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Mendocino County Today: Sunday, July 29, 2018

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At about 10:25 p.m., thousands of PG&E customers lost power across both Mendocino and Lake Counties. Two wildfires – the River Fire that started near Hopland yesterday (9000 acres) and the Ranch Fire that started near Potter Valley yesterday (5000 acres) – are burning in both counties. They are now being called the Mendocino Complex.

At this point, PG&E has not released information about the outage. The Ukiah Police Department sent out a Nixle alert stating, “The power is out due to the fires.   Unknown estimated return time. Please use 911 for emergencies only.”

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MONTE BLOYD ROAD vegetation fire at Black Kite Cellars in Philo. The "Monte Incident." At 7:21 am Sunday they discovered a "life safety hazard - power lines down." A first responder said they found a single power line down. At 7:37 am, they had the fire contained and a line around the fire and it burned approximately one-acre. They would continue "mop up" at the site. A CalFire inmate hand crew was requested to respond @ 7:43 am to "clear some brush."

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Hwy 20 looking back toward Lakeport. (Mendocino County Sheriff, 7/28/18)

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Ranch Fire 13,242 Acres, 5% Contained

River Fire 11,028 Acres, 5% Contained

Structures Destroyed: 4 Residences and 1 Outbuilding

Structures Threatened: 4,587

Firefighters continue to battle the River and Ranch fires. Crews worked throughout the night to reinforce containment lines. Weather conditions will continue to challenge firefighters as hot, dry and windy conditions persist. A lack of available suppression and overhead personnel will also slow the firefighting efforts.

-Mandatory Evacuations-

Mendocino County:
• 8000 block of River Road, South to the intersection of Highway 175 from the Russian River east to the Lake County Line, within the North South points. These evacuations also include all driveways and homes located between the North South points.
• Potter Valley Community
• All areas north of Highway CA- 20, east of the fire edge, to the Mendocino-Lake County Line
• South of Burris Lane to MeWhinney Creek and east of East Side Potter Valley Road, to include feeder roads utilizing Burris Lane east to the Mendocino-Lake County Line.

Lake County:
• Community of Lakeport, everything south of Scotts Creek Road to Scotts Valley Road to Highway CA-29; Everything west of Highway CA-29 from Scotts Valley Road to Highland Springs Road; Everything north of Highland Springs Road, Mathews Road, George Road, and Highway CA-175 to the Lake-Mendocino County Line; Everything east of Lake-Mendocino County line from Scotts Creek Road to Highway CA-175.
• North of Highway CA-20, west of Mendenhall Avenue; East of the Mendocino-Lake County Line; South of Mendocino National Forest; West of Mendenhall Avenue

-Evacuation Advisory/Warning-

Mendocino County Evacuation Warning:
• Highway 20 from the 6000 block to the Lake County line and into the Blue Lakes area.
• Potter Valley, Burris Lane area
• North of 8000 block of River Road to Yokayo Ranch Road

Lake County Evacuation Advisory:
• Blue Lakes
• Bachelor Valley
• Witter Springs
• North Scotts Valley Road from the 7000 block to Highway CA-20
• Lakeport and surrounding areas
• North of Highway CA-20, east of Mendenhall Avenue; East of Mendenhall Avenue; South of the Mendocino National Forest boundary; West of Robinson Casino

Road Closures:
• Highway CA-175, at Old River Road to eastbound traffic (Mendocino Co.)
• Highway CA-175, at Highway CA-29 to westbound traffic. (Lake Co.)
• Old River Road, between the 7000 block and Highway CA-175
• Old River Road, between the 7000 and 8000 block is open to residents only

Evacuation Center(s):
• Mendocino College, Dance Room at 1000 Hensley Creek Road, Ukiah

Animal Evac. Center(s):
• Redwood Riders Arena, 8300 East Road, Redwood Valley is accepting horses.
• Animal Care, 298 Plant Road, Ukiah is accepting small animals

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Mendocino County Sheriff posted last night: "N-95 masks are available to the public at no cost at the Ukiah Library on Sunday, 7/29/18 1pm to 5pm. We'll have more sites in the County where you pick up a mask soon and we'll post the locations here. If you know of anyone that has respiratory issues, please make them aware that the masks are available. Thank you for your help in getting this information out."

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Lucerne, CA, July 28, 2018 – photo by Craig Philpott –

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FIRE NOTES, Saturday, July 28:


On Friday, July 27, 2018, two major fires broke out near Hwy 20 close to Potter Valley (Ranch Fire) and near Old River Rd in the South Ukiah/Hopland area (the River Fire). These fires are collectively being referred to as the Mendocino Complex Fire. There have been mandatory evacuations and evacuation advisories for both fires.

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been activated and is being operated by the Office of Emergency Services (OES) with the assistance of the Executive Office. The EOC number is (707) 467-6428.

There are shelters open at Mendocino College, Redwood Riders Arena for horses, as well as the Ukiah Animal Shelter. More shelters will be made available should the need arise.

Due to these fires that have resulted in threats to critical infrastructure including public safety communications systems, structural damage and evacuations of several portions of the County, a condition of extreme peril to life and property now exists in Mendocino County and a Local Emergency has been declared.

Further press releases are forth coming as the Mendocino Complex Fire progresses.

Real time updates are being made on the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page ( and Twitter feed (

Carmel J. Angelo

Chief Executive Officer

Gregory Van Patten, Incident PIO

Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office

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FRIDAY EVENING, with two large fires burning east of Highway 101 close enough to be considered one "complex" by CalFire, the power went out in Anderson Valley and areas of the Mendocino Coast, and in the sudden, almost eerie silence, it was as if we were all holding our breath in anticipation of worse.

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SATURDAY NIGHT about 10:30 the power in AV went out again as we were preparing to post MCT. It came back on in the wee hours just after 3am.

THEN OUR INTERNET CONNECTION DROPPED. We weren’t back on line until around 8am.

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(Click to enlarge)

THE TWO FIRES exploded overnight, Friday, with the Hopland fire forcing a mandatory evacuation of residents of the Hopland rez and Casino area, Fetzer Vineyards, the UC Berkeley Hopland Research and Extension Center.

Cal Fire spokeswoman Tricia Austin describes the fire's volatility as "extreme fire behavior" occurring in precipitous terrain. Some 120 firefighters struggled all day Saturday in 100-degree heat to keep the fire out of Lakeport. Highway 175 is closed.

FARTHER NORTH but also in Mendocino County, the Ranch fire, exploded overnight from 1,000 acres to 3,500 acres as of Saturday morning. It is burning northeast  off Highway 20 away from Potter Valley through mostly uninhabited rangeland. Seven firefighters have been injured battling the blazes.

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MSP followed Sonoma County Air Tanker #85 on its last retardant drop @ 11:15 am and it clearly illustrates how the fire is headed east towards Lakeport. An evacuation warning for that city is expected soon - if it hasn’t been issued already.

CalFire said there was a “drastic increase” in fire activity with “torching in the crowns of trees and significant runs through the brush” Saturday morning.

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MSP heard scanner chatter @ 10:58 am about whether an "Evacuation Warning" should be issued for Lakeport.

Air Attack said fire activity has "drastically increased" with "torching in trees and "significant runs through the brush."

The spotter plane said the distance from the fire to Lakeport was "two miles by air, a little farther on the ground." They updated that distance to "five miles by air" but there is little in the way to stop the fire...

At 11:03 am, dispatch said there was "an immediate need for Strike Teams in Lakeport."

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The scanner said Little Lake & Brooktrails Fire departments as well as CalFire air, ground & inmate units were dispatched to a reported vegetation fire near 5380 Wild Iris Lane.

More info when available.

SR 175 is now closed from Hopland in Mendocino County to Mathews Road in Lake County due to the River Fire. At this time SR 20 remains open between Lake and Mendocino County.

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AT 130 SATURDAY AFTERNOON, the Lake County Sheriff announced the fire was threatening the neighborhoods just west of the center of Lakeport:

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(Click to enlarge)

THE BLAZE burning east  and overnight from Hopland up and over the mountain led by Highway 175 was five miles from Lakeport by 11am Saturday morning, and the authorities were advising townspeople they should be prepared to leave. By 1:30pm, Lakeport was told to get out.

This is a MANDATORY EVACUATION Notice for the area west of State Route 29 in and around the City of Lakeport.

The area to be evacuated includes all areas west of Hwy 29 between Highland Springs Road and 11th Street/Scotts Valley Road, and west to the Lake/Mendocino County Line.

A shelter has been established at Mountain Vista Middle School in Kelseyville.  Additional shelters will be announced as they become available.

A Mandatory Evacuation means that you should leave immediately!

(Lake County Sheriff)

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This is a MANDATORY EVACUATION Notice for the area west of State Route 29 in and around the City of Lakeport.

The area to be evacuated includes all areas west of Hwy 29 between Highland Springs Road and 11th Street/Scotts Valley Road, and west to the Lake/Mendocino County Line.

A shelter has been established at Mountain Vista Middle School in Kelseyville.  Additional shelters will be announced as they become available.

A Mandatory Evacuation means that you should leave immediately!


Leave Immediately!

(Lake County Sheriff’s Department)

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(click to enlarge)

(Photo by Pete Geniella)

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Carr Fire Missing Person Procedures

If you are unable to get a hold of a loved one, please do the following:

1) Check the Red Cross Safe & Well website at:

Please be advised that not everyone who has checked into a shelter has been registered due to the amount of people receiving services. The Red Cross is working to process evacuees as fast as they can.

2) If the Red Cross does not have a record of your loved one, you may call our missing person hotline at 530-225-4277. This is for the City of Redding and for unincorporated Shasta County.

Redding Police Department

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KGO, 3:15pm: Mendocino Complex Fire prompt mandatory evacuations in Mendocino County

Two fires have prompted mandatory evacuations in Mendocino County. The two fires, burning 30 miles (50 kilometers) apart, started Friday and are threatening more than 350 buildings. The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office ordered evacuations for people living in an area of Ukiah north of Highway 175. Residents in neighboring Benmore Valley were also told to leave Saturday.

Cal Fire officials said more than 10,000 firefighters were on the line, making progress on 14 large wildfires across California.

President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for California on Saturday, allowing counties affected by wildfires to receive federal assistance. In a statement, the White House said the declaration will open up the availability of necessary equipment and resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Huge fires continued to burn outside Yosemite National Park and in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles near Palm Springs. As of Saturday morning, these fires have burned nearly 160,000 acres (64,700 hectares) and destroyed over 500 structures. Yosemite Valley remains closed to visitors and won't reopen until Friday.

Nationally, 89 active large fires have consumed nearly 930,000 acres (376,000 hectares) in 14 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. So far this year, nearly 37,000 wildfires have burned more than 4.25 million acres (1.7 million hectares).

Click here for information from Cal Fire on the incident and for the latest evacuation information.

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While the ‘River Fire’ blossoms behind the Anderson Valley Market in Boonville.

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This is a MANDATORY EVACUATION Notice for the area west of State Route 29 in and around the City of Lakeport.

The area to be evacuated includes all areas west of Hwy 29 between Highland Springs Road and 11th Street/Scotts Valley Road, and west to the Lake/Mendocino County Line.

A shelter has been established at Mountain Vista Middle School in Kelseyville.  Additional shelters will be announced as they become available.

A Mandatory Evacuation means that you should leave immediately!


Leave Immediately!

(Lake County Sheriff’s Department)

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JAMES MARMON: SHERIFF ALLMAN was on Betsy's (Cawn) radio station with Sheriff Martin; Allman has ordered Mendo deputies over here to help out.  Ranch fire is now closing in on Upper Lake.  My brother and Mom are loading up valuables in Nice and getting ready to evac.  Doesn't look good so far.  They have already evacuated the hospital over by the jail.  I haven't heard what their plans are for the jail.


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FROM CHP UKIAH SATURDAY AFTERNOON: Today one of our officers cited a driver for throwing a lit cigarette out of a moving vehicle on US-101 south of Talmage. Not only is this behavior dangerous it is also a crime. Fire danger is high and as everyone in the Ukiah area can see our fire fighters are already busy fighting multiple fires.

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Live map: See the River and Ranch fires near Ukiah and Hopland in real time

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Fire at Lake Berryessa burns structures

A wildfire, the Steele Fire, burned multiple structures on the southern shore of Lake Berryessa in Napa County Saturday, prompting authorities to issue mandatory evacuation orders for the Berryessa Highlands.

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Air tankers were on “hold” at the Mendocino Fire Complex Saturday afternoon - but a new incident in Napa County - the “Steele Fire” started and the tankers went from on “hold” to “assigned.”

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Please do not be offended but what I’m about to say. I’m going to guess I’ve given my personal cell phone number to over 2000 people. I appreciate the day-to-day contact we have and the relationship on Facebook. However, when a fire or major disaster happens, and you send me text questions regarding evacuations or road closures, it diverts my attention from other things that I need to be doing. There are many websites where you can obtain the same information that I have. Thank you for not being offended; however, I really need to focus on things that need my attention.

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[1] Wood framed houses can be made relatively fire safe. Here is a clear and comprehensive paper published through UC Cooperative Extension on how to “fire harden” a home:

There are other factors involved as well. Last autumn I saw a home near Calistoga that burned. It had a metal roof and stucco siding. But it also had juniper growing directly under the eave. Juniper (as well as most aromatic plants) burn like grease. A hot fire under the eave is a ticket to ride for a home ignition. Likewise, firewood or construction scraps under the deck, against the wall, etc. can undermine the use of safer materials. So in essence, achieving a fire hardened home involves an equation with many variables, and small details count heavily.

In addition, Yana Valachovic, a co-author of the fire hardened homes paper referenced above, hosted a webinar last month on lessons learned from last autumn’s North Bay fires. Here’s the link if you care to explore further:

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[2] Good information. Thanks. I noticed on the drone videos of burnt subdivision that there were frequent patches of large coniferous trees still standing and not skeletonized. They must be somewhat non contributing to fire. Has anyone done an inventory of these kinds of trees?

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[3] I agree. Built my house in Piercy with ‘steel studs’. Would imagine if a fire was hot enough the framing might warp a bit, but afterwards you could simply re-sheet the thing in what ever form it took, and win all kinds of awards. Aside from that, it’s bug proof, straight as an arrow & no tree deaths. Been using it back East for years, but carpenters hate the stuff!

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Caltrans’ Zeal For ‘Efficient’ Traffic Flow Ignores Lake County Advisory Board Proposal

One Saturday morning, recently, a small child and her Grandmother tried to cross Highway 20 in Lucerne. She wanted to take her Granddaughter to the Park. Because the turning lane for drivers is far longer than is needed, a car came racing down the Turning Lane. He was using it as a passing lane. It happens all the time. When Grandma failed to see the offender in time we nearly had another tragedy.

What was Caltrans’ answer to our request, as a part of our Proposal, to shorten the five, extra-long turning lanes along Highway 20, on the North side of Clear Lake? In their letter response they wrote; ‘Caltrans’ Engineering and Traffic Survey sets realistic speed limits.

If that vague explanation wasn’t enough to throw cold water on Lake County’s cry for help, we were told, ‘Caltrans only checks out the problem every five years.’ We had to wait several years until they followed their rules, regardless of the Damocles sword over Grandma’s head.

What makes Caltrans jump to correct a problem? They say three things decide when they jump; (1 ‘Prevailing speeds’, (2) ‘collision history’, and (3) ‘conditions not readily apparent to drivers’.

Sound good? Maybe not. Those extra-long turning lanes break of all three Caltrans rules for a serious Road Condition at all five towns along SR 20.

Caltrans is wearing blinders. It is not the drivers that worry about collisions. It is not the Drivers that ignore the speed signs. It is not the Drivers that are concerned with ’conditions not readily apparent’.  It is Grandma. It is the residents of Lake County, who live and use the Parks on SR 20. Grandma and her Granddaughter risk life and limb from the drivers that use the much-too-long turning lanes at every one of the five communities along the eighteen miles North of the Lake.

I admit, Caltrans final comment in their letter appeared to be their wish to help. They said, “Caltrans will be reviewing ways to address your safety concerns with the communities along SR 20.”

The plain truth is nowhere in Caltrans’ ballpark. The communities, in their Town Hall meetings, have already clearly expressed their wishes. Our Lake County Region 3 Proposal is short, succinct, clear and specific. The Proposal, if recognized, will go miles to correct the problems on SR20. Caltrans, please examine our proposal a second time.

Gene Paleno

This article represents North Shore, Highway 20 Citizens and the three Region 3 Advisory Boards.

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Meet Little Nic. It was BIG Nic's 30th birthday, and he can't have more cats, so his grandmother is covering Little Nic's adoption fees! BIG Nic thinks this is so cool!   Little Nic lived in a foster home with his siblings for the first 6 weeks of their lives, where he was loved, well socialized, and played with other cats and dogs. At the shelter, Little Nic lives with his sibling, Harry. They'd love to go home together! Hope is a lovely dog who was quite shy when she found herself at the shelter. Since then, she has gained confidence and has become a shelter favorite. Hope is very easy to leash up and has impeccable kennel manners. She's smart, knows sit and down, and takes treats with a gentle, soft mouth. Hope is a beautiful 1 year old, spayed, female, mixed breed dog and weighs a svelte 56 pounds. We have LOTS more information about Hope on her webpage, so check her out at

The Ukiah Animal Shelter is located at 298 Plant Road in Ukiah, and adoption hours are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm and Wednesday from 10 am to 6:30 pm.   To see photos and bios of the shelter's adoptable animals, please visit us online at: or visit the  shelter. Join us the second Saturday of every month for our "Empty the Shelter" pack walk and help us get every dog out for   socialization and exercise!  For more information about adoptions please call 707-467-6453.

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(Is this a problem in Mendocino County?)

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BACK WHEN, a reader writes: "The young don't remember the San Francisco we grew up in back in the day. This was before the homeless 'population explosion.' The streets of our city were relatively clean and Market Street wasn't riddled with mentally ill drug addicts littering the sidewalks. One could drive around the city and the Bay Area without the constant traffic congestion of today. Parks in the city were filled with kids playing baseball on dirt and grass diamonds. Today, many ballparks have been turned into dog parks. Why not, because dogs outnumber children in this town? I can remember a working class San Francisco in which you didn't have to be a millionaire to buy a house or even rent an apartment. Residential neighborhoods were filled with families and children played everywhere. Now, San Francisco has the lowest percentage of residences with children living in them in the entire country at pathetic 13 percent."

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BEFORE we rush to embrace the FBI's 'proud tradition of impartiality and neutrality' just because Trump screwed the pooch in firing its fumbling director Comey, just hold on a second.... J. Edgar never died, his paranoid ghost stalks us. The agency is a rigid top down yessir nossir bureaucracy with a historical and irresistible tendency to break and bend laws. (It messed up the 9/11 investigation by not listening to its own whistleblowers. It loves entrapping dumb-as-dogshit, mentally retarded 'terrorists'.) By many accounts, the agency was virulently anti-Hillary and today is 'Trumplandia' with agents openly admitting who they voted for. Within living memory the agency engineered COINTELPRO, to illegally disrupt anti-war, civil rights and left groups; and colluded with presidents Kennedy and Nixon to smear Martin Luther King into (they hoped) suicide.

— Clancy Sigal

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CATCH OF THE DAY, July 28, 2018

Anguiano, Blahut, Collins

BASILIO ANGUIANO, Ukiah. Trespassing, illegal camping, paraphernalia, probation revocation.

MICHAEL BLAHUT, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery, vandalism.

TYLER COLLINS, Rohnert Park/Ukiah. DUI.

Fernandez-Rodriguez, Humphrey, Kester

TOMAS FERNANDEZ-RODRIGUEZ, Boonville. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

NICOLE HUMPHREY, Ukiah. Domestic battery.

ADAM KESTER, Willits. Petty theft, shoplifting, resisting.

Mangrum, Nicks, Nielsen

CHRISTOPHER MANGRUM, Willits. Under influence, concealed weapon in vehicle, suspended license, felon with loaded firearm, probation revocation.

DAVID NICKS, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.

JEFFREY NIELSEN, Ukiah. Failure to appear.

Patterson, Shields, Simonson

JAMES PATTERSON III, San Francisco/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

JOHNNY SHIELDS, Ukiah. Domestic abuse, disobeying court order, probation revocation.

DAVID SIMONSON, Willits. Assault weapon, felon with firearm, ammo possession by prohibited person, narcotics for sale, controlled substance for sale, large capacity magazine, smuggling controlled substance into jail, probation revocation.

Simpson, Smith, Suggs

JOSEPH SIMPSON, Laytonville. Domestic battery.

JESSIE SMITH/DANIEL BLOOMER, Ukiah. DUI, open carry of unloaded handgun in vehicle.

RICHARD SUGGS, Ukiah. Domestic abuse, criminal threats, probation revocation.

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Do you play trumpet? Do you know anyone who does? The Swingin' Boonville Big Band is looking for a some talent to fill in the trumpet section. We need someone with some big band experience who can commit to at least two Wednesday night rehearsals a month.  We rehearse in Mendocino and Boonville on alternating weeks.  Our gigs are on Saturday nights except for the annual 4th of July gig. Contact Bob Ayres (707) 937-0059

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The City of Fort Bragg will celebrate our new Coastal Trail next weekend. As part of that, the Noyo Headlands Race will benefit the hospital. Sign up for a run or walk. Come out and cheer the runners on.

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by Thomas Frank

"We had the perfect opportunity to reverse course in 2008, after a deregulatory catastrophe sent the billionaires shrieking for handouts and ruined middle America as collateral damage. That was the perfect moment for liberals to reclaim their Rooseveltian heritage by governing forcefully on behalf of ordinary people, by warring against over-powerful corporations, by demonstrating the power of the state to build a just and humane society. But they didn’t do it." —Thomas Frank

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Saturday August 11, 2018

Festivites begin at Noon. Potluck Dinner at 5pm.

Please bring your favorite Potluck dish.

Corner of Estate Drive & Airport Road, at the Boonville Airport


For additional info contact Cindy or Kirk Wilder at (707) 895-2949

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In response to your question, “How many of you feel a gnawing disgust and contempt for both sides of the US political spectrum”, put me at the top of the list. Please! This pathetic charade has grown past the point of ridiculous and is, as you often note, insulting or should be to any creature that can walk upright and speak even the simplest of sentences. Is this some form of demented attempt to drive us all to chewing through our own wrists to escape the insanity? If so, it may be working.

If the American public is actually demanding violence in this issue, perhaps the violence they would even pay to see would be a series of steel cage death matches between the US Senate members verses the Congress, the democrats verses the republicans, or just about any of the denizens of Washington DC against one another. The hell with “foreign” enemies, all of the real enemies are all right here. Are you ready to rumble?

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LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Not a wink last night! I'm on round-the-clock fire watch. Skrag strolls by the morning and says, "Keep up the good work, suckah. The feline world truly appreciates your vigilance."

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Selfie with right-wing Jewish leaders

Below, the cartoon parody that got Avi Katz fired:

See also Cartoonist Rob Rogers fired for anti-Trump drawings.

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by David Wallace-Wells

There has been a lot of burning lately. Last week, wildfires broke out in the Arctic Circle, where temperatures reached almost 90 degrees; they are still roiling northern Sweden, 21 of them. And this week, wildfires swept through the Greek seaside, outside Athens, killing at least 80 and hospitalizing almost 200. At one resort, dozens of guests tried to escape the flames by descending a narrow stone staircase into the Aegean, only to be engulfed along the way, dying literally in each other’s arms.

Last July, I wrote a much-talked-over magazine cover story considering the worst-case scenarios for climate change — much talked over, in part, because it was so terrifying, which made some of the scenarios a bit hard to believe. Those worst-case scenarios are still quite unlikely, since they require both that we do nothing to alter our emissions path, which is still arcing upward, and that those unabated emissions bring us to climate outcomes on the far end of what’s possible by 2100.

But, this July, we already seem much farther along on those paths than even the most alarmist climate observers — e.g., me — would have predicted a year ago. In a single week earlier this month, dozens of places around the world were hit with record temperatures in what was, effectively, an unprecedented, planet-encompassing heat wave: from Denver to Burlington to Ottawa; from Glasgow to Shannon to Belfast; from Tbilisi, in Georgia, and Yerevan, in Armenia, to whole swaths of southern Russia. The temperature of one city in Oman, where the daytime highs had reached 122 degrees Fahrenheit, did not drop below 108 all night; in Montreal, Canada, 50 died from the heat. That same week, 30 major wildfires burned in the American West, including one, in California, that grew at the rate of 10,000 football fields each hour, and another, in Colorado, that produced a volcano-like 300-foot eruption of flames, swallowing an entire subdivision and inventing a new term — “fire tsunami” — along the way. On the other side of the planet, biblical rains flooded Japan, where 1.2 million were evacuated from their homes. The following week, the heat struck there, killing dozens. The following week.

In other words, it has been a month of historic, even unprecedented, climate horrors. But you may not have noticed, if you are anything but the most discriminating consumer of news. The major networks aired 127 segments on the unprecedented July heat wave, Media Matters usefully tabulated, and only one so much as mentioned climate change. The New York Times has done admirable work on global warming over the last year, launching a new climate desk and devoting tremendous resources to high-production-value special climate “features.” But even their original story on the wildfires in Greece made no mention of climate change — after some criticism on Twitter, they added a reference.

Over the last few days, there has been a flurry of chatter among climate writers and climate scientists, and the climate-curious who follow them, about this failure. In perhaps the most widely parsed and debated Twitter exchange, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes — whose show, All In, has distinguished itself with the seriousness of its climate coverage — described the dilemma facing every well-intentioned person in his spot: the transformation of the planet and the degradation may be the biggest and most important story of our time, indeed of all time, but on television, at least, it has nevertheless proven, so far, a “palpable ratings killer.” All of which raises a very dispiriting possibility, considering the scale of the climate crisis: Has the end of the world as we know it become, already, old news?

If so, that would be really, really bad. As I’ve written before, and as Wen Stephenson echoed more recently in The Baffler, climate change is not a matter of “yes” or “no,” not a binary process where we end up either “fucked” or “not fucked.” It is a system that gets worse over time as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases. We are just beginning to see the horrors that climate change has in store for us —but that does not mean that the story is settled. Things will get worse, almost certainly much, much worse. Indeed, the news about what more to expect, coming out of new research, only darkens our picture of what to expect: Just over the past few weeks, new studies have suggested heat in many major Indian cities would be literally lethal by century’s end, if current warming trends continue, and that, by that time, global economic output could fall, thanks to climate effects, by 30 percent or more. That is an impact twice as deep as the global Great Depression, and it would not be temporary.

These are not the kinds of findings it is easy to ignore, or dismiss, or compartmentalize, even though we have all become exquisitely skilled lately in compartmentalizing the threat. Neither is it easy to forget the stories of the Greek wildfires, or the Japanese heat wave. Which is why it is perhaps important to remember that the media did not ignore these stories, or the month of global climate horrors that gave rise to them. Television networks covered those heat waves 127 times. That is, actually, a very lot! They just utterly failed to “connect the dots,” as Emily Atkin put it incisively at The New Republic —broadcasters told the story of the historic temperatures, but chose not to touch the question of why we were seeing so many of them, all at once, with the atmosphere more full of carbon, and the planet hotter, than it has ever been at any point in human history.

When you think about it, this would be a very strange choice for a producer or an editor concerned about boring or losing his or her audience — it would mean leaving aside the far more dramatic story of the total transformation of the planet’s climate system, and the immediate and all-encompassing threat posed by climate change to the way we live on Earth, to tell the pretty mundane story of some really hot days in the region.

Which is why this all sounds to me a lot more like self-censorship than ratings-chasing — by which I mean self-censorship of two kinds. The first is the intuitive one — the kind done in anticipation of political blowback, an especially acute problem for would-be neutral, would-be centrist platforms like network news. This self-censorship in fear of right-wing backlash is a familiar story, and most of those concerned about global warming know the villains already: oil companies, climate deniers, indifferent (at best) politicians, and constituents who see science as a culture-war front.

But public apathy, and its cousin climate complacency, is as big a problem — perhaps bigger. And this problem, too, is connected to self-censorship on the part of storytellers who feel intimidated from attributing what we used to know as natural disasters to global warming because scientists are so excruciatingly careful about attributing cause. As NPR’s science editor Geoff Brumfiel told Atkin, “You don’t just want to be throwing around, ‘This is due to climate change, that is due to climate change.’”

Well — why not? The stated reason, when a reason is stated, is that scientists can take years to definitively conclude that a particular disaster was impossible without the effects of warming, and often only speak with certainty about specific events a decade or more in the past— the 2003 European heat wave, for instance, which killed tens of thousands. But wildfires are “not caused by climate change” only in the same way that hurricanes are not caused by climate change — which is to say they are (only) made more likely by it, which is to say the distinction is semantic. The same is true, even more so, for heat waves: We know global warming will cause many more deadly temperatures, and should not be confused, at all, when we suddenly encounter an unprecedented number of them. The fact that most climate scientists would say something like, “These disasters are consistent with what we would expect, given global warming,” rather than “these disasters were caused by global warming” is not a reason to elide discussion of climate change. Doing so is an evasion, even if it is made with a scientific alibi.

It is also a dangerous one. Decades of bad-faith debates about whether climate change is “real” and good-faith questions about whether it is “here” have dramatically foreshortened our collective imagination and provided an unfortunately limited picture of what global warming will yield. Treating every climate disaster as a discrete event only compounds the problem, suggesting that impacts will be discrete. They won’t be, and the longer-view story is much more harrowing: not just more months like July, but an unfolding century when a month like this July has become a happy memory of a placid climate. That it is almost hard to believe only makes it a more important story to tell.

(New York Magazine)



  1. Kathy Post author | July 29, 2018

    KOZT radio reports: PG&E confirmed that 50,000 customers in Mendocino and Lake Counties were out of power beginning at about 10:30 Saturday night.
    Outage was caused by heavy smoke around transmission lines, such heavy smoke that it became a conductor of electricity, shorting out transmission lines.

  2. George Hollister July 29, 2018

    Thomas Frank:

    “That was the perfect moment for liberals to reclaim their Rooseveltian heritage by governing forcefully on behalf of ordinary people, by warring against over-powerful corporations, by demonstrating the power of the state to build a just and humane society.”

    Frank is beyond whistling Dixie, but faith in his fantasy persists, and likely always will.

  3. Harvey Reading July 29, 2018


    Perhaps, if only there were any real liberals among the yuppies and the ruling class. The democraps have been right-wing since the 60s (Kennedy (or Johnson) was NO liberal) and were so before the Great Depression. The rethuglicans have always been so.

    Rethuglicans have no creativity whatever, so one can expect nothing from them. Their preference is to repeat the same “failed-and-false” policies over and over again. “Trickle down” has ever been their rallying cry. Expect only a lot of bellowing about “timeless virtues” or pulling oneself up by ones bootstraps from them or from the libertaryans, who are nothing but weird rethuglicans, who lean even farther to the right, but are good at playing word games about freedom.

    FDR wasn’t a liberal either. He was just scared sh*tless that if some liberalish steps weren’t taken to alleviate at least a little of the suffering of commoners, then they might just revolt, and successfully, as they had in Russia during and after racist, fascist Woodrow’s faltering, and shameless, reign here in freedom land.

    Roosevelt’s problem was solved completely (for a few years) by his conning the Japanese into bombing our Hawaiian colony (thus turning our useless battleships into scrap metal that could be used to build yet more aircraft carriers), thereby immediately changing people here from peaceful isolationists into screaming warmongers and haters).

    Sadly, the yuppies and the ruling class are, as always, right wingers at heart. Don’t give up hope, though, human-caused global warming and overpopulation will solve all our problems, and soon, by ending our existence as a species. Take heart, good people! That IS indeed light at the end of your tunnel.

  4. Eric Sunswheat July 29, 2018

    Re: Has the end of the world as we know it become, already, old news?

    —->. Yes it has, so now billionaires suck it up, for the undersea thawing methane hydrates burp, to soon end life as we know it, possibly in a two hour time frame.

    Point your rocket jets to that underground pool of salty water on Mars, perhaps your only hope, other than 100 years in well stuffed mountain island bunkers.

    • Harvey Reading July 29, 2018

      I suggest the billionaires take out their .357s and then do the right thing. Why wish them on the rest of the universe?

  5. Harvey Reading July 29, 2018

    If you have a land line and an older, phone-line powered phone, it will work during power outages, unless phone lines are down, too.

    In the olden days people survived disasters; and in the really olden, olden, olden days they survived them, without power or phones or radios at all.

    Have you got a shovel, an axe, a campstove, a lantern, blankets, sugar flour, water, good eyes, good ears? You would be surprised how little it takes to survive, at least temporarily, as long as you have water. Best wishes.

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