Competition held in Bordeaux, France.

The local winery was among eight US wineries that received 14 awards, four of which went to Snows Lake.

Lake County Winegrape Commission Executive Director Shannon Gunier said the awards have gotten a lot of attention, especially among local winegrape growers.

"It's the big buzz," she said,

Snows Lake's two entries limited production wines Snows Lake One and Snows Lake Two were among 6,200 wines and spirits judged by a panel of 240 internationally renowned judges, according to a statement from the competition.

John Adriance, the winery's chief executive officer, said it was great to be recognized on an international level. This was the winery's first entry in the competition.

Snows Lake One's 2005 vintage, made from the winery's Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, won the great gold, and its 2004 vintage won a gold. In addition, Snows Lake Two's 2005 and 2004 won golds, said Adriance. That wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Adriance said he believes Lake County's wines are on par with the best in the world, which is why they entered the international competition.

The two award-winning wines are currently in limited production, with only about 250 cases of wine each year produced, said Adriance.

He added that they're planning to double production this year, and double it again this year. Both wines come from grapes grown in the county's Red Hills appellation.

The growing reputation of the county's Cabernet Sauvignon grapes is a vindication of sorts.

Gunier said wine magnate Jess Jackson, whose Kendall Jackson empire spent its early days in Lake County, once declared the county would never produce Cabernet Sauvignon, a statement that has stuck with the area for a long time.

Gunier said Snows Lake's performance in the competition proves what local winegrape growers have been saying all along. "This is good dirt for good wine.

"You're going to see more awards like this come out of Lake County," she said.

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LAKE COUNTY – A fatal traffic collision has caused a temporary shutdown of Highway 20.

The California Highway Patrol reported that at least one person has died in the crash, which took place near Walker Ridge Road, west of the Colusa County line.

The collision was reported at 2:25 p.m., CHP reported.

Officials have shut down the highway, with Caltrans also is on scene to help control traffic.

Updates and a full report will be posted on Lake County News as soon as they are available.

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KELSEYVILLE – Two weeks after a confrontation in downtown Kelseyville resulted in a stabbing, authorities continue to try to get answers about who was responsible for the assault.

As Lake County News first reported early last week, the stabbing occurred in the early morning hours of May 16 on Kelseyville's Main Street.

Chief Deputy James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said a 20-year-old man was hospitalized with a stab wound following the confrontation, which was not gang-related. The victim reportedly underwent surgery.

But despite the fact that there were as many as four people listed as victims in the event – including the young man who was stabbed – and at least seven more who were witnesses, Bauman said getting straight answers from those involved has been a challenge.

“We haven't gotten to the bottom of it,” he said.

The confrontation appears to have involved different parties of adults who were out having dinner and drinks that evening at the Saw Shop Gallery Bistro, according to accounts Lake County News has received on the case.

The incident reportedly resulted from words that were exchanged between individuals in the various parties, leading to a physical fight that involved both male and female participants. The stabbing victim and another young man were caught up in the situation after having arrived there with the intent of giving a ride home to a subject who had been drinking.

However, as Lake County News approached various people who had reportedly been present that night or who had family members involved, they said they were unable to comment due to the ongoing investigation.

Kim Sullivan, whose husband, Dave, was injured that night would only confirm that he was recovering.

A staffer with the office of dentist Dr. Keith Long, who had been having dinner that night with friends before the confrontation took place, said Long “was jumped and he wants it to all just go away.”

Likewise, sheriff's investigators continue to have trouble getting clear information from witnesses and victims, including the young man who was stabbed, Bauman said.

Because stories haven't remained consistent, the case remains a challenge, Bauman said.

“It is still pending,” he said. “We have not given up and the Investigations Branch is still working on it.”

Anyone with information on the case should call the Lake County Sheriff's Office at 262-4200.

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Northshore firefighters check out the area of the fire while mopping up Tuesday night. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

NORTHSHORE – A vehicle's faulty catalytic converter is believed to have caused a small grass fire along Highway 20 that firefighters quickly contained Tuesday evening.

The fire, located near Kono Tayee, was out by about 8 p.m., according to Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins.

Three engines, Robbins and Battalion Chief Pat Brown were on scene, along with a Lake County Sheriff's deputy who directed traffic as firefighters dealt with the small blaze, which had burned a strip on the highway's lake side.

A large retinue of firefighters initially had been called but most were canceled after the fire quickly was placed under control, Robbins said.

Robbins and Brown had been concerned that the fire could have jumped the highway and started burning up the steep, dry hillsides – a serious possibility considering the high evening winds Tuesday.

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NORTH COAST, Calif. – Years after he left the military, Jack Alderson began asking questions about chemical testing he was involved in and its effects on his health and the health of others.

Those efforts led to the introduction of a bill earlier this month that would offer health benefits to veterans exposed to chemical agents during two classified government projects in the 1960s and 1970s.

North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) and Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg of Montana introduced HR 5954 on May 1.

If passed, the bill will provide Veterans Affairs health benefits to veterans who were exposed to biological, chemical or other toxic agents as part of Project 112 and Project SHAD.

Rehberg said the legislation is loosely crafted after that which was written to address Agent Orange. A similar bill previously was introduced but it died in the Senate.

Project 112, which included Project SHAD, was a series of tests conducted between 1963 and 1973 by the Department of Defense and other federal agencies, according to Thompson and Rehberg. During these projects, a number of weapons containing chemical and biological agents such as VX nerve gas, Sarin nerve gas and E. coli were tested on unknowing military personnel.

According to the Force Health Protection and Readiness Program tests were conducted on the open sea in the North Atlantic, open water locations of the Pacific Ocean and near the Marshall Islands, Hawaii, Baker Island, Puerto Rico and the California coast. In addition, there were land-based tests in Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland, Florida, Utah, Georgia and in Panama, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Testing took place at the Deseret Test Center at Fort Douglas, Utah, according to a Department of Defense fact sheet. Project SHAD – which stands for “Shipboard Hazard and Defense” – took place offshore.

Its purpose was “to identify U.S. warships' vulnerabilities to attacks with chemical or biological warfare agents and to develop procedures to respond to such attacks while maintaining a war-fighting capability,” the Department of Defense fact sheet explained. The project sought to find out how chemical and biological agents behaved under different climatic, environmental and use conditions.

But the true nature of the classified projects was kept under wraps for decades, and is still only slowly being revealed, according to Thompson.

Bringing the truth to light

Shortly after he was elected to Congress in 1998, Thompson said he was approached by one of his constituents from Humboldt County, Ferndale resident Jack Alderson, who had been a tugboat commander during Project SHAD. Alderson had become ill and had cancer issues but couldn't get answers about the project from the government.

“For years they denied that this was ever happening,” said Thompson.

Similarly, Rehberg said he was approached by a constituent on the day he was sworn into Congress in 2001.

Alderson, 74, said he's been fighting to break the issue loose since 1993.

When President John F. Kennedy was elected, the US had a strong nuclear program, but lacked similar strength in biological and chemical weaponry, explained Alderson.

Kennedy directed his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, to strengthen the nation's chemical program, and the result was Project 112 which included Project SHAD and gave rise to the development of chemical weapons such as Agent Orange, said Alderson.

In October of 1964, Alderson – at the time a 32-year-old lieutenant who had served in the Navy for 10 years – was assigned to Project SHAD, along with several hundred other experienced sailors and officers. The point was to see how a Navy warship could hold up under chemical attack.

“We were all ordered in,” Alderson said. “None of us were volunteers.”

The testing involved all branches of the military. Alderson commanded five Army tugboats, each of which had a Navy lieutenant as the officer in charge and a crew of 11 sailors, handpicked for their experience and secret clearances.

Alderson said they were trained how to decontaminate a ship after a test and conduct air sampling. After two months of training, he reported to his superiors that they were ready for their mission.

President Lyndon Johnson signed off on the tests, which Alderson said commenced in January of 1965.

The tugboats left Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and went to Johnston Island, southwest of the Hawaiian islands, where Alderson said the tests took place. Accompanying the tugs was the laboratory ship, Granville S. Hall.

Alderson said the tugs would go out to sea for six days at a time, and would form a line as long as 100 miles. On their decks would be three caged Rhesus monkeys, although some tests didn't involve animals.

Two Marine jets would fly over and spray a chemical weapon – including E coli., Bacillus globigii, Coxiella burnetti, Pasteurella tularensis and fluorescent particles – as well as a trace element and simulants. Alderson said the tugs had small labs on board, where they would take air samples. All of the chemicals used were carcinogenic.

Some tests involved the tugs taking out barges of monkeys which were sprayed with the neurological agents Sarin and VX. Those agents weren't used directly on the tugs, said Alderson.

The tugs would then go to the laboratory ship in rotations, taking the sick monkeys and their air samples. “The monkeys were not in good shape,” he said.

The monkeys, if they survived, would be observed by lab technicians on the laboratory, who eventually would euthanize the animals and conduct necropsies on them.

Alderson and his fellow Navy men began to suffer health problems themselves, including respiratory issues. They also noticed their immune systems suffered after they were vaccinated against the chemical agents.

The operations in the Pacific were carried out through rehearsal and written instructions, said Alderson. They stayed off the radio, not wanting anyone to know they were there conducting tests.

Alderson was involved in the secret operations until 1967. He made trips back to the Deseret Testing Center in Ft. Douglas, Utah, and that's where he met Jack Barry, who had been in an Army chemical corps for five years but was a civilian working for the Department of Defense by the time he met Alderson.

Barry, who was the right-hand man to the Marine colonel overseeing a number of biological tests, would be in Oahu, Hawaii, during the late spring and early summer of 1965, when officials carried out “Big Tom,” a Navy test that focused on the vulnerability of island naval bases in the event of a biological or chemical attack from the sea.

The drift of that test – which used Zinc Cadmium Sulfide and liquid Bacillus globigii – came in from sea and went across parts of the island, said Barry.

Barry said that similar drift tests, using the same chemicals as well as nerve agents, were conducted near Fort Greeley, Alaska. A fact sheet on Project SHAD's “Shady Grove” operations said tests took place at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

Alderson said he doesn't think the Department of Defense wants it known just how many tests were done near civilians and on or near US soil.

When Alderson and Barry left their involvement with the tests, they said they were threatened with prosecution and prison time in Ft. Leavenworth if they disclosed anything about the operations.

Discovering troubling common threads

Alderson later went on to become chief executive officer of the Humboldt Bay Harbor District from 1975 to 1996. Barry left the Desert Testing Center in 1975 and joined the US Forest Service, moving to Davis to manage a technology development enterprise team.

In 1993, Alderson said he and some of the men who he served with decided to get together for a reunion.

It was a challenge, he said, to gather the men, who largely hadn't kept in touch. Most of the men wouldn't speak to their former Navy colleagues on the phone or answer anything in writing.

He said they did finally manage to get together for a small reunion in San Diego, where about 40 people came.

When they got together, they discovered many of them had suffered ongoing respiratory problems and various types of cancer. Alderson himself has had malignant melanoma, the most severe form of skin cancer. He also discovered that he has four pieces of asbestos in his lungs. In addition, he has had prostate cancer, and suffers from fatigue syndrome and severe allergies, the latter of which he said developed immediately after he was inoculated during the Project SHAD years.

When he discovered that he wasn't alone in his health concerns, he decided to start looking for answers.

The first politician he approached was US Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who had visited the harbor district to discuss a harbor dredging project. While she was in Alderson's office, he shared his story.

Feinstein asked him to write her a letter outlining the situation, which she in turn took to the Department of Defense, which responded that Alderson should contact them directly. That, he said, was their way of putting him off.

It wasn't just the government pushing back on Alderson's requests. He said he went to a veterans group with his story. Their response, he said, was that the government wouldn't do that to its servicemen.

Meanwhile, Thompson had gotten into Congress, and the two men knew each other from having worked together on local issues when Thompson was in the state Senate. Alderson took him the story and began working with Thompson and his staff, who Alderson credits with doing a lot of hard work and investigation to bring the issues to light.

The Department of Defense at first denied that the program had taken place. But in May 2000 Alderson said CBS began doing TV reports on the issue.

Following pressure by Thompson and further investigation by CBS, the Department of Defense released a fact sheet on Project SHAD, a copy of which was obtained by Lake County News.

The date of the release? Sept. 13, 2001.

“You saw it in the paper, didn't ya?” Alderson joked.

He said he believes the government's timing was calculated for release during a time of crisis so that the issue wouldn't draw attention.

While getting classified information on the testing hasn't been possible, Alderson said a lawsuit regarding Project SHAD resulted in the deposition in 2004 of the project's plans and operations officer and lead scientist, Dr. J. Clifton Spendlove.

While the Department of Defense had claimed that most of the records for Project SHAD were destroyed or had deteriorated, Spendlove said most of the records were still in Utah, and he additionally stated he had filmed some of the tests.

“We have enough evidence that we believe Dr. Spendlove was telling the truth,” said Alderson.

Spendlove also has testified publicly about the project before a special advisory panel convened by the Institute of Health.

Gradually, however, the issue began making its way into news reports, which is where Barry saw it.

He said he wrote to Thompson to tell him of the civilians who were exposed. Alderson found out about Barry's letter and the two men reconnected. At Alderson's invitation, Barry has since joined a special subcommittee set up by the Vietnam Veterans of America to work on issues related to Project SHAD.

Barry himself currently suffers from a rare form of cancer, but he says he's unsure if it's from the testing, his previous Army service or even time in the Forest Service, which also used toxic chemicals.

Thompson said that while the government eventually admitted the reports were correct, “We haven't had the level of cooperation from our government that we believe we should be getting.”

Finding the people exposed has been even more of a challenge, said Thompson.

Rehberg said preliminary estimates are that as many as 6,000 vets were exposed to the toxic agents, along with as many as 1,500 civilians. Thompson said Vietnam Veterans of America believes the numbers of vets exposed are actually much higher.

Alderson said that, just counting technical staff involved in the testing, between 500 and 600 people were affected. If you add in the many others on Navy ships exposed to the chemicals, the number climbs to 6,000. Add in “white coats” – people who were conscientious objectors and wouldn't fight but who volunteered for chemical tests – and that brings the number up to 18,000.

About 50 to 60 percent of the men he worked with on the light tugs are now dead, Alderson said, including six of the operation's 10 officers.

“We have some vets that are long dead because of the exposure they received, and that's just wrong,” Thompson said.

Government won't make effort to reach affected vets

The two congressmen faulted the government for a shoddy attempt to notify those who were exposed once they were identified.

Rehberg said he found it appalling that the government did the tests, then shirked its responsibility to help veterans.

In February, a US Government Accountability Office report stated that the Department of Defense and the Veterans Affairs needed to improve efforts to identify and notify individuals exposed to chemical and biological tests.

The report added that tens of thousands of military personnel and civilians have been exposed to such tests by the Department of Defense.

“Since 2003, DOD (Department of Defense) has stopped actively searching for individuals who were potentially exposed to chemical or biological substances during Project 112 tests, but did not provide a sound and documented basis for that decision,” the report stated. “In 2003, DOD reported it had identified 5,842 service members and estimated 350 civilians as having been potentially exposed during Project 112, and indicated that DOD would cease actively searching for additional individuals.”

The following year, the Department of Defense ruled that the recommendation to continue an active search for those exposed “had reached the point of diminishing returns, and reaffirmed its decision to cease active searches,” a decision that the Government Accountability Office said “was not supported by an objective analysis of the potential costs and benefits of continuing the effort.”

From 2003 on, other organizations, such as the Institute of Medicine, identified an additional 600 people who could have been exposed. “Until DOD provides a more objective analysis of the costs and benefits of actively searching for Project 112 participants, DOD’s efforts may continue to be questioned,” the report stated.

The Lake County Veterans Service Office confirmed to Lake County News that they have received inquiries about Project SHAD from local veterans who think they may have been affected.

For the vets involved, it's tough for them to get treatment once they confirm their involvement in the tests, because the Veterans Administration has refused to provide them with health benefits or compensation for their diseases, which is a reason for the bill, said Thompson.

Alderson said he and others involved in the testing have had problems with their medical records, portions of which have been known to disappear.

The bill instructs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs within 180 days of enactment to notify all veterans of potential exposure to the biological or chemical weapons used in Project 112 and Project SHAD.

HR 5954 would “establish a presumption of service connection,” said Thompson, which would mean that once a vet was identified, any health issues would be presumed service-related.

“It's our hope that once this happens we can get them that health care they need,” Thompson said. “They should not be denied and neglected any more”

Although the bill's previous version died in the Senate, Thompson and Rehberg said they have assurances from Congressman Bob Filner, chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, that he'll get a hearing for the bill quickly.

“I'm feeling cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to have some success this time,” Thompson said.

Vietnam Veterans of America has endorsed the legislation, the congressman noted.

Rehberg credited Thompson for taking the lead on the matter. “When Mike gets his teeth in your ankles, he's not going to let go.”

Thompson said the government's denial and refusal to take care of the affected veterans has gone on far too long – more than 40 years in some cases.

Alderson, who previously has testified on Project SHAD before the Senate Armed Services Committee – said Thompson has asked him to come and testify before Congress during the bill's first hearing, scheduled for June 12, before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

Barry credited Alderson for working to bring the project to light. “He's not in it for personal gain. He's looking after his people.”

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A REACH air ambulance lands at Upper Lake County Park on Wednesday afternoon during the mass casualty incident, a drill for emergency responders. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


UPPER LAKE It's a horrifying scenario: At the finish line of a triathlon event where hundreds of spectators are gathered, a multi-vehicle auto collision takes place. There are dozens of injuries, numerous deaths and utter pandemonium. {sidebar id=78}

That was the carefully choreographed disaster situation played out at Upper Lake County Park on Wednesday afternoon. The object was to give local and state agencies an opportunity to evaluate how they work together in emergency situations.

The Lake County Office of Emergency Services conducted the mass casualty incident in cooperation with numerous other agencies, among them Northshore Fire, Lake County Fire and Kelseyville Fire Protection districts; California Highway Patrol; Lake County Sheriff's Office; Cal Fire; the state Office of Emergency Services. Caltrans officials also were on scene to help control traffic past the park, which was a concern, with some drivers stopping to take a look at the action.

Before the exercise started at 3 p.m., volunteers decked out in fake blood, make up to create wounds such as compound fractures and, in some cases, prosthetics illustrating severely injured limbs went over their parts in the drama. Moaning, groaning and other realistic touches were encouraged.

California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia said that the scenario included 18 simulated fatalities, 40 major traumas, 25 delayed traumas (meaning major injuries that are not life-threatening) and 25 walking wounded, all of which were attended to by emergency personnel.

Agency incident commanders were Northshore Battalion Chief Pat Brown, Chief Deputy James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office and CHP Sgt. Dave Stark.

During the first 30 minutes, Brown was furiously directing first responders, adjusting directions and writing plans on a white board on the side of his Northshore Fire vehicle.

He said after the drill that his scribe a note taker assigned to keep track of his instructions came away with four pages of handwritten notes.

Those notes, and the event itself, will help Brown and other emergency responders fine-tune their local incident command system.

Brown carries an Incident Command System chart with him at all times. He said it's the basis of how response is organized for any major incident, be it fire or vehicle crash.

The system was developed in California 30 years ago, but isn't used universally. That's what Brown discovered when he was in New York City in 2001 to assist with recovery operations after Sept. 11.

Following a trip through a decontamination tent where simulated chemicals and fuel were removed volunteer victims were to be transported to medical facilities, Garcia said.



Volunteer victim Mireya Turner is wheeled into a decontamination tent, where victims in a hazmat situation are cleaned of chemicals or other hazardous materials. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


One of the event's organizers, Lake County Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Willie Sapeta said Sutter Lakeside Hospital, Redbud Community Hospital, Ukiah Valley Medical Center and Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits each would receive a set of victimsfive major, five minor and five delayed while the simulated casualties would be taken to mortuaries.

Helicopters began landing shortly before 4:15 p.m., led by a REACH air ambulance and a Cal Fire helicopter, with a CHP helicopter landing about 15 minutes later.

State Office of Emergency Services officials also were a part of the afternoon event.

George Lowry, assistant chief of communications, and Memoree McIntire, an emergency services coordinator whose area of responsibility includes Lake County, were at the scene.

Lowry said he offered technical support to the participants on communications issues.

McIntire acted as one of several evaluators who monitored the agencies' coordinated performance, including how the command post was set up and how the line of communication from the incident commanders to all of their personnel worked.

Overall, the group did well, she said.

"They know where some of their downfalls were but, overall, they were really good," she said.

McIntire said counties don't have to have the exercises annually, but should have them every few years.



Volunteers posed as crash victims who were tended by emergency personnel. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


Lowry said the Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program gives grant funding for events such as the one on Wednesday. Prior to Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency also had preparedness programs, he said.

Sapeta said the exercise was the culmination of seven months of planning, and cost about $15,000, which was paid for by the Homeland Security grant funds.

Officials were due to have a "hot wash" meeting after the exercise, which McIntire explained was a time to talk about how everything worked. From there, they'll create an action plan to address areas that need improvement.



One of the event's incident commanders, Pat Brown (second from left) discusses the situation with incident staff. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Garcia said the last multi-agency exercise was held last summer at Konocti Conservation Camp. That event's scenario concerned a simulated crash involving a busload of school children.

Since that last exercise, the fire districts have a whole different group of first responders due to high turnover, said Sapeta. Getting those new personnel a chance to practice together is important.

"We'll focus on next year's training based on what our deficits were," he said.



Volunteer victims in the simulated crash at the scene before first responders arrive. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins said that the last time a large, multi-agency response was necessary for a disaster event locally was in 1996, when the Fork Fire raged across parts of the Northshore.



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LAKE COUNTY – A Memorial Day crash along Highway 20 claimed the life of a Sebastopol woman.

Judith Tilt, 72, was pronounced dead at the scene of the collision, which took place on Highway 20 east of Walker Ridge Road at about 2:20 p.m. Monday, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia.

Tilt was riding in a 2002 Lexus RX300 driven by 78-year-old Delores Zeni of Santa Rosa which was hit by a 2001 Ford Escape driven by Debra Curtis, 49, of Suisun City, Garcia said.

Curtis, who was driving eastbound, lost control of her vehicle during a short rain shower, according to Garcia.

Her vehicle spun out around and entered the westbound lane, hitting Zeni's Lexus.

Both Delores Zeni and 79-year-old Robert Zeni, also of Santa Rosa, sustained major injuries and were

flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital by REACH air ambulance, Garcia said.

Curtis was flown by CALSTAR air ambulance to Chico's Enloe Hospital where she was treated for major injuries, according to Garcia's report.

The accident shut the highway down for several hours as emergency officials cared for the injured, cleared the roadway and investigated the crash, according to reports from the scene.

Garcia said CHP Officer Dallas Richey is investigating the collision.

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


Nelson Hopper and his wife, Earlene. He'll offer a prayer to open the ceremony and dinner to honor local native veterans this Tuesday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKE COUNTY – A special event to honor the contributions of local tribal members in the armed forces will take place this week.

The California Tribal TANF Partnership will sponsor a Lake County Native American Veterans Ceremony and Dinner on Tuesday, May 27, from 4 p.m. to 7.m. at the Robinson Rancheria Resort and Casino Conference Center.

A group of local native veterans organized the gathering, which will include a spiritual ceremony, which they say is needed to honor and remember native “warrior” veterans who fought in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and who are currently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Offering the event's opening prayer will be Nelson Hopper. At age 91, the Big Valley Rancheria elder is one of Lake County's oldest native veterans, and one of the last speakers of his tribe's language.

Hopper served in the U.S. Army during World War II, where he was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge. A highly decorated soldier, Hopper is a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2015.

He will be joined at the ceremony by other Pomo veterans who served in different conflicts, including Vietnam.

The presence of Native Americans in the U.S. military ranks has a long tradition.

James P. Collins of the National Archives and Records Administration wrote in a 2007 article that a unit of Delaware Indians was found among Revolutionary War service records. In addition, Collins reported that more than 1,000 Native Americans served during the War of 1812, and native units also appeared during the Mexican War of 1846 to 1848.

During World War I, an estimated 12,000 native soldiers enlisted, according to “Way of the Warrior,” A Public Broadcasting Documentary.

The Department of Defense reported that 44,500 Native Americans – more than 10 percent of the native population at the time – served in World War II.

Their valor and contributions to the war effort caused Maj. Lee Gilstrop to declare, “The Indian is the best damn soldier in the Army,” according to a Department of Defense history.

Estimates from military historians put as many as 15,000 natives serving during the Korean War, and numbers range widely – from 40,000 to 80,000 – for tribal members in Vietnam. Today, Native American soldiers are serving in the Iraq War as well as in Afghanistan.

The ceremony and dinner is limited and free to Native American veterans and their guest only.

For more information, contact Cecilia Dawson at 274-2313.

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


Upcoming Calendar

07.16.2024 9:00 am - 12:30 pm
Board of Supervisors
07.16.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.16.2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Lakeport City Council
07.17.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Free veterans dinner
07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile

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