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Living Water projects purify the soul

It’s a long way between the multi-million dollar homes of El Dorado Hills and the rural villages of South America.

Helping bridge that gap are volunteers whose mission is to make a difference, one well and one water pump at a time. Operating under a faith-based organization called Living Water International in Houston, Texas, they travel to developing countries all over the world and put in wells and pumps.

The need is acute, with one-eighth of the world’s population not having access to safe water, according to Living Water. Millions suffer illness or die from water related diseases. Many people who have no running water must spend a quarter of their time collecting water for everyday use.

Fire torches home but not family’s spirit

The first celebration in the Forrest family’s new home ended with horrific results when a fire destroyed everything in the early morning hours of July 5.

A mother, father and their children literally escaped with the clothes on their backs, yet everyone feels lucky to be alive and grateful for the El Dorado Hills community’s support.

Kyburz Fire whips through the woods

WHITEHALL — The Kyburz Fire threatened residents, campers and drivers as flames tore through the wooded landscape on both sides of Highway 50.

The wildfire broke out at about 2 p.m. Thursday with fire crews on the ground and in the air, including the recently featured Super Scooper based out of Lake Tahoe, quickly taking action.

Seventy-five residences/vacation homes were evacuated along with 15 camp sites from the Sand Flat Campground, according to an El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department press release. The Pollock Pines Community Center served as an evacuation center for those displaced. By Friday all mandatory evacuations had been lifted but some voluntary evacuations were still in place. The Sand Flat campground remained closed as of Sunday.

Bombardier a flying firefighter

Although it would be quite a treat to see the U.S. Forest Service’s giant CL 415 “Super Scooper” flying through the skies over Placerville, the sight would be a mixed blessing — it would mean there’s a wildfire nearby.

But it would also mean that the chances of containing the blaze quickly would be greatly increased, as the CL 415 Bombardier is a champion warrior assigned to the front lines of battle.

The USFS Tuesday proudly showed off its latest weapon in its firefighting arsenal, a huge CL 415 Aeroflite 260 Bombardier that will be stationed at the Lake Tahoe Airport for the next seven months as fire season hits critical mass. The aircraft, affectionately known as the Super Scooper, is the only such plane currently flying in the United States — and Tahoe forestry officials are thrilled to have it here for the season.

Bringing criminals to justice

Investigators who have the daunting task of trying to find closure to seemingly unsolvable, horrible crimes — cold case homicides — dig deep to find any shred of evidence to serve justice.

Justice — that’s just what the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office seeks as its investigators try to solve more than 60 cold case homicides.

“The loss of a family member to a violent crime is likely the most traumatic thing a human can go through in their lifetime, making it worse when the perpetrator is not held accountable for their actions,” said District Attorney Vern Pierson.

Jeepers Jamboree: Generations keep tradition alive

Rock music blared as cases of soda, water and beer were placed on ice. High Hill Ranch in Camino was abuzz with activity on June 28 as Jeepers Jamboree set up for the Jeepers Jamboree Volunteer Appreciation Picnic.

Three generations of Jeepers and off-road enthusiasts have carried the Jeepers Jamboree — the first, biggest and the toughest of U.S. off-road events — into the new millennium and a fourth generation is already learning the ropes. The current seven directors all have long-time ties with Jeepers, either as family members of the founding directors or as participants, or both.

“All of our Board of Directors were Rock Rollers, mechanics and work party crew for years before becoming directors,” said Mike Gerondakis, 61, who has been a Jeepers board member for three years and a participant in the jamboree since 1979. He is in charge of the work party crews who set up the camp for participants.

More golden days lie ahead

With an eye on reminding the world of El Dorado County’s prominent place in Gold Rush history, organizers of next year’s World Gold Panning Championship in Placerville will head to Spain next month …

Children removed from suspected drug house

EL DORADO — El Dorado County sheriff’s deputies arrested five people after reportedly finding narcotics and drug paraphernalia in a home where children lived.

Mid-morning on July 5 deputies conducted a probation search at a residence on the 5300 block of Union Mine Road in El Dorado, an El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department press release states. Outside the residence, they met Holly Moore, 47, of Fair Oaks and Benjamin Patterson, 32, and, the release states, it appeared Patterson was in possession of heroin, a hypodermic needle and syringe.

Recycling water all the rage

With the drought forcing water districts to find ever more creative ways to conserve, recycling programs have turned out to be fortuitous long-term investments.

Currently the El Dorado Irrigation District is the only water district in the county operating such a program. Those operations are carried out at two of its four wastewater treatment plants: one at Deer Creek in Cameron Park and the other in El Dorado Hills.

An outgrowth of development plans to ensure a reliable water supply for homes to be built in El Dorado Hills, identifying the need for recycled water goes back more than 20 years according to Kirk Bone, the director of Government Relations for Parker Development Company.

Finally, a hero has his Bronze Star

It was a long time coming, but after 70 years Placerville resident Wayne Queen has received the Bronze Star he earned during his World War II service.

A veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, Queen, 89, still has strong memories of what some historians consider the greatest single battle ever fought by the American Army. Some consider it, in terms of participation and losses, arguably the greatest battle in American military history.

Born and raised in Heavener, Okla., Queen said he is Native American, being half Cherokee and half Choctaw. He said Heavener itself is notable for having some large stones covered with writing that some believe were inscribed by Vikings back in 1012 AD.

Suspected child molester nabbed

Scot Sutton, a 47-year-old resident of Placerville, was arrested on suspicion of molesting a minor younger than 14 on Monday, one day after the alleged victim reported the incident to the Placerville Police Department.

Placerville police investigators arrested Sutton in Sacramento and booked him into Sacramento County jail, where he remains in custody without bail, according to a press release from the Placerville Police Department.

At press time, investigators believe there are no other victims involved.

Wildfires flare up following storms

Firefighters battled two El Dorado County wildfires in steep terrain in the days before the 4th of July, possibly thanks to Mother Nature’s fireworks.

Thursday afternoon a fire broke out just before 5 p.m. west of Bucks Bar Road near Hanks Exchange, shortly after a thunderstorm rolled through the area. The official cause has yet to be determined.

Placerville home burns down

A Lumsden Park Drive home burned to the ground in the early morning hours of July 2.

El Dorado County firefighters responded to the blaze at 2:23 a.m. and found the Placerville residence fully engulfed, according to Division Chief Tim Cordero. One acre of property around the home also burned.

No one was injured as the home was empty at the time, and no other structures were damaged. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

EDH murder: Offer discussed; new hearing set

The arraignment of a man suspected of shooting to death a 31-year-old woman in front of an El Dorado Hills night spot last January was postponed Monday as a tentative offer in the case may be forthcoming.

Anderson Swift, 41, of Oakland faces trial for murder if agreement is not reached, but no offer has been finalized and presented to the court or defense. Bill Clark of the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office sought the delay Monday, saying “an offer” likely is going to be made ultimately for review by defense attorney Mark Ralphs.

Swift stands accused of slaying Khrista Ibarolle of El Dorado Hills in an apparent carjacking that turned deadly.

A sign of desperation? City’s sign changes debated

Problem: How to get the tens of thousands of Highway 50 travelers on their way to and from the Bay Area to Tahoe to turn off the freeway and visit Placerville.

Solution: Advertise upcoming downtown events on the Welcome to Placerville sign at Canal Street and Highway 50.

Problem with the solution: Changes to the sign would sully the grace and charm of the little town, rendering it nothing more than a billboard that makes the city appear “desperate.”

Forest fire management part of bigger strategy

The sound of buzzsaws broke the silence of the forest off Silver Fork Road as crews from the California Conservation Corp worked to create a fuel break off Highway 50 near Kyburz on Wednesday.

Cutting down small trees and brush, stacks of vegetation were scattered everywhere as two teams cleared one side of the road.

Part of a much larger plan called the Roadrunner Fuel Reduction Project, the goal is to eventually treat both sides of Highway 50 all the way from Pollock Pines to Twin Bridges. “That will take a couple of years to do,” said Will Harris, a battalion chief with the Forest Service. “But there is a plan and there is a vision.”

Aiming for a safer community

It was a sunny, clear day but my vision was marred by gun smoke. A dozen people lined up, shooting revolvers before moving on to semi-automatics. I was the only one at the range who had never fired a gun.

Geof Peabody was ecstatic to get me to the gun range not far from Placerville. After a morning filled with gun safety lessons and dry firing practice (using inert bullets that don’t actually shoot), it was time for four hours at the private gun range at Big Cut Mine.

This class was an introduction to handguns, one of six of Peabody’s NRA-certified classes, which have become very popular. In March he had 55 ministers sign up for a special minister-only class, requiring a split into two classes, he said.

Hangtown Cranker Classic: Take a ride, wheelers’ style

“Get up! Get out! Get better!” It’s the motto and game plan for Placerville Mobility Support Group, an organization founded in 2007 by Lynn Murray to improve the physical, mental and emotional well-being of people with ambulatory impairment. Murray, 69, was a coach for 32 years, a teacher and mountain climber. He also worked in construction. In […]

A swine time at the 2015 El Dorado County Fair

HANDS UP FOR FUN — Brian Prillwitz and his son Jack ride the roller coaster at The El Dorado County Fair, which officially opened today. The Hog Days of Summer fair runs through Sunday, June 21, and includes everything from fast rides to a livestock auction to a giant gator and plenty of delicious treats.

Fire near Sand Ridge Road contained

A fire on June 15 burned 6.7 acres at Highway 49 near the area of last year’s Sand Fire.

At around 2:10 p.m., a fire was reported near at 7541 Highway 49, Cal Fire’s Brice Bennett said. Reports put it near Sand Ridge Road and Crystal Boulevard. Originally estimated between 2 and 3 acres, the fire slowly grew to about 4 acres over the course about 30 minutes. Air attack — a spotter aircraft — from Cal Fire reported that, despite some spotting ahead of the main burn, the fire was advancing slowly.

Two air tankers were dispatched; a house, it was later reported, was partially painted orange in fire retardant. One residence was threatened.

New contractor gives form to Camp 2 Bridge

Syblon Reid Construction is two-thirds complete with the concrete structure for the Camp 2 Bridge project. After pouring 50 yards of concrete June 4, SRC will have one section of retaining wall to complete.

The replacement contractor has even completed some of the forms for the cantilevered part of the bridge.

Project manager from the El Dorado Irrigation District is Jake Eymann, who said …

Becoming a substitute family for children in need

There is no one kind of foster parent — some are single parents, others are married; they represent all different ages, races and income levels. Some have biological children of their own or adopted children living at home; others have never had children; still others have raised their own children to adulthood. Some are gay; some are not. All have to want to help children and have a lot of patience, said Katie Blankenship. Blankenship and her husband, Mike, have been foster parents for about 75 children over a 20-year period, sometimes having as many as six foster children at a time.

“I retired from working and knew there was a huge need for foster families so I …”

Fire scorches EDH home

A fire destroyed an El Dorado Hills home’s garage Monday afternoon.

El Dorado Hills Fire Division Chief Mike Lilienthal, interviewed at the scene, said firefighters were dispatched to 760 Knight Lane at 3:32 p.m. on June 8. When they arrived, they found heavy flames coming from the garage’s windows.

The crew immediately called for more engines and split in to two teams. The first used an attack line — a fire hose connected to an engine — to prevent the fire from spreading to the house next door, where flames started to lick the walls. The neighboring home sustained heat and smoke damage but did not catch fire. The second team went inside the burning house, where the …

Harris sentenced to life

A judge in El Dorado County court on June 5 sentenced a woman found guilty of killing her husband — 30 years after she was acquitted on a similar charge — to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 50 years.

Judge Kenneth J. Melikian heard and denied a motion for a new trial during the sentencing of Colleen Harris, convicted by a jury April 15 for first-degree murder of husband Bob Harris. Melikian said he wanted to point out that he “found the evidence in this case overwhelming.” If errors had occurred causing a mistrial, he said, it would still not cause a different verdict. “I cannot see a responsible jury in this case vote anything but guilty. I reached the same decision they did.” In all the years he practiced law, as an attorney and judge, he said he had seen “very, very few acts as selfish as the one in …”

White to be arraigned for murder

Following a preliminary hearing on June 2, a man accused of murder will be held to answer for his alleged crime and an arraignment was set.

Prosecutor Lisette Suder opened the hearing by calling Denise Bye in the case of Jeff White allegedly killing Rick Kriewitz on Sept. 3, 2014.

The Wagon Train reins: Big-hearted horses return to lead the way

Those big beautiful black Percherons are back and once again will take the lead in this year’s Highway 50 Wagon Train.

In its 66th year, the Wagon Train — a living reenactment of history — kicked off May 30 with a rendezvous and barbecue at scenic Zephyr Cove, Nev.

After, it was up and over the summit, with stops along the way including a layover at Fresh Pond for a day of wagon rides, story telling and barbecue on Thursday, June 4.

A hot trail on cold cases

In the basement of the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, through a gym, is a door in a back wall. It leads to what is affectionately known as the “Murder Room.” Inside, boxes of files and reports sit, waiting for a new lead, a break in the case. Some boxes are mostly empty, with just a few reports. But all share a common theme: unsolved murders.

On the tails of an ongoing, highly successful campaign of posting one wanted person per week on Facebook, the DA’s Office is hoping to replicate the success with its more than 60 cold case murders.

Dave Stevenson, an investigator and public information officer for the DA’s Office, said that while neighboring Placer …

Rescue Raceway back on track

On the backburner for a while, the Rescue Raceway is once again up and running with a full contingent of racing enthusiasts revving up their engines in the name of getting first to the finish line.

Located next to the Rescue Community Center on Green Valley Road, the return of the raceway is like the story of the comeback kid.

Originally it was a racetrack for remote-controlled cars powered by gasoline engines.

“But they were very noisy and the neighbors …”

Memorial Day Ceremony somber and celebratory

There are approximately 17,000 veterans in El Dorado County, and when the community gathers to honor the fallen, military families and service members show up in droves.

The El Dorado County Veterans Monument Memorial Day Ceremony took place on Monday, May 25, hosted by the Friends of the Veterans Monument at the El Dorado County Government Center off of Ray Lawyer Drive in Placerville.

The final days of Saigon

In 1975, Hollis Henderson was a 28-year-old USMC Warrant Officer stationed with Maine Light Attack Helicopter 367 in Futenma, Okinawa after three tours of Vietnam. He’d been in the Marines for 10 years. USMC Lance Corporal Ken Crouse was a 19-year-old serving as an Embassy Guard in Saigon in his first tour of duty. They were enjoying their duty stations — Henderson as helicopter crew chief and pilot, serving as the Logs and Records Chief and Crouse, living in the six-story Marine House in Saigon, five blocks from the U.S. Embassy, with 41 other 19-to-23-year-old Marines. “We could have taught fraternities some things,” said Crouse.

Retired colonel helps vets get benefits

A retired colonel is using his old rank to help other veterans get the benefits they are entitled to — even if it means directly ordering the vets to get help.

Col. Ed Swanson, 76, of Cool, retired from the Army and National Guard after 20 years of service. He worked briefly at the Pentagon for the Guard, but applied for a four-year tour. He was sent to Camp Zama, Japan, as …

King Fire: Blodgett Forest researchers share findings

A tour of the Blodgett Forest on May 15, 12 miles east of Georgetown, showed the devastation of the King Fire in the area — and how to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. It also showed other tests and research conducted in the forest.

The tour was led by Blodgett Forest Manager Rob York and Bill Keye, both registered professional foresters. Where living seed trees stood before the fire, they said, brush will now take over — if the forest is left unmanaged.

Arraignment set after shooter’s wife testifies

Cindy Hinds and her husband Joseph bickered like any other married couple. Except that bickering was downplayed by Cindy — and eventually led to Joe shooting Cindy’s father David Klinker.

Testifying during a preliminary hearing in Department 7 on May 14, Cindy, 31, explained she married Joe, 33, in …

EID votes to continue water rights fight

The El Dorado Irrigation District board gave a thumbs up to pursuing additional water rights at its May 11 meeting.

However approval was by a narrow margin with Directors Bill George, George Osborne and Dr. Dale Coco voting for and Greg Prada and Alan Day voting against.

At issue is a project EID is a partner to, along with El Dorado County and the El …

Foothill Ammo owner: ‘We needed a good ammo shop’

There aren’t too many ammo stores where you can pull up a chair, munch a cookie and watch a slideshow or peruse a magazine while you wait for your partner to buy a box of 9mm Fiocchi target rounds or some Tannerite exploding targets. Foothill Ammo, at 3293 Saratoga Lane in Cameron Park, may be the only place in El Dorado County to offer that amenity.

The shop, which opened on May 8, is the dream of Chris Puehse, a former propane truck driver, miniature motorcycle builder and high-tech salesman. It …

Bus driver earns Northern California CHP award

CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow awarded a local bus driver the Northern California Bus Driver of the Year award on May 8 for her quick thinking during a collision on Aug. 14, 2014.

Jennifer Shields was driving a school bus to Union Mine High School on Grizzly Flat Road near Mahaney Ranch Road at 6:50 a.m. when another car drifted into her lane, CHP Officer Quinn Cuthbertson said at the time of the incident. As the Mountain Democrat reported, she turned the bus hard to the left in attempt to avoid a head-on collision. The right front sides of both vehicles hit.

“Though a collision still occurred, thanks to Jennifer’s evasive maneuvers, she undoubtedly saved her young passengers from serious injury,” the Placerville CHP Office posted on Facebook.

King Fire: Watershed focus of Rubicon tour

An arsonist may be to blame for the scar the King Fire left behind, but the government also played an important role in the fuels that allowed the fire to become the catastrophic event that it was.

Driving into the Rubicon Watershed area, an area that used to harbor 1,000-year-old forest growth, is a devastating experience for those who never knew its beauty before the destruction. It’s especially hard to comprehend for those who have recreated in this area for years.

While 97,000 acres were impacted, the residual effects of the King Fire will be felt for thousands of acres, miles even, throughout the entire state of California. It is difficult to assess the statewide impact of the King Fire, which involves a myriad of agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service …

Inmate hand crews invaluable

Cal Fire Capt. Paul Gaines waved his hand in a zig-zag pattern, following a dirt trail up the side of a hill on Bacchi Ranch in Garden Valley. He was disappointed. The trail, actually a fire break, was supposed to be straight.

Gaines, the division supervisor of the Growlersburg inmate camp in Georgetown, spoke over the sound of chainsaws as Crew 2 continued the line on May 6 as part of a multi-day, statewide training and certification exercise. All 4,300 inmates in 196 crews must pass the tests and be certified to work for Cal Fire.

‘Sufficient evidence’ to arraign murder suspect Swift

After a preliminary hearing lasting the entire morning of May 5, Judge James R. Wagoner concluded there was sufficient evidence to arraign murder suspect Anderson Swift.

Deputy Seth Culver, lead crime scene investigator on the alleged murder of Khrista Ibarolle, 31, on Jan. 7, described the different scenes. He was called to the parking lot in front of 36 Handles on White Rock Road in El Dorado Hills just after midnight. Spent shell casings and the body of Ibarolle were at that scene.

On Highway 50 near Latrobe Road, about a half-mile away, a Honda coupe with significant damage was the second scene.

The final scene in El Dorado County was a house on …

Map contest again wows BOS

Former District 5 El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago always ranked it “high on her cha-cha scale” and called the annual event one of the board’s favorite meetings. This year’s Student Map Contest at the April 28 Board of Supervisors meeting was no slouch by comparison. Sponsored by the El Dorado County S.A.G.E. association of surveyors, architects, geologists and engineers, the map contest has grown in popularity over its 21-year history.

More than 700 school kids participated from 31 public, private and charter schools on the county’s western slope, and as it has throughout the history of the contest, Latrobe School dominated with 19 winning ribbons. Edwin Markham Middle School took …

El Dorado County man in Nepal quake

Bud and Jeannie Earnshaw have been glued to CNN since April 25, the day of the 7.8 earthquake in Nepal. Their son, Chris Earnshaw, 42, was hiking his way up to the Mount Everest Base Camp at 17,000 feet when the quake happened.

After a couple of anxious days with no word about Chris or the friend he was climbing Mount Everest with, Bud was contacted by representatives of Bio Bio Expeditions Travel Medicine Trek, with the news that his son was OK and so was his friend, Chris Pereira. The two, although not doctors themselves, were part of a medical expedition studying treatment for …

Chase ends with arrest of wanted felon

A wanted felon was arrested after a chase through Camino and Placerville the morning of April 26.

A patrolling K9 unit deputy spotted Abram Sassenberg, 34, driving a vehicle in Pollock Pines, a press release stated. Sassenberg was on Post-Release Community Supervision, a suspended driver’s license and an active felony warrant for his arrest. He refused to yield when deputies attempted to perform a traffic stop.

Sassenberg led deputies on a car chase through Camino, ending on Highway 50 in Placerville. Deputies successfully used two sets of spike strips, puncturing Sassenberg’s vehicle’s tires.

Deputies allegedly discovered ammunition, which is illegal …

Echo Summit bridge to be fixed: Caltrans targets 2019 construction

Motorists may not realize they are traversing a bridge when they wind down the east side of Echo Summit toward South Lake Tahoe. Caltrans, the state transportation department, alternately refers to it as a viaduct on its Website. A viaduct is a type of bridge that typically has several spans, usually of equal length. The Echo Summit Sidehill Viaduct was constructed with three spans in 1939, and while it’s not falling apart, there is significant wear and tear after nearly 80 years of service.

Clark Peri, Caltrans project manager, gave a slide presentation to the Board of Supervisors April 7 outlining the agency’s plan to rehabilitate or replace the old bridge. Following public outreach and extensive environmental …

Denny’s waitress saves man during heart attack

Denny’s waitress. Substitute teacher. Lifesaver.

Chandra Sousa, 26, of Camino, added that last identifier on March 31 at about 6:30 p.m. when she saved Jim LaBerge’s life after he suffered a heart attack.

The 72-year-old Pollock Pines man went out to his car to get the agenda for the Hangtown Kennel Club board meeting. He returned inside and had just put the agenda on the table in the back banquet room of the Placerville Denny’s, he said.

“That’s the last thing I remember.”

Sousa, who was typing in an order at the register, remembers about 10 people being in the banquet room and one woman came out and yelled for someone to call 911. She also asked if anyone knew CPR, Sousa recalled. Despite a fair …

New ride for Placerville Police Department

Faster than a speeding bullet; more silent than a snail creeping through your garden — it’s the 2013 Zero DS ZF11.4 electric motorcycle acquired by the Placerville Police Department.

Placerville Police Sgt. Dan Maciel showed off the new bike to Placerville City Council on March 10.

“It’s more nimble than the Harley; easier to turn on our narrow streets,” said Maciel. “It’s very powerful at freeway speeds and half the weight of the Harley. “The PD also has a conventional Harley-Davidson police motorcycle.”

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