Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Update: King Fire at 18,544 acres, causes Hwy 50 closure

The acreage burned by the King Fire has climbed to 18,544 acres as of Wednesday morning. It remains at 5 percent containment. Two injuries have been reported, and 2,448 structures (1,632 residences) have been threatened, according to an Inciweb update.

The California Highway Patrol Facebook originally stated the fire had crossed over Highway 50 near Sly Park, but scanner reports and the CHP Facebook page later reported the fire “burns up to north side of U.S. 50 east of Sly Park,” but not across it as of 9:45 p.m.

Highway 50 is closed …

King Fire grows to more than 2,000 acres

A fire quickly spreading east of Pollock Pines forced El Dorado County families to evacuate their homes on Sunday.

Mandatory evacuations of about 100 began about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, according to Matthew Marques, a volunteer at the evacuation center at the Pollock Pines Community Center.

The King Fire, off of King of the Mountain Road, began at 4:32 p.m. on Sept. 13 and spread to more than 2,000 acres by 4:20 p.m. on Sept. 14, according to the latest update available from Cal Fire as of press time. It was originally listed as 100 acres, with 10 percent containment, but updated later in the afternoon. It was located in the canyon of South Fork American River, northeast of Pollock …

Sheriff’s Office to star in reality series on Fox 40

El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini and his office will star in a new reality series premiering Saturday, Sept. 20 on Fox 40.

“Sheriffs … El Dorado County” is “not your typical ‘COPS,’” D’Agostini said at a press conference, “where you only see the crazy stuff,” such as only chasing criminals. “You see the true operation of the Sheriff’s Office.” In a press release, D’Agostini added that he wants “to encourage all citizens of …”

Capital Airshow: Amazing thrills, skills and no spills

After producing nine airshows, Darcy Brewer, the executive director of the California Capital Airshow, outdid herself this year as was appreciated by the 60,000 spectators on the flight line who were up close and personal to the incredible spectrum of flying machines that participated.

With another great lineup of the best of the best airshow pilots, plus two military demonstration teams, it doesn’t get any better. And the proof was that most of the 60,000-plus fans that were on the flight line for the two exciting days were standing most of the time.

While the flight …

Marshall’s hyperbaric chamber one of few in NorCal

The only thing “beamed up” were the faces of four ladies of the Marshall Hospital Auxiliary as they recently checked out a space-age clear acrylic “body chamber” that looks like something Capt. Kirk would have loved.

No wonder the women were beaming, as funds from the auxiliary played a big part in purchasing two of the hyperbaric chambers, an acquisition that sends …

Bucks Bar shooting: Man arrested on murder charge

A man was allegedly killed by a gunshot wound on Bucks Bar Road in Placerville at about 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 3.

Deputies were dispatched to a verbal disturbance on Bucks Bar Road, which was quickly upgraded to a report of an assault with a deadly weapon with shots fired, an El Dorado County Sheriff’s press release stated. When deputies arrived, they found a man unconscious, having sustained a gunshot wound.

The man was transported to …

Wine grape harvest begins

A large metal machine was quietly pressing grapes on the afternoon of Aug. 28. The grapes were some of the first harvest collected by Lava Cap Vineyards.

Behind the tasting room, Charlie Jones, vineyard manager, watched as winemaker Joe Norman, in a white lab coat, worked the machine. It was 6 tons of sauvignon blanc grapes, Jones said, and a small one. Only one press load, where a normal day of harvest will see two, between 10 and 12 tons of grapes processed per day. It was the first week harvest began in earnest, and would likely pick up the next week and stay consistent. Sept. 1 is a “typical start date,” Jones said, so they are just about on schedule.

Harvest came slightly early …

‘Cody just vanished’: Parents of missing man still hopeful

On June 6, Vernon “Cody” Matthews disappeared from his parents’ vacation home in Pollock Pines. But his parents have not given up hope — and if anyone would be able to survive two months in the wilderness, it would be Cody.

Cody’s father, Vern, spent about a dozen years in Civil Air Patrol Search and Rescue and was a team leader trainee when he stepped down. He spent 20 years in fire service in Southern California, and was a captain when he left due to injury. He had extensive Red Cross and emergency medical training, often doing wilderness rescues. Before age and injury caught …

Camp 2 Bridge deconstructed

Since Aug. 1 contractor Excavating Engineers Inc. out of San Diego County has been working on the Camp 2 Bridge reconstruction project for the El Dorado Irrigation District.

The first order of business was deconstructing the rickety Erector Set-like bridge and its wooden bridge deck. The remains are stacked in the marshaling yard a short walk before the bridge abutment. Other pieces are on the east abutment where they will serve as a protection for the stacked rock abutment in case a rock falls on it.

To lift out the old superstructure and its timber …

Car show Thursday: Classics cruise to Main Street

A car just like Gary and Shirley Day’s beautiful Plymouth broke the land-speed record at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats in 1956, reaching 149 mph. The Mt. Aukum couple’s gorgeous Fury won’t be hitting any record-setting speeds Thursday, Aug. 28, when it cruises into Placerville for the popular Hangtown Evening Car Show, but even at 5 mph it’s a sight that takes the breath away.

The Days are happy to bring their baby to the annual car show, which each summer fills Main Street with breathtaking vehicles and appreciative …

Murderer up for parole for seventh time

A family is trying to keep a man in prison after he fatally shot his stepson and injured his wife and other stepson 29 years ago.

On Aug. 17, 1985, Robert Kaser entered the Placerville home of Priscilla Dixon. The married couple was estranged, and Kaser was there to pick up some belongings.

“He went to the bedroom. At the time, I didn’t know a gun was there,” Dixon said. She knew the .45 caliber handgun was in the house, likely in the bedroom, but it wasn’t something she thought about.

Her two sons, Ehren Dixon, 14, and Myles Dixon, 12, were in their bedroom, putting shoes on to help Kaser, “laughing, doing what kids do.” Priscilla was …

County Counsel retires next week

After 21 years in the department, including the past nearly two years as County Counsel, Ed Knapp is hanging up his “neologisms” and closing his “Brown Act for Dummies” book. Knapp spends hours every week sitting at the County Counsel’s table in the Board of Supervisors chambers answering or being ready to answer any legal questions a supervisor or staff member may put to him. And sometimes, completely unlawyer-like, he even says, “I don’t know.”

He does, however, know “Knapp’s law of public meetings — The hot air expands to fill the time allotted.”

Knapp laughs telling about moving from New Hampshire in 1971 in an old beater. “Wherever the car dies is where we’ll stay,” he recalled. The car made it all the way to San Francisco, so that became …

Marilyn Ferguson — a city jewel

Marilyn Ferguson is a not-so-hidden jewel in the city of Placerville. You just have to know where to look — at the Fountain Tallman Museum, 524 Main St. Ferguson has been the manager of the museum for the past seven years, but her contributions in preserving the history of Placerville go back much further.

The 83-year-old is quick-witted and slightly irreverent, with a wry sense of humor, and she knows more about Placerville than just about anyone. Her years of historical research and involvement in historical organizations have made Ferguson the go-to person when anyone has a question about Placerville history, but when she and her late husband moved to Placerville from San Diego in 1967 to raise their children in a less crowded environment, she was a housewife, not a historian. “What got me were the backs of the buildings you could see from the highway, before they were cleaned up like they are now,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson met a mother while volunteering at her children’s …

Head Start: Teachers protest pay cuts

At about 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 14, about 20 people were lined up on Green Valley Road outside of the El Dorado County Office of Education.

“EDCOE not honoring contract,” read one sign. “We won’t just quit, we’re teachers and role models,” read another. Teachers, classroom assistants and speech therapists had gathered from multiple districts to protest a new contract forced on Head Start teachers.

“We’re not really protesting,” preschool teacher Luann Carlson said. They were, instead, giving out information.

The new contract was “affecting teachers and families” in …

School bus hit head-on, five suffer minor injuries

A collision involving a school bus bound for Union Mine High School resulted in minor injuries and an arrest on Thursday.

The CHP responded to Grizzly Flat Road near Mahaney Ranch Road at 6:50 a.m. on a report of a collision involving a school bus, CHP Officer Quinn Cuthbertson said. Two passenger vehicles were involved.

The bus had been traveling westbound towards town, Cuthbertson said, when Steven Gruber, 24, who was heading eastbound, drove into the oncoming lane. The bus driver, Jennifer Shields …

Sly Park bridge: Demolition due for other half

POLLOCK PINES — The California Department of Transportation is advising motorists that Sly Park Road will be closed to through traffic at the U.S. Highway 50 undercrossing due to bridge demolition work this week.

During demolition work this week, Sly Park Road is scheduled to be closed to through traffic overnight …

Percy on the case: EDC Fire gets arson investigation dog

A black dog with a white spot on its chest was led into a room by its handler. Within seconds, the dog found the hidden glass jar, containing a cotton ball.

“Good check,” called out El Dorado County Fire Capt. Brandon McKay. Percy, a female lab/pointer mix, barked while digging under the chair the jar was hidden under, grabbing the jar and bringing it out for McKay to see. “Good …”

George Peabody retains sunny outlook after house fire

You wouldn’t think that having colon cancer and watching your house burn would be fun, but 95-year-old George Peabody, erstwhile El Dorado County historian, has a different idea of fun.

“Everything, no matter how bad, has a component of fun,”insisted Peabody from his temporary home in Placerville. “People say, ‘Oh, come on, George, getting shot up at Iwo Jima couldn’t have been fun,’ but I say it wasn’t comfortable, but there was some fun in the whole process. If it ain’t fun, then make it fun.”

On July 31, around 3 p.m., the garage of Peabody’s home off Hank’s Exchange caught fire, possibly from an electrical panel. Sequoya Nylander, Peabody’s caregiver, had just finished giving him lunch and as she looked out the windows of the hexagonal house …

Restored Jeep joined D-Day 70th anniversary

All cleaned up and looking like new, an old World War II Jeep made a return visit to the place where it saw hazardous duty 70 years ago.

Originally manufactured in the U.S., the 1941 Ford GP quarter-ton reconnaissance vehicle has made the trip to Europe at least twice. Once, according to its owner, as part of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, and a second time in June of this year when it returned for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

In between no one really is sure where else it has been, but ultimately it ended up on the East Coast rusting away until it was bought by English …

Watch out for unlicensed contractors, state warns

The Contractor’s State License Board is urging victims of the Sand Fire to ensure any contractors for debris removal or rebuilding — or even those acting as a consultant and hiring other contractors — have a valid license.

The Amador County and El Dorado County District Attorney offices have joined with the CSLB to crack down on fraud, Melanie Bedwell of the CSLB said, utilizing the Statewide Investigative Fraud Team — better known as SWIFT.

If the contractor is unlicensed, Bedwell said, they are likely unskilled and lack the knowledge needed to get the job done correctly. “It has to be done to code,” she said. There is also the worry about Worker’s Compensation, which does not exist for unlicensed contractors, and taking money and disappearing with no contract…

Fire generated small city, inspired volunteers

With the Sand Fire 95 percent contained and everyone breathing a little easier, on Wednesday a tour of the incident command post at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds showed activity had already started tapering off.

Outside the building used as the incident command center, a map showed the extent of the fire.

“It was a topography-driven fire,” said Cal Fire Public Information Officer Kevin Lucero of Butte County as he traced on the map where it began and how it spread. Walking the length of the fairgrounds, he described how all the different planning and logistical units fit together to suppress the fire as well as the role other agencies and community groups played throughout the fire…

Sand Fire nears containment: 66 structures destroyed

The Sand Fire has been kept at bay at 3,800 acres burned with 80 percent containment.

About 50 people milled about the Ponderosa High School cafeteria waiting for an update Monday morning. Most were evacuees, waiting to hear whether roads had been opened so they could go home, wondering if they still had a home to go to. A few, including married couple Rick Ogden and Colleen O’Key, who the Mountain Democrat spoke to the previous day, already knew their home was gone.

A few minutes after 9 a.m., Cal Fire Battalion Chief Scott …

Sand Fire burns more than 4,000 acres

A fast-moving fire that began in El Dorado County Friday afternoon and then moved into Amador County has burned more than 4,000 acres.

Named the Sand Fire, 10 residences and seven outbuildings have been destroyed and 515 more are threatened. Containment was at 35 percent by Sunday morning with firefighters hampered by weather conditions and steep terrain.

Starting at approximately 4:34 p.m., the fire began at the juncture of Highway 49 and …

District 2: Candidates debate jobs versus lifestyle

Economic development, jobs and preserving El Dorado County’s rural nature were the major themes of the evening as the first candidates forum for those running for the District 2 Supervisor took place Wednesday night.

Sponsored by the Shingle Springs-Cameron Park Chamber of Commerce, all of the candidates were present with the exception of Jennifer Nutting.

Using a format in which the candidates spent the bulk of their time responding to written questions from the audience, the snappy one-hour forum still gave everyone an idea of which way the candidates would …

Road zone of benefit protester reaches dead end

Jerry Pasto and his neighbors have a problem.

They want the county to take something off their hands that the county really doesn’t want — namely a few roads.

A story that spans more than 25 years, since 1988 Pasto and his neighbors have been paying into a Zone Of Benefit (ZOB) that maintains six and a half miles of roads in River Pines Estates, a development in Mt. Aukum.

The ZOB includes parts of Bertone Drive, Flat Creek Drive, Jessica Court, Rabbit Ridge, Squirrel Hollow and …

EDH community unites to patch up historic barn

El Dorado County is a place defined by its history. Members of it embrace the past and nearly anything that reflects it.

Don’t believe it? Take a drive. The back roads are altars to the past. Communities revere old stone buildings. Rusty farm implements are proudly displayed for passersby. Sepia-toned hay barns topped with corrugated steel roofs glow in the afternoon light.

Visitors pull over and take pictures. The past also fuels a lively tourism economy.

Sierra Ridge: Full circle for principal

Education was the last career field 18-year-old Kim Little planned to enter. The El Dorado High School graduate didn’t know what she wanted to do, so she went to community college for a while. Then she needed a job and answered an ad in the Mountain Democrat for an instructional aide position for a special needs student at Camino School. “I thought, ‘Well, I’ve done some babysitting so…’” she said.

She got the job and 20 years later, Little has been an instructional aide, a bus driver, a custodian, a volleyball coach, classroom teacher and Title I Reading Specialist. This school year, Little, 38, begins her first year as the new principal of Sierra Ridge Middle School, a school she attended as a …

Rail and trail combo plan gets on track with grant

Plans to bring back to life an old transportation corridor that stretches from Folsom to Placerville were discussed at a workshop on July 10.

Held at the Cameron Park Community Center, some 140 residents, property owners and trails and rails people showed up to listen and ask questions.

Aimed at kicking off a year-long planning process, the workshop gave the audience a big picture view of what the organizers want to accomplish. The end result of the project will be a rail and trail plan that offers different scenarios for how …

Water saver shares tips on conservation

Don’t hate her because her lawn is beautiful.

When most homeowners have accepted dry, brown lawns due to enforced watering restrictions, El Dorado Hills resident Marie Levy’s grass is vibrant and her water bill is 60 percent less than it used to be.

“We’re always having a drought here in California so I’m always thinking of ways to conserve water,” Levy said of her habit that began years ago. “It’s really easy, actually. It’s just figuring out the plumbing.”

By creating her home’s water-saving infrastructure with support from her father, husband and adult son, Levy says she “can water her lawn every day as long as there’s laundry water in the tank.”

That laundry water is stored in two 1,000-gallon tanks in her side-yard, the key component …

Firefighters save Somerset church

A fire burned 23 acres in Somerset Wednesday afternoon.

The fire began near the Pioneer Bible Church around 2:30 p.m., said Robert Little of Cal Fire. It ultimately burned 23 acres before being contained at 4:21 p.m.

The fire was believed to begin at a farmhouse near the church. A PG&E worker confirmed there were power lines to the farmhouse and that power had been swiftly turned off. Though the fire came within feet of other power lines, they were …

Duo will race to Mongolia

It’s a long, long way from Pleasant Valley to the steppes of Mongolia, especially if you go by car — a small, low-powered car with four adults inside. While former Pleasant Valley residents Sarah and Clint Wirtanen won’t be driving from Pleasant Valley to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, they will be driving 10,000-12,000 miles from London to Mongolia through all manner of terrain and political environments. The length of the rally, according to Bruce Wirtanen, Clint and Sarah’s father, “is like driving from here to LA and back 25 times.”

It’s a why-not kind of thing for the California Dirt Shrew …

New stuff for food stuff at EDHS

The El Dorado High School cafeteria will be getting a new lease on life this summer, both figuratively and literally.

Beginning on June 2, the EDHS cafeteria remodel will include modernizing the current food prep area, converting part of the lunchroom into a food serving area and adding 5,000 square feet for a new multipurpose room.

The long, narrow rectangle of the current cafeteria will sprout two new parts — the new multipurpose room that will extend east of the cafeteria and a large, covered outdoor …

State water board: Stored water secured; water rights less so

SACRAMENTO — With the drought continuing to exact its toll, on Wednesday the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) voted unanimously to adopt an emergency regulation that will require junior water right holders throughout the state to stop taking water once they receive a curtailment order from the agency.

The decision came after a full day of hearing testimony on Tuesday followed by a half day of discussions on Wednesday.

SWRCB Chair Felicia Marcus repeatedly said the regulation was needed to ensure that those with senior water rights were protected. However, that statement seemed at odds with what SWRCB staff initially recommended, as they proposed that both junior and senior water rights users be …

Harris homicide case: Weiner could be a witness

A judge will determine if a woman accused of killing her husband will be forced to receive a new attorney after her current one became a potential prosecution witness.

A June 27 hearing in the Colleen Harris case began with three attorneys instead of the usual two: Joe Alexander from the District Attorney’s Office; David Weiner for Harris; and Mark Ralphs of the Public Defender’s Office representing Harris in a very limited capacity — a motion to recuse Weiner lobbied by the prosecution.

Ralphs had a handwritten document signed by Harris regarding the possible conflict of interest, with Harris waiving her rights. When asked by Judge Daniel B. Proud if she intended on keeping Weiner as her attorney, she replied, “I do.”

This could, Proud told her …

Dental services for special needs population imperiled

Dr. Rodney Bughao of El Dorado Hills serves a unique population in his dental practice — people who cannot receive dental services in a traditional dental office setting, but who must be put under general anesthesia in a hospital.

“I work with sleep apnea patients one day a week,” said Bughao, “but 98 percent of my patients are people with developmental disabilities …”

Junction founder Jerry Burke dies

Jerry Burke, a master tap instructor, showman and founder of Burke Junction, died Tuesday night, June 24, at the age of 89.

A popular and well-known businessman in Cameron Park, friends and family described him as a unique character who brought fun and laughter into their lives.

Dog lost for 20 months reunited with EDH family

On Oct. 6, 2012, the Braun family’s golden retriever Murphy, startled by a gun shot, bolted into the Tahoe National Forest near an off-trail campsite at Hell Hole reservoir.

Over the next two days they scoured the area for Murphy but that Sunday evening they went home to El Dorado Hills without their beloved pet … but the family had no intention of giving up the search.

Fire severely damages home

A fire left half of a Diamond Springs home standing Friday afternoon.

The fire was reported to be at 621 De Cair Court at 2:50 p.m., Diamond Springs Fire Battalion Chief Ken Earle said.

“It was a residential fire, the cause is still under investigation,” he said. There were no injuries.

The house was “severely damaged,” Earle said, with about half the house standing and the other half blackened …

A pioneering heart: Woman gets wireless pacemaker

El Dorado County is home to many trail blazers, with the latest being 80-year-old Rita Gordon Carrow of Placerville.

A charmingly persistent woman, Carrow has had a string of successes as a real estate agent, stockbroker, private pilot, registered principal, registered investment advisor, scuba diving trainer, whitewater rafting guide and author.

Her latest accomplishment is as a medical pioneer as she is one of only a small handful of people in California to be fitted with a wireless pacemaker.

Still in the testing stage because it has not yet been approved by the Federal Drug Administration, Carrow decided to take a chance with the new device when she developed atrial fibrillation, or afib, after having surgery for cataracts and glaucoma in early 2013.

PTSD: Trauma causes distress

William Blaylock of El Dorado Hillls didn’t know he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when he returned from Vietnam in 1969. He didn’t know it for 37 years even though he had flashbacks of combat in Vietnam when he saw fireworks and felt the humid air wafting in from the jungle while on vacation in Puerta Vallarta. He slept only five-six hours a night, getting up to check the perimeter of his house every night and he had many, many jobs. He had recurring dreams and nightmare and it was hard for him to trust anyone. His marriage to a woman he married before going to Vietnam failed a few years after his return.

The term “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” has been used only since 1980, but the disorder has affected people for thousands of years, being noted in writings as far back as 490 B.C. It’s been termed “shell shock,” “battle fatigue” or “malaise du pays,” but PTSD is caused by trauma.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder …

Placerville nurse returns to cross-country air race

Continuing in the tradition of Amelia Earhart and 19 other women in an air race across the country in 1929, a Placerville woman is taking part in the Air Race Classic, starting June 16.

Cindy Ashmead, a nurse at Marshall Hospital in Placerville, will navigate a Beechcraft Bonanza K35, flown by Sandy St. John of Forni, Texas.

On Thursday, the pair flew out to Concord, Calif., where the race will start. At 8 a.m. on June 16, they, along with 51 other teams — each with two or three people — will take off, planes following each other every 15-30 seconds. It will be the only time the entire group …

Smith was ‘larger than life’

Georgetown seems quieter with Mark Smith gone. In his 63 years of living on the Georgetown Divide, he was never still. Even when he was off on an adventure, or traveling, or at his cabin near Butte, Mont., his energy was felt. With the help of others, his dreams continued to become real. “His presence was larger than life,” said Glenda Gau, who worked for him as a Jeep adventure consultant.

An adventurer, an explorer, an outdoorsman, a visionary, a community benefactor, an historian, a promoter, a storyteller, a prankster, a generous friend, an animal lover, a forceful opponent–he was all those things and more.

In his 87 years, Smith was a Marine, a logger, a pilot, a real estate broker, a lumber business owner, a deputy sheriff, a building contractor, an airport manager and a developer of residential neighborhoods and a commercial center.

Smith was an active member of the Georgetown Rotary. To encourage tourism and boost the local economy in 1953, the Rotary members, with Smith …

Jeepers Jamboree founder dies

The founder of the Jeepers Jamboree died early Monday morning.

A family member confirmed that Mark A. Smith, 88, known for creating the Jeepers Jamboree in 1953, died about 4:30 a.m. June 9.

“The four-wheel drive world lost a great champion,” Mike Arnold said. “Mark was instrumental” in getting the Arnold family involved in off-roading, he said. “If not for him, I never would have gotten involved.”

A joint project between the Rotary Club and Georgetown …

Placerville Lions have a good outlook

1924 was a very good year — the nation was at peace between World Wars, the economy was booming and the first service club in El Dorado County, the Placerville Lions Club, was chartered in Placerville.

“The first Lions Club was chartered by Melvin Jones in Chicago in 1917, as a way for businessmen to connect and network,” said Michael Ocensak, past president of the Placerville Lions Club. “Helen Keller spoke at one of the meetings and called on the Lions to become ‘knights for the blind,’ so our mission …”

EDH man remembers piloting troop transport on D-Day

On June 7, 1944, an El Dorado Hills man turned 18 years old. The previous day, he was manning the throttle of a landing craft tank, dropping off men and vehicles on the beaches of Normandy for the D-Day invasion.

Ed Salata, then a Motor Machinist 2nd Petty Officer with the 103rd Combat Engineers, manned his 120-foot-long LCT Mark 6 at 8:30 a.m. on D-Day, part of the third wave of soldiers to hit the beach. “It was a rough go across the Channel,” he recalled.