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Latest KVPR News Headlines

Published February 7, 2024 at 11:47 AM PST
KVPR

Catch the news headlines on-air during the morning and afternoon commute hours by streaming KVPR on your smart speaker, KVPR.org, the KVPR app, or by tuning your radio to 89.3 Fresno / 89.1 Bakersfield. You can also follow KVPR on Facebook, Instagram and X, formerly Twitter.

Valley congressmen react to assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump

Posted July 14, 2024 at 1:07 PM PDT
Former President Donald Trump announces he is running for president for the third time as he smiles while speaking at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Nov. 15, 2022.
Andrew Harnik
/
AP
FILE PHOTO - Former President Donald Trump announces he is running for president for the third time as he smiles while speaking at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Nov. 15, 2022.

San Joaquin Valley congressmen are condemning political violence after an attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump over the weekend at a rally in Pennsylvania.

“This can not continue. Our nation was not founded on this. Our nation was founded on us being able to speak out, having our voices heard, and even when we disagree with one another, we respect one another,” Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), told Bakersfield TV station KBAK.

Congressman John Duarte (R-Merced) wrote on his X.com account Saturday his thoughts were with Trump and his family. He added that political violence is senseless and “un-American.”

Recently elected Congressman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) also said on social media his heart was heavy over the news, and he was mourning the loss of innocent life. At least one rally-goer was killed.

The shooter was also killed.

Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) also condemned the violence and said he was praying for Trump, the victims and their families.

UC Merced athletics department upgraded to NCAA league

Posted July 13, 2024 at 12:17 AM PDT

UC Merced is moving up in the sports world. The university is now able to compete in the NCAA Division 2 league after participating in intercollegiate for a decade.

UC Merced sporting teams previously competed in the lower level divisions with the California Pacific Conference and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Officials say university teams will remain in the Cal Pac conference until next school year. But several teams in the NCAA have already scheduled non-conference tournaments this fall with UC Merced.

Clovis graduate heading to Paris Olympics

Posted July 13, 2024 at 12:15 AM PDT

A Clovis native is heading to Paris to compete on the Olympics women's soccer team.

Bullard High School graduate Lynn Williams will play for Team USA after another athlete had to bow out due to a knee injury, ESPN reports.

Williams, who plays for Gotham F-C, was originally announced as an alternate for the team earlier this year. She is also a 2020 olympian.

CalTrans, UC Merced to display Ice Age fossils found near Highway 99

Posted July 13, 2024 at 12:13 AM PDT

An expansion along Highway 99 near Merced led to the discovery of thousands of fossils dating back to the ice age.

The fossils, which include wooly mammoths, sloths and camels, have all been donated to the nearby UC Merced campus.

To celebrate the discovery, CalTrans recently built mammoth silhouettes on the Le Grand and Plainsburg overpasses.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled Monday, where some of the fossils will be on display.

New documents show how much money Valley cities, counties get in opioid settlement

Posted July 11, 2024 at 5:31 PM PDT
Buildings in downtown Fresno.
Larry Valenzuela
/
CalMatters / CatchLight Local
Downtown Fresno on June 17, 2022.

A new report is shedding light on how local cities and counties are spending funds meant to help combat the opioid crisis.

The reporting from California Healthline shows how California has distributed over $200 million dollars to the state in opioid lawsuit settlement cash.

The money comes from pharmaceutical companies that made, distributed, or sold prescription opioid painkillers.

Cities and counties are required to report how they plan to spend the money. Before this report, no public database provided that information.

The latest filings show that cities and counties in the San Joaquin Valley received over $15 million during the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

During that time period, no local governments spent any of the funds, but a majority created different plans for spending the money.

Fresnoland report raises questions over local outlet's police chief reporting

Posted July 11, 2024 at 4:37 PM PDT

In a new investigation, news website Fresnoland has uncovered financial ties between a local news outlet and an elected official who was the subject of their reporting — it all relates back to Fresno’s police chief scandal.

The news that chief Paco Balderrama had an affair with a police officer’s wife was first reported by the SJV Sun. The officer himself was quoted in the story, but remained anonymous.

KVPR later identified the officer as Madera County Supervisor Jordan Wamhoff. KVPR also reported Wamhoff was behind a text message to at least one city leader pushing for Balderrama to resign.

Fresnoland’s investigation now reveals the founder and editor of the SJV Sun, Alex Tavlian, has financial ties to Wamhoff, and he ran Wamhoff’s election campaign.

The report raised questions about transparency in the Sun’s coverage, and about whether those financial ties influenced how the outlet covered the chief’s scandal.

First judge of Sikh faith sworn into Fresno court

Posted July 11, 2024 at 4:31 PM PDT

Fresno County’s first judge of Sikh faith was sworn in Thursday.

Raj Singh Badhesha was appointed to the bench in May by Governor Gavin Newsom after serving in the Fresno City Attorney’s office.

According to local Sikh leaders, Badhesha is also the first judge in the U.S. to wear a traditional Sikh turban.

Two Valley House Republicans side with Democrats in contempt vote

Posted July 11, 2024 at 4:30 PM PDT

Two Valley Congressmen are among a small faction of Republicans to break from their party in a major vote Thursday.

Congressman John Duarte, R-Merced, and Tom McClintock, R-Modesto, were among only four House Republicans to vote not to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress.

They joined all house Democrats.

The vote occurred after Garland refused to release audio recordings related to the investigation of President Biden’s handling of classified documents.

Fresno, Clovis officials sign agreement to support semiconductor jobs

Posted July 10, 2024 at 6:15 PM PDT
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, center, signs an agreement on Wednesday, July 10, 2024, that supports bringing semiconductor jobs to the Fresno area.
City of Fresno
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, center, signs an agreement on Wednesday, July 10, 2024, that supports bringing semiconductor jobs to the Fresno area.

The cities of Fresno and Clovis on Wednesday signed an agreement that hopes to bring semiconductor manufacturers to the Central Valley.

The memorandum is with SEMI, a global semiconductor industry association with over 3,000 member companies.

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said in a statement that the partnership with Semi is a step toward ensuring that the semiconductor industry understands the advantages of coming to the region.

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, semiconductor manufacturing capacity in the U.S. is expected to grow by nearly 50 percent over the next eight years.

Fresno State and the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation also signed the agreement in support.

Basin Fire nearly contained, Forest Service reports

Posted July 10, 2024 at 4:54 PM PDT

The Basin Fire burning in the Sierra National Forest in Fresno County is close to full containment.

The U.S. Forest Service says the blaze is now 92 percent contained as of Wednesday. The wildfire grew to just over 14,000 acres.

Fire personnel and equipment are being released to assist with other wildfires in the state. All evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday, and only a few areas remain under evacuation warnings.

Firefighters continue to monitor the region as the dry heat is expected to continue until Saturday.

Alaska Airlines to offer more destinations out of Fresno Yosemite International Airport

Posted July 10, 2024 at 4:50 PM PDT
An Alaska Airlines plane in the air.
FAT
An Alaska Airlines plane in the air.

Alaska Airlines flights from Fresno are going international. Starting this winter, the airline will begin daily service to Guadalajara, Mexico.

Fresno and Guadalajara are sister cities and last year alone there were more than 200,000 flights between the cities.

Daily service to Guadalajara will start in December, ahead of the holiday travel season, and will last through February 2025.

Report outlines how California can stop its population from shrinking

Posted July 10, 2024 at 4:49 PM PDT

California’s population is on the decline and unlikely to reverse course anytime soon, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California.

A number of issues are contributing to the decline, including less immigration. Since the pandemic, more Californians are also leaving for other states.

These shifts are compounded by declining birth rates and aging Baby Boomers.

According to the Institute, the way to attract more people to California would be to make housing more affordable and promote educational and economic opportunities.

Valley cities break daily temperature records amid extreme heatwave

Posted July 10, 2024 at 4:45 PM PDT

On Tuesday, the Merced airport broke a six-day streak of temperatures registered at or above 105-degrees.

Meanwhile, cities like Fresno, Madera, Hanford and Bakersfield are continuing to experience those hotter temperatures.

The Fresno area has now gone at least eight straight days with temperatures over 105 degrees this month.

Inmate dies in Chowchilla facility, advocates say it was caused by heat

Posted July 10, 2024 at 4:43 PM PDT

Investigators are trying to determine what led to the death of an inmate at a women’s prison in Madera County this weekend.

Advocates say the ongoing heatwave is to blame for the death at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.

A state corrections spokeswoman told news outlets the woman was transported to the hospital last Thursday, and died on Saturday.

They say the death appears to be related to an ongoing medical issue, but inmates report the facilities have lacked air conditioning.

A new human case of West Nile Virus identified in Fresno County

Posted July 10, 2024 at 4:40 PM PDT
Fresno County Department of Public Health headquarters in downtown Fresno, Calif.
Kerry Klein
/
KVPR
Fresno County Department of Public Health headquarters in downtown Fresno, Calif.

The number of human cases of West Nile Virus this year has now risen to three, according to the Fresno County Department of Public Health.

The cases were identified through routine testing of blood donors. Infections are expected to increase as mosquito season continues this summer.

Last year, statewide, there were more than 400 reported cases of the virus and 19 deaths.

The public health department recommends residents take precautions such as applying bug spray, eliminating standing water around the home, and making sure doors and windows have screens to keep mosquitos out.

Fire crews battle fire that sparked inside Tule River Reservation

Posted July 9, 2024 at 3:36 PM PDT
The Cow Fire 2 sparked inside the Tule River Reservation just east of Porterville on July 9, 2024.
Tina Peyron
/
Tule River Tribe
The Cow Fire 2 sparked inside the Tule River Reservation just east of Porterville on July 9, 2024.

Early Tuesday morning, a fire broke out on the Tule River Reservation, just east of Porterville.

The Cow 2 Fire had burned over 500 acres of remote hillside areas as of 3 p.m. and was also impacting land outside the reservation. The blaze was 40 percent contained as of this afternoon, with no homes and structures currently in danger.

Crews with the Tule River Fire Department and CalFire say they have stopped the fire’s progress, and expect full containment in the coming days. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

City of Merced considering increasing hotel tax

Posted July 9, 2024 at 3:36 PM PDT

Merced city officials are considering pursuing a ballot measure this November to increase its hotel tax.

The Merced Focus newsroom reports the city council directed staff to draw up language for the potential measure last week.

The city’s current tax, which is paid by hotel users, is 10 percent, and brings in roughly $2 million a year to the general fund.

Council members are considering raising that tax to at most 12 percent. The council would vote at an upcoming meeting whether to put the measure before voters in November.

Alleged shooter in 2019 Fresno mass shooting dies in jail

Posted July 9, 2024 at 3:34 PM PDT

One of four men who was charged in a 2019 mass shooting in Fresno has died. An attorney for Porge Kue confirmed the death to The Fresno Bee Tuesday.

Kue died last month. He had been serving time in the Fresno County Jail while he awaited trial.

Kue and three other men were charged with murder following a November 2019 mass shooting in Fresno that left four dead and six injured. So far it’s unclear what led to his death.

The Fresno Bee begins three-day print week

Posted July 8, 2024 at 5:30 PM PDT

The Fresno Bee’s new digital-first approach starts this week, meaning print subscribers will see fewer newspapers on their doorstep.

The Bee will now be delivered three days a week — Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays — though the outlet says the Sunday paper will likely arrive with Saturday’s mail.

Although there will be fewer print editions, each one will be more robust and the outlet will continue to publish daily at FresnoBee.com.

Report says Fresno rents are among the fastest-rising in US

Posted July 8, 2024 at 5:27 PM PDT
Buildings in downtown Fresno.
Larry Valenzuela
/
CalMatters / CatchLight Local
Downtown Fresno on June 17, 2022.

New consumer data shows Fresno is among the metro areas in the U.S. where rent has increased the most in recent years.

Private firm Consumer Affairs reports rents in the Fresno area rose 45% between 2019 and 2023. This growth was topped by only four other places including Tampa, Miami and Knoxville, Tennessee.

The median cost of rent in 2019 used to be about $1,300. Today, it’s more like $1,900.

Some renters have also taken on high debt, according to the consumer report. Researchers say the affordability crisis among renters has been years in the making, and is driven by high costs for things like food, utilities and transportation — couple that with wages that have not kept up.

Police: Newborn found dead in backyard of south Fresno home

Posted July 8, 2024 at 5:20 PM PDT

Fresno police are investigating a bizarre case where a baby girl was found dead in the backyard of a home last week.

Police say residents of the home did not know how the infant ended up in their South Fresno backyard. The baby appeared to have just been born.

Police still do not know who the baby’s parents are, and are offering a 5,000 dollar reward for information.

Valley cities break heat records as intense heatwave grips West

Posted July 8, 2024 at 10:35 AM PDT
 The sun sets along the San Joaquin River in Fresno, Calif. Forecasters say triple digit temperatures will remain through the month of Juluy.
Aracely Rodriguez
/
Contributed
The sun sets along the San Joaquin River in Fresno, Calif.

Fresno, Hanford, Madera and Merced broke heat records Sunday, some set as far back in 1905.

Excessive heat is sticking with us through this week, with temperatures reaching up to 113 degrees or higher on Thursday.

This heat is gripping much of the West. This weekend, one person died and another was hospitalized after driving through Death Valley National Park when the temperature soared to 128 degrees.

Last week, the city of Madera broke its heat record for the hottest Fourth of July.

Several reports of drownings along Kern River

Posted July 8, 2024 at 10:29 AM PDT

Local news reports say a person went missing Sunday and is feared drowned in the Kern River.

That is just one of at least four possible drownings that the sheriff’s office is investigating along the Kern River alone since the Fourth of July.

That’s when a man and a woman went into the water but only the body of the woman was recovered. Another person reportedly went missing on Saturday.

The same day, another man reportedly drowned at a Modesto reservoir. This year has been deadly along Valley rivers, with over a dozen drownings since May.

Transit workers question Kern County official's removal

Posted July 8, 2024 at 10:17 AM PDT

Following the removal of the CEO of Golden Empire Transit in Kern County, transit drivers are pushing for the removal of the board itself.

The Bakersfield Californian reports Micheal Tree was popular among drivers, and he, too, had questioned the board’s decision to remove him.

The board of the transit agency said Tree’s removal was done with the long-term vision of the agency in mind. Tree was nearly six months into his job as CEO before he was let go.

French Fire Update: Most evacuations lifted, Red Cross shelter closes

Posted July 6, 2024 at 8:30 PM PDT

Containment on the French Fire in Mariposa reached 25% on Saturday, with 908 acres burned.

The fire started July 4 and triggered several evacuations since the fire burned dangerously close to the foothill town's neighborhoods.

By Saturday, most evacuation orders were reduced to warnings and the Red Cross had closed its shelter.

Cal Fire reproted four firefighters were injured during the fire response and at least four structures have been destroyed.

One woman took to social media to post a video of destroyed property, which she reported was her home.

City of Madera breaks heat record on Fourth of July

Posted July 5, 2024 at 3:21 PM PDT

The city of Madera broke a heat record Thursday for the hottest Fourth of July, with a high of 109 degrees.

The city of Merced tied with its record for that day, at 108 degrees, according to the National Weather Service office in Hanford.

Temperatures will remain high into next week. Meanwhile, a red flag warning in the San Joaquin Valley has been extended until Monday morning.

The National Weather Service says a combination of gusty winds, low humidity and high temperatures are increasing the risk of wildfires.

Civil grand jury releases report on Merced County school trustees

Posted July 5, 2024 at 3:19 PM PDT

A Merced County Civil Grand Jury has found Merced City School District trustees violated meeting laws on several occasions.

A new report by the Merced Focus newsroom says violations include trustees failing to vote and publicize past meeting minutes.

Jurors also found trustees engaged in unofficial meetings through text and email threads in violation of open meeting laws.

The report also noted complaints of sexual harassment, intimidation and fear of retaliation exist within the district.

Sheriff: Woman recovered from Kern River, man still missing

Posted July 5, 2024 at 3:18 PM PDT

A woman is dead and a man is missing after an incident Thursday along the Kern River.

The Kern County Sheriff's Office said Thursday evening that a woman’s body was recovered from Keysville Beach, a spot just west of Lake Isabella along the Kern River. But the man was still missing. Their ages and identities are not yet known.

Search and rescue teams were originally called in early Thursday for reports of the couple being in distress in the water, but the search was called off around 6 p.m. due to weather conditions.

French Fire Update: FEMA approves funding to fight Mariposa fire

Posted July 5, 2024 at 3:10 PM PDT
A webcam shows conditions around the French Fire burning near Mariposa, California. The fire sparked July 4, 2024.
Pacific Gas and Electric
A webcam shows conditions around the French Fire burning near Mariposa, California. The fire sparked July 4, 2024.

Fire crews are getting a handle on the French Fire burning dangerously close to the town of Mariposa.

Meanwhile, FEMA announced it has approved a request from the state to provide funding to fight the fire.

Containment has grown to 15 percent and the blaze has reached about 850 acres as of 3 p.m. Friday.

Evacuation orders are slowly being reduced to warnings, and Cal Fire reports a shelter in place order for John C. Fremont Hospital and Yosemite Inn have been lifted.

But not everyone is out of the woods just yet. Several roads remain closed and evacuation warnings are still in place as some residents are being allowed to return home.

By midday Friday, about 30 people remained at a Red Cross shelter at New Life Christian Fellowship church in Bootjack, located at 5089 Cole Road. More than a dozen small pets were also being sheltered.

According to FEMA, the fire threatened approximately 1,019 homes in and around Mariposa — most of which are primary homes for residents.

See Cal Fire's latest update, including evacuation maps and road closures, here.

Other nearby wildfires

The Basin Fire burning in the Sierra National Forest in Fresno County remains 46 percent contained as its growth officially reached 14,000 acres.

The Fresno June Lightning Complex Fire burning near Yokuts Valley is 98 percent contained after burning close to 11,000 acres.

Both fires started the same day in late June and were caused by lightning.

Basin Fire Update: Crews reach nearly half containment

Posted July 4, 2024 at 2:13 PM PDT

Some good news on the wildfire front: The Basin Fire burning in the Fresno County portion of the Sierra National Forest is now nearly half contained.

The U.S. Forest Service said Thursday crews have reached 46 percent containment and light winds are helping make progress.

Crews are still working on carving out fire lines along the northern perimeter of the fire. The Basin Fire started nearly two weeks ago and has burned nearly 14,000 acres.

Man reportedly attacked by dog in Fresno County later dies

Posted July 4, 2024 at 2:12 PM PDT

Authorities say a dog may be responsible for the death of a man early Thursday morning.

Fresno County Sheriff’s deputies were called out to an intersection south of Fresno where the man was found.

Neighbors heard loud screams around 5 a.m. and contacted the man, who said he was attacked by what appeared to be a Husky dog.

Due to the loss of blood, the man later died. Despite a search, deputies could not find dogs in the area.

Basin Fire Update: Blaze continues to rage, but containment grows

Posted July 3, 2024 at 4:54 PM PDT

The Basin Fire burning in the Sierra National Forest reached 26% containment Wednesday morning with a spread of almost 14,000 acres.

According to Cal Fire, evacuation orders are still in place for areas east of Pine Flat Lake. Containment has mostly been done along the Kings River corridor.

The fire comes as the San Joaquin Valley endures a triple-digit heat wave expected to last until July 11.

Bitwise Industries co-founders reach plea deal

Posted July 3, 2024 at 4:54 PM PDT
Bitwise Industries co-founders Jake Soberal, left, and Irma Olguin Jr., right, exit the federal courthouse in downtown Fresno, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023.
Esther Quintanilla
/
KVPR
Bitwise Industries co-founders Jake Soberal, left, and Irma Olguin Jr., right, exit the federal courthouse in downtown Fresno, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023.

The founders of Bitwise Industries have reached a plea deal with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Fresno Bee reported Wednesday Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr. are set to change their original not guilty plea to a guilty plea in two weeks.

Soberal and Olguin have been charged with altering and fabricating financial information which led to their collection of $115 million in investments and loans.

Bitwise went bankrupt last May, resulting in the loss of about 900 jobs across the U.S.

Valley cities ranked among the least educated in the country

Posted July 3, 2024 at 4:52 PM PDT

Visalia, Bakersfield and Fresno are some of the least educated metropolitan areas in the country, according to a recent study put out by personal finance company Wallethub.

The study analyzed U.S. cities by level of education completed and quality of education.

According to the list, Fresno and Bakersfield came near the bottom at numbers 140 and 147 respectively. Visalia was last at No. 150.

Other Central Valley cities like Modesto and Stockton also ranked low.

California utility companies prepare for prolonged heatwave

Posted July 3, 2024 at 4:52 PM PDT
Blue PG&E bucket trucks hoist utility workers to the top of a power pole.
Eric Risberg
/
AP
FILE PHOTO — A Pacific Gas & Electric crew works at restoring power following a wildfire along the Old Redwood Highway on Oct. 11, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif.

PG&E and Southern California Edison are bracing for a prolonged heatwave expected to last until July 11 in the San Joaquin Valley.

So-Cal Edison said Wednesday they expect the power grid to hold, but crews and supplies are on stand-by should power outages occur.

Scott Strenfel, a meteorologist from PG&E said they, too, will remain proactive, but do caution that unprecedented heat in Fresno and Bakersfield could cause trouble.

"We’re taking it very seriously here which is why the emergency operations center is activated to respond to any issues that arise," Strenfel said.

Officials said residents should be prepared for possible outages when temperatures max out every day between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

What to know if you have a pet this Fourth of July

Posted July 3, 2024 at 3:07 PM PDT

The Fourth of July holiday means fun for many, but it can be stressful for pets.

Bright fireworks and loud noises can cause many to howl or run for cover. Officials from the Fresno County Animal Shelter are reminding owners to take extra steps to make sure pets are safe and comfortable during the holiday.

Steps to take include creating a safe space with calming music or familiar toys. Avoid bringing pets to fireworks displays — even well-behaved ones can have unexpected reactions.

And always be sure their pet tags and microchips are updated in case they unexpectedly get out.

Fourth of July travel expected to beat pre-pandemic levels

Posted July 2, 2024 at 4:06 PM PDT
A street view of downtown Fresno with smoggy skies.
Joe Moore
/
Valley Public Radio
Smog partially obscures the old Security Bank building in downtown Fresno.

Travel company Triple AAA forecasts upcoming holiday travel will be the busiest ever for Fourth of July.

Sixty million people across the United States are projected to travel by car this week, beating pre-pandemic levels.

Triple AAA adjusted its methodology this year, for the first time measuring the entire Fourth of July week and adjacent weekends.

For those hitting the road, average gas prices are slightly better than they were at this time last year. In Fresno County a gallon of unleaded gas will run you $4 and 67 cents — 10 cents less per gallon than last July.

Detainees at Valley immigration facilities launch labor strike

Posted July 2, 2024 at 4:03 PM PDT
A detainee inside the Golden State Annex detention center in McFarland holds a sign that reads “Hunger Strikers United.”
Joshua Yeager
/
KVPR
A detainee inside the Golden State Annex detention center in McFarland holds a sign that reads “Hunger Strikers United” in 2023.

Nearly 60 detained immigrants at two San Joaquin Valley immigration detention centers launched a labor strike this week.

They are protesting working conditions and alleging retaliation by staff. The facilities in McFarland and Bakersfield are managed by the private prison company GEO Group.

Immigrant detainees have routinely held protests in recent years. Among their demands for ICE officials is that they end contracts with the GEO Group and end solitary confinement.

Basin Fire Update: Containment grows to 17%

Posted July 2, 2024 at 4:00 PM PDT

Crews battling the Basin Fire reached 17 percent containment on Tuesday.

Fire crews are taking that as a positive turn in the blaze which has now burned more than 13,000 acres in one week.

Containment has mostly been made along the Kings River corridor. The fire is burning in the Sierra National Forest, along the Rough Fire scar from 2015.

Fire fighting efforts are being met with high triple digit heat now and in the coming days. Mandatory evacuation orders are still in place for several areas near the fire.

Basin Fire Update: Fire slows, containment still remains low

Posted July 1, 2024 at 3:25 PM PDT

The Basin Fire burning in the Fresno County portion of Sierra National Forest is prompting additional evacuation orders.

Monday afternoon, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office announced residents in two additional zones just north of Pine Flat Lake have been told to evacuate.

That’s in addition to the large area between Pine Flat and Wishon Reservoir already under a similar order. Nearby areas on the west side of Pine Flat Lake remain under evacuation warning.

Road closures are in place near the perimeter of the fire. As of 1 p.m. Monday, the Basin Fire had burned more than 12,000 acres and is zero percent contained.

Teen's body recovered from San Joaquin River after going missing Sunday

Posted July 1, 2024 at 3:22 PM PDT

The body of a teen who went missing in the San Joaquin River on Sunday has been recovered.

The teen went missing in the river in Firebaugh when he went after a ball and never resurfaced from the water.

The search was initially suspended because of nighttime conditions, but search and rescue crews found the teen a day later at the bottom of the river.

This marks the ninth drowning in a Valley river or a lake since May.

Tulare County Sheriff suspends congressional campaign

Posted July 1, 2024 at 3:21 PM PDT
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux speaks to reporters about the assassination of a family in Goshen, Calif. in January.
Joshua Yeager
/
KVPR
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux speaks to reporters about the assassination of a family in Goshen, Calif. in January.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux shared big news Monday: "I am suspending my campaign for the 20th congressional district," he said in a social media video.

Following this news, Boudreaux said he would be endorsing Congressman Vince Fong. Fong will now run unopposed in November as an incumbent.

The two were locked in a months-long race to see who would fill a vacant seat left by former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

In his video message, Boudreaux also said he is launching a new grassroots movement called “Golden State Justice” aimed at supporting what he calls “common sense leaders.”

CSU Stanislaus welcomes new president

Posted July 1, 2024 at 3:19 PM PDT

CSU Stanislaus has a new president. Britt Rios-Ellis began her tenure at the Turlock campus on Monday.

She comes from Oakland University in Michigan, where she focused on restructuring academics during the pandemic. She is no stranger to the CSU system, having served in roles at CSU Monterey Bay and Long Beach.

Rios-Ellis says her focus at CSU Stanislaus will be on building relationships and an inclusive environment.

Harmful algae found at Lake Isabella, public asked to use caution

Posted July 1, 2024 at 3:18 PM PDT

The public is being asked to take caution around Lake Isabella. The Kern County Public Health Department says it has found harmful algae.

Of 17 water samples taken from around the lake, results from the Hanning Flat area came back with cautionary levels of toxic blue-green algae.

That area is on the east end of the lake. Algae is harmful to people, pets and wildlife. Signs are posted around the lake.

California farmworker housing inspections fall short, new report finds

Posted July 1, 2024 at 3:17 PM PDT

A new investigation from Cal Matters says state regulators have struggled to provide safe housing for farmworkers.

This comes as the number of guest workers has risen in recent years. The state reportedly has just three housing inspectors across the state, where housing for at least 41,000 guest workers is managed.

The lack of inspections has led to few consequences for employers providing inadequate housing. In at least one case, CalMatters found a housing inspection was done by video call.

Supreme Court upholds ban on outdoor sleeping as homelessness rises

Posted June 28, 2024 at 4:26 PM PDT

The Supreme Court cleared the way this Friday for cities to enforce a ban on homeless people sleeping in outdoor public spaces.

The case is the most significant to come before the court in decades and comes as homelessness is rising across the U.S.

According to the latest figures, nearly 5,000 people in the Fresno-Madera area experienced homelessness in 2023, a slight rise from the year prior.

In Kern County, homelessness jumped 37 percent from 2022 to 2023, with more than 2,500 unsheltered residents.

Last year, estimates found more than 181,000 unhoused residents live in California.

Fresno police officer won't face jail after pedestrian death

Posted June 28, 2024 at 4:23 PM PDT

A Fresno police officer who killed a pedestrian after speeding and texting while driving will not be facing jail time.

The Fresno Bee reports officer Benito Soto was sentenced Friday to one-year probation and 400 hours of community service.

In 2020, Soto was arrested and charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter after striking a pedestrian in downtown Fresno while on duty.

According to the county district attorney’s office, Soto remains on the police force.

Fresno June Lightning Complex Fire Update: County declares local emergency

Posted June 28, 2024 at 4:21 PM PDT
An airplane drops fire retardant in eastern Fresno County as firefighters fight the June Lightning Complex Fire.
Cal Fire
An airplane drops fire retardant in eastern Fresno County as firefighters fight the June Lightning Complex Fire.

A local state of emergency was declared Friday in light of a string of wildfires burning across Fresno County.

The June Lightning Complex fire has spread to more than 10,000 acres. Cal Fire reported it has reached 37 percent containment.

Rising temperatures combined with low humidity and wind gusts are a concern going into next week.

"When you put all of that together. That's what really, really concerned about," Terri Mejorado of the Fresno Emergency Operations Center said Friday.

More than 1,500 firefighters are battling the blaze. An evacuation center is open at Reedley College. The county's emergency operations center will provide a status update on Monday.

Oil setback law will proceed after industry group withdraws referendum

Posted June 28, 2024 at 4:16 PM PDT
Oil pumps are part of the landscape in Kern County, CA, the top oil-producing county in the state.
Harika Maddala
/
Catchlight
Oil pumps are part of the landscape in Kern County, CA, the top oil-producing county in the state.

A powerful oil industry group in California has withdrawn a controversial referendum on a state setback law. The law, which was paused pending the referendum’s outcome, will now take effect immediately.

The law requires a 3,200-foot buffer between neighborhoods and new oil wells, among other safety measures.

Cesar Aguirre, an organizer with the Central California Environmental Justice Network, says communities in Kern County – the heart of the state’s oil country – are celebrating the news.

"Any rational person could make sense of the fact that Californians do not want to breathe toxic air to help dirty companies anymore … It’s a hard pill for them to swallow, but I think it’s something that they’re gonna have to accept," he said.

Polls showed the referendum had a slim chance of succeeding with voters. The California Independent Petroleum Association spent some $20 million on the axed referendum.

The lobby says it plans to challenge the law in court instead.

Leader of Fresno area addiction nonprofit sued by former employee

Posted June 28, 2024 at 4:12 PM PDT

The leader of a well-known Fresno nonprofit is being sued by a former employee for alleged misuse of funds.

According to a report by the San Joaquin Valley Sun, a former employee at Parents and Addicts in Need – also known as PAIN – loaned the nonprofit’s leader Flindt Andersen upwards of $120,000. The plaintiff argues she has not been paid back.

PAIN has been a voice against the opioid epidemic. The nonprofit has partnered with local law enforcement leaders in the past and was named Nonprofit of the Year by Assemblymember Jim Patterson in 2021.

Canadian investors gobble up Valley supermarket chain

Posted June 27, 2024 at 10:46 PM PDT

A Canadian investment group has purchased the San Joaquin Valley-based Save Mart company.

The Modesto Bee reports it’s the second ownership change for the grocery chain in two years. Company leaders say the business — which also owns Food Maxx and Lucky stores — will remain headquartered in Modesto.

No layoffs or closures are expected and the sale price was not disclosed.

Bakersfield approves nearly $1B budget

Posted June 27, 2024 at 10:45 PM PDT

Bakersfield City Council members approved the city’s budget on Wednesday.

The budget covering the next fiscal year totals over $850 million. It includes new positions for police, homelessness outreach, as well as funding for an affordable housing trust.

City leaders also approved a new program to provide legal help and other assistance for residents facing eviction.

Madera man convicted for breaching D.C. Capitol on January 6th

Posted June 27, 2024 at 10:43 PM PDT

A Madera man was convicted Wednesday on multiple charges for breaching the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

A federal jury found 46-year-old Benjamin Martin guilty of civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding — both felonies.

According to court records, Martin forcibly entered the Capitol during the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

Several rioters followed behind him and fought with officers who were defending the building. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 15.

Former College of Sequoias runner to compete in Olympics

Posted June 27, 2024 at 10:39 PM PDT

A former College of the Sequoias runner is heading to Paris. Quincy Hall qualified for the Olympics earlier this week after he placed first in an Oregon time trial.

Hall completed the 400-meter dash in just over 44 seconds, a personal best and the fastest time of any American so far this year.

Hall earned three state titles for the COS Giants in 2017 and 2018, and was recruited by the college’s head coach, who has remained the runner's personal coach.

Hall is expected to compete individually in the 400-meter race as well as in the 4x400 relay for team USA.

Fresno June Lightning Complex Fire Update: Nearly 10,000 acres burned

Posted June 27, 2024 at 9:18 AM PDT
An image from Bear Mountain shows charred foothills as the Fresno June Lightning Complex Fire continues to burn.
Cal Fire / PGE
An image from Bear Mountain shows charred foothills as the Fresno June Lightning Complex Fire continues to burn.

The Fresno June Lightning Fire has grown to nearly 10,000 acres as of Thursday morning, according to Cal Fire.

The fire is being fought as a single incident, but consists of three different fires burning in the foothills east of Fresno.

Cal Fire says the Flash Fire has grown to 3,600 acres and is 18 percent contained. The Bolt Fire grew to 5,358 acres and is 18 percent contained. And the Hog Fire is the smallest at 266 acres, and is 40 percent contained.

The fires are burning in largely remote areas, which has made it difficult for fire crews to suppress them.

However, an evacuation order was still in place for homes around Wonder Valley and Yokuts Valley and an evacuation warning west of there for areas near Avocado Lake.

A portion of Highway 180 eastbound is closed due to hazards.

Fresno County Health Department investigating cases of botulism among residents

Posted June 26, 2024 at 5:20 PM PDT

The Fresno County Health Department says it is investigating a suspected multi-person outbreak of botulism. That’s a rare but serious illness caused by a toxin that can attack a person’s nerves.

The health department says the suspected cases originated from food consumed at a family event last weekend in Caruthers and Clovis.

All patients are being treated. Currently the risk to the public is considered low, but health workers are working to trace other potential exposures.

US Forest Service tackling lightning fires in high Sierra

Posted June 26, 2024 at 5:19 PM PDT

Fire crews are battling at least five wildfires in the high Sierra Nevada region. The blazes are all near each other.

In addition, the U.S. Forest Service said fire crews have contained or completely extinguished a dozen others. In total, the agency says lightning sparked 17 wildfires during a storm that rolled into the area on Monday.

Smoke is impacting regions near Prather and Shaver Lake. These fires are separate from the Fresno June Complex Fire that is burning east of Fresno.

Trash rate increase in Fresno to be formalized by city council

Posted June 26, 2024 at 5:18 PM PDT

The City of Fresno is expected to finalize a plan for raising garbage pickup fees for those who live in single family homes and apartments.

At its meeting Thursday morning, the city council will adopt a new five-year trash rate. The rate is expected to go up by 78 percent by 2029.

That’s an increase from 25 dollars per month now, to just over 45 dollars. It’s the first time the city has raised the cost of the utility since 2009.

June Lightning Complex Fire Update: Valley PBS tower affected, fire grows to 7,000 acres

Posted June 26, 2024 at 9:14 AM PDT
A Cal Fire map shows the area where the Fresno June Lightning Complex Fire is burning.
Cal Fire
A Cal Fire map shows the area where the Fresno June Lightning Complex Fire is burning.

Fires burning in eastern Fresno County grew overnight into Wednesday. Cal Fire combined three different fires into one, calling the incident the Fresno June Lightning Complex Fire.

They are burning just west of Yokuts Valley, north of Reedley. Overnight, images on social media showed fire cresting foothills.

By Wednesday morning, it ballooned to 7,000 acres. The fire started on Monday and was caused by lightning.

The area that is burning is largely rural, but evacuation orders have been issued for residents near Yokuts Valley.

Areas south of Pine Flat Lake and east of Avocado Lake are under an evacuation warning as of Wednesday morning.

The Red Cross has opened an evacuation center at Reedley College. The Fresno Fairgrounds is also available for evacuees to take their large animals.

The fire is currently 15 percent contained.

Meanwhile, Valley PBS is currently off-air for many customers as its transmitter tower and infrastructure on Bear Mountain has been affected by the wildfire.

Fresno police chief resigns following city investigation

Posted June 25, 2024 at 3:47 PM PDT
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama, left, and Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, right.
KVPR File Photo
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama, left, and Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, right.

The Fresno Police Chief is out. City leaders announced Chief Paco Balderrama voluntarily submitted his resignation on Tuesday.

It came at the same time the city announced a months-long investigation had found Balderrama did not abuse his power or violate city policy when he had an affair with the wife of an officer.

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer praised Balderrama for his work in the city, but said the affair fell below the standards of a chief.

A nationwide search will begin for the next leader while Deputy Chief Mindy Casto fills in as interim chief.

Read KVPR's full report here.

Residents in Bakersfield hit with water issues amid heat wave

Posted June 25, 2024 at 3:38 PM PDT

As heat grips the region, around 200 homes in east Bakersfield have no running water.

Residents told local news outlets Monday they have been without running water since last week. The Fairfax School District became aware of the issue over the weekend and began distributing water on Monday.

Officials say the Pacific Irrigation Company was brought out to fix the wells Saturday but were unable to resolve the issue.

Crews continue battling fire sparked by lightning in eastern Fresno County

Posted June 25, 2024 at 3:34 PM PDT

Several fires continue to burn after a lightning storm Monday in eastern Fresno County. According to the latest update from officials, the fires have covered 1600 acres, with 15% of the spread contained.

Dustin Hale, the Fresno County fire chief said this afternoon evacuation notices have been sent to those in Sanger near Wonder Valley.

"There’s about 30 residences that have been under mandatory evacuation and then some involuntary evacuations in the Wonder valley area just so we can give the residents a heads up as conditions can change in a moments notice," Hale said in a video recorded by Supervisor Nathan Magsig.

Hale said there is still a chance of lightning, and with that, could be more fires. He advises residents to call 9-1-1 if they see smoke or a fire in sight.

Hells Angels chapter leaders in Bakersfield arrested

Posted June 25, 2024 at 3:04 PM PDT

Deputies with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office arrested the Bakersfield chapter of Hells Angels on Tuesday.

The president, vice president and four additional members of the motorcycle gang are in custody. All are facing numerous charges, including robbery, kidnapping, and false imprisonment and it remains an ongoing investigation.

It was a joint investigation with state agencies that required more than 150 law enforcement personnel.

They served several warrants at various locations in Bakersfield, seizing firearms, ammunition and gang paraphernalia.

Beavers are back and doing their thing along the Tule River

Posted June 24, 2024 at 10:39 PM PDT
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Tule River Tribe re-introduced beavers to the Tule River.
State of California
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Tule River Tribe re-introduced beavers to the Tule River.

For the first time in over a century, beavers are swimming in the South Fork Tule River in Tulare County.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Tule River Tribe partnered for a multi-year reintroduction effort by releasing a family of seven beavers, with two additional beavers in the Miner Creek.

Kenneth McDarment is a member of the Tule River Tribe.

"By putting them in all the watersheds they're gonna of course sink it, spread it. By doing that were gonna have better habitat for fish, the different wildlife, fire prevention. There's so many different benefits. The biggest benefit that everyone is gonna notice right off the bat is the fishing," he said.

The beavers' dams will also help with improving drought conditions and conserving water.

Eighty percent of the tribe's drinking water comes from the Tule River watershed.

The effort comes after 10 years of tribe leaders researching and advocating for the reintroduction of beavers — and two million dollars from the state's budget in 2022.

More beavers are expected to be released into the river in the coming months.

This report was provided by Capital Public Radio.

State orders Clovis Unified faculty group to disband amid violations

Posted June 24, 2024 at 10:21 PM PDT

The state is ordering a Clovis unified faculty group to disband after reports of rights violations against employees.

The Fresno Bee reports the district’s faculty senate has been operating alongside the district in lieu of a formal union.

The Association of Clovis Educators filed complaints with the state over that relationship — claiming the district has favored the faculty senate and has engaged in unfair labor practices for years.

State preserves popular library parks pass program in new budget

Posted June 24, 2024 at 10:19 PM PDT
A giant sequoia tree.
Crescencio Rodriguez-Delgado
/
KVPR
A giant sequoia tree.

Funding will continue for a popular state library program as the governor and legislators reached a state budget deal over the weekend.

The California State Library Parks Pass has received nearly 7 million dollars — enough money to continue through 2025.

The program lets library card holders in the state get free vehicle day-use passes to over 200 state parks. The State Parks Foundation says the passes are one of the most-checked out items.

It took some grassroots lobbying to save the passes. According to the foundation, more than 5,000 emails were sent to legislators urging them to preserve the program.

Delano police chief won't face charges after he's accused of trying to meet minor

Posted June 24, 2024 at 10:15 PM PDT

The former Delano police chief will not face charges following his arrest earlier this year.

Mark DeRosia was arrested three months ago on suspicion he was trying to meet with a minor for sex.

The Bakersfield Californian reports the county’s district attorney is declining to file charges because there is not enough evidence to prosecute DeRosia.

His case was returned to the sheriff’s office last week.

Man drowns in the San Joaquin River near Kerman

Posted June 24, 2024 at 11:11 AM PDT

Another drowning death was reported Sunday along the San Joaquin River.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office says a dive team found a man dead at the bottom of the river near Skaggs Bridge in Kerman. The man was found hours after he went missing around 4 p.m.

Around that time deputies responded to a report of a possible drowning and first found a man out of the water in critical condition, but then learned about the second man who had drowned.

Boy who went missing found by search-and-rescue crews

Posted June 21, 2024 at 5:55 PM PDT

Fresno County search-and-rescue crews found a child who went missing near Huntington Lake on Thursday.

The 4-year-old boy was hungry and tired but otherwise unharmed, according to sheriff’s officials. Crews found the boy not far from the campsite where he was first reported missing.

Rescuers and volunteers from several agencies worked through the night combing campsites and forest near the lake.

Five rescued from Kings River following recent drownings

Posted June 21, 2024 at 5:53 PM PDT

Five people who fell into the Kings River in Fresno County Thursday were rescued safely.

The group – two adults and three children – were reportedly stuck in a tree on an island on the river. CalFire crews used a drone to locate the missing group, who had been rafting on the river before they were swept away.

A day earlier, two people drowned in a Madera County creek near Angel Falls. Officials are stressing the importance of water safety.

While the weather may be hot, water from the Sierra Nevada is chilly and fast-flowing.

City of Fresno approves $2.2B budget

Posted June 21, 2024 at 5:43 PM PDT
A stone sign outside Fresno City Hall identifies the building.
Alex Burke
/
KVPR
At Fresno City Hall's council chambers, a new budget for the 2024 fiscal year was passed by the city council on June 20, 2023.

Fresno city leaders adopted a record-breaking budget on Thursday. The city council unanimously passed the $2.2 billion budget, which included dozens of changes from the council.

Additions included eliminating staffing cuts to city fire crews, retaining an eviction protection program, and funding for local LGBTQ groups.

Several other proposals were cut in order to keep the budget balanced. The city had been facing a $47-million-dollar shortfall.

Meanwhile, the city of Bakersfield is expected to approve its city budget next week.

Triple digit heat in the Valley this weekend

Posted June 21, 2024 at 5:38 PM PDT

If you’re making weekend plans, prepare for it to be hot. A heat wave arrives Saturday, bringing with it temperatures well into the triple digits.

Kern County could see 110 degrees tomorrow, with Fresno and Merced projected to reach 106.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service say to expect little relief overnight Saturday into Sunday.

There is a heat advisory for the San Joaquin Valley and foothill communities below 2,500 feet elevation. That is set to last through Monday morning.

Improved internet access coming to western Fresno County towns

Posted June 21, 2024 at 5:37 PM PDT
A sign on the edge of the city of Huron sits near an empty field on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. Many fields around the southern San Joaquin Valley have been left fallow as the drought continues, drying up work for families in the process. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com
Craig Kohlruss
/
The Fresno Bee
A sign on the edge of the city of Huron sits near an empty field on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. Many fields around the southern San Joaquin Valley have been left fallow as the drought continues, drying up work for families in the process. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

The communities of Huron and Coalinga in western Fresno County will soon have improved internet access.

The company CalNeva Broadband plans to construct a network to connect every business and household in the towns’ city limits, as well as some nearby rural areas.

The company was awarded half a million dollars from the state to expand its service footprint.

The money comes from the California Public Utilities Commission’s Broadband For All program. Its goal is to improve internet access in the state. In total, 42 million dollars were awarded for projects across California.

UC Kern proposal passes state Senate committee

Posted June 20, 2024 at 7:27 PM PDT
KVPR News logo

A medical school in Kern County is closer to reality after a bill by San Joaquin Valley Assembly member Jasmeet Bains passed the Senate Higher Education Committee on Wednesday.

Bains, who is from the Bakersfield area, is a former physician. She said the school is expected to provide growth in the healthcare industry, higher education and the economy in an area that has historically been neglected.

"The health disparities of the Valley have been used to demonize industries that provide revenue for communities like Kern County, but the question remains 'What have we done to address those health disparities?'" Bains said.

Valley man appointed to oversee state hospital services

Posted June 20, 2024 at 7:23 PM PDT

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed a local hospital executive to lead hospital services for the state.

Brandon Price, of Hanford, will oversee services at five state facilities that provide mental health treatment. One of those is in Coalinga, where Price has worked since 2016, most recently as the executive director.

Prior to that he worked at the state prison in town. His new role comes with expanded responsibilities and a paycheck of roughly $180,000.

Two men, including former Parlier city manager, convicted of pension fraud

Posted June 20, 2024 at 7:19 PM PDT

Two Fresno residents – including the former city manager of Parlier– have been convicted of running a pension fraud scheme.

On Tuesday, a federal jury found Marcus Asay and Antonio Gastelum guilty of using their business to exploit workers. Through their company American Labor Alliance, the men offered things like fake retirement plans and worker’s comp insurance.

The men are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and up to 20 years in prison. The company could also owe more than 8 million dollars. The men are scheduled to be sentenced in October.

Eminent domain sought for businesses near railroad project in Fresno

Posted June 20, 2024 at 4:54 PM PDT

The city of Fresno is gearing up for construction of a new railroad crossing at a busy intersection.

The project at Blackstone and McKinley avenues won’t start for another two years, but The Fresno Bee reports the city is looking to acquire property through eminent domain.

Several businesses will be impacted at the intersection, including several fast food businesses, a ceramics business and two auto shops.

Kern County transit system CEO is out from his job

Posted June 20, 2024 at 10:14 AM PDT

After nearly six months, the CEO of Golden Empire Transit in Kern County has been let go. Officials with the transit district said on Tuesday Michael Tree’s departure was mutual and the move is meant to better serve the district’s mission.

Tree previously oversaw transit systems in Santa Cruz and Montana. The Golden Empire Transit system serves millions of annual riders across Bakersfield and unincorporated Kern County.

Bodies of man, woman recovered from water in Madera County

Posted June 20, 2024 at 10:13 AM PDT

A man and a woman were pronounced dead after they were recovered from a body of water on Wednesday in Madera County.

Authorities say the bodies were pulled from an area near Angel Falls. That’s near Bass Lake.

Both people were from Madera County, but their identities were not immediately released. Authorities urge caution around bodies of water that may seem tame.

These are at least the sixth and seventh water-related deaths in just the last two weeks.

AG settles with Adventist Health over prosecution of two women

Posted June 19, 2024 at 6:14 PM PDT

The state’s attorney general announced today it has settled a case with Adventist Health involving the prosecution of two women for stillbirths.

In 2017 and 2019, two Kings County women suffered stillbirths over alleged drug use. The attorney general says their information was shared with law enforcement without their permission, and against state policy.

The women both served time in jail before their cases were dismissed. The hospital was ordered to undergo training for medical staff.

Rent control measure in Delano fails to get needed signatures for ballot

Posted June 19, 2024 at 6:12 PM PDT

A rent control measure being pushed in the city of Delano did not collect enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

The Bakersfield Californian reports the Kern County elections office found the measure fell short by 150 signatures.

The office found only about 70 percent of signatures submitted were valid. The rent control measure sought to address rising housing costs and, if passed, would have made Delano the only city to have the measure in Kern County.

Source: Investigation into Fresno police chief nears completion

Posted June 18, 2024 at 8:41 PM PDT
KVPR News logo

KVPR has learned an investigation into the Fresno police chief should be wrapping up this week.

A source familiar with the investigation, but not at liberty to discuss details publicly, says the city is not expected to find any wrongdoing by chief Paco Balderrama over an off duty relationship.

The city publicly revealed its investigation through a press statement on June 6. But city officials learned about the off duty relationship in February.

PPIC: California college enrollment expected to rise in coming years

Posted June 18, 2024 at 8:38 PM PDT
 Students walk across the campus at Fresno State
Larry Valenzuela
/
CalMatters
Students walk across the campus at Fresno State in Fresno, on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.

Enrollment in higher education is expected to increase in the coming years in the state.

That’s according to a report released Tuesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The survey said the rise in enrollment could be due to a growing number of high school students completing college-readiness courses.

The PPIC says the UC and CSU systems are expected to see an increase in enrollment , while community colleges could face challenges.

CSUs in the Central Valley are projected to account for more than a quarter of the systemwide increase.

Kern County establishing program to clean up water

Posted June 18, 2024 at 8:36 PM PDT

Kern County is establishing a large-scale nitrate remediation program to address water contamination.

The local effort is on top of a 2021 state program that offers free well testing and water deliveries for residents.

The news website SJV Water reports the program is still coming together and will be fully operational next year.

Entrance to Death Valley National Park free on 'Juneteenth'

Posted June 17, 2024 at 9:09 PM PDT
A sign warns people of extreme heat in multiple languages
Ty ONeil
/
AP
A red stop sign posted along a walkway in Death Valley National Park warns people of extreme heat in multiple languages.

Visits to Death Valley National Park will be free on Wednesday in honor of the Juneteenth holiday.

Juneteenth honors the day when the last remaining slaves were freed in the United States in 1865. The Black and African American community view the holiday as a second independence day.

Park officials do note however that visitors should take caution while on their visit: stay hydrated and avoid spending long periods in the heat.

Hanford police make big bust of illegal fireworks ahead of holiday

Posted June 17, 2024 at 9:06 PM PDT

Nearly 5,000 pounds of illegal fireworks were confiscated ahead of advance of the 4th of July holiday.

Hanford Police Department Chief Stephanie Huddleston says the firework seizure uncovered an elaborate scheme by a 33-year-old resident.

Officers found a homemade firearm and practice bomb at the man’s home where the fireworks were located.

He was booked in the Kings County Jail but has since posted bail. Authorities say safe and legal fireworks should bear the “safe and sane” label.

Bakersfield ag companies face fines after worker death at carrot farm

Posted June 17, 2024 at 9:05 PM PDT
KVPR News logo

Three Bakersfield ag companies are facing fines by the state’s worker safety office.

The Bakersfield Californian reports Grimmway Farms and two contractors were fined thousands of dollars by Cal OSHA following the death of a worker last year.

Rosa Sanchez of Bakersfield was run over by a truck while she picked carrots. The Californian reports Cal OSHA uncovered violations in its investigation, including that a truck was driven unsafely around workers.

Nearly 200 workers at Fresno meat plant to be laid off

Posted June 17, 2024 at 9:03 PM PDT

Nearly 200 workers at a Valley meat processing plant are getting laid off.

The Fresno Bee reports workers at the Cargill plant in southwest Fresno are facing layoffs in August following new ownership.

Earlier this year the processing plant owned by Cargill was purchased by Central Valley Meat Company for an undisclosed amount.

Artists at Sorenson art studio in Fresno told to vacate

Posted June 17, 2024 at 9:01 PM PDT

Artists at a well-known downtown Fresno art studio were reportedly asked to vacate the property by Monday. According to a social media post, the issue appears to be related to a contract dispute over the Chris Sorenson Art Studio.

The studio is named after artist Chris Sorenson. He died earlier this year at 98.

Local outlets report around 60 artists worked out of the studio, and was a popular spot during the city’s Art Hop events.

Valley voters have low satisfaction with elected officials, survey finds

Posted June 14, 2024 at 5:12 PM PDT
A voter exits a polling station in Merced County, Calif. during the March 5th Primary.
Rachel Livinal
/
KVPR
A voter exits a polling station in Merced County, Calif. during the March 5th Primary.

Most voters in the Central Valley have little confidence in elected officials, and the Valley is high among dissatisfaction in the state.

The survey was published by the Public Policy Institute of California. It says only about a third of Valley residents approve of the Valley’s legislators and the California legislature. Similar views are held about Biden’s handling of his job. But there’s even less trust in Congress.

On all fronts, the Valley appeared to have the lowest confidence in public officials along with the San Diego region.

These findings come as Governor Gavin Newsom manages a state deficit. He’s proposing using more than 4 billion dollars from federal reserves to shrink the deficit. And almost 20 billion dollars in cuts and reductions to climate and housing programs.

The Valley, much like the state, remains divided on this approach.

Valley Children's Healthcare sued by staff over wages

Posted June 14, 2024 at 5:06 PM PDT

Valley Children’s Healthcare is facing a lawsuit from its non-exempt employees. They claim they’re being paid less than a minimum wage for on-call shifts.

The complaint includes nurses, who say the hospital has paid as little as $6 per hour for the mandatory shifts.

The lawsuit comes as the CEO of the hospital has gotten criticism for a $5 million dollar salary earned in 2021 and 2022.

Girl becomes fourth drowning victim in one week in the Valley

Posted June 14, 2024 at 5:03 PM PDT
A Tulare County Sheriff's Office dive team searches for a missing girl along the Kaweah River.
Tulare County Sheriff's Office
A Tulare County Sheriff's Office dive team searches for a missing girl along the Kaweah River.

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office said Friday the body of a 17-year-old girl who went missing along the Kaweah River has been recovered.

Deputies got a call on Wednesday around 5 p.m. about the who disappeared while swimming.

The public was asked to stay away from the area near the entrance to Sequoia National Park as a sheriff’s dive team and park service rangers conducted their search.

At least three other people have drowned in the last week along Valley rivers and lakes.

Relic of one of Jesus' 12 apostles displayed at Valley churches

Posted June 13, 2024 at 5:10 PM PDT
A piece of bone believed to belong to St. Judge Thaddeus the Apostle is shown.
Apostleoftheimpossible.com
A piece of bone believed to belong to St. Judge Thaddeus the Apostle is shown.

A relic believed to have come from one of Jesus’ 12 apostles made a stop in Fresno this week.

An arm bone belonging to St. Jude Thaddeus the Apostle was on display at St. John’s Cathedral on Wednesday. The tour by a non-profit run by the Catholic Church is the first time the relic has traveled outside of Rome.

The relic made a stop in Madera Thursday night at St. Joachim Catholic Church. From there, it will continue on to Northern California.

St. Jude is the patron saint of hope and impossible causes.

Newest state park opens in the Central Valley

Posted June 13, 2024 at 3:46 PM PDT

The first state park to open in California in a decade opened Wednesday and it's right here in the San Joaquin Valley.

Dos Rios is a 1,600 acre park near Modesto where the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers meet. What was once farmland has now become a restored floodplain.

It offers the ideal habitat for birds and fish. The opening of Dos Rios coincides with the state’s third annual State Parks Week.

Report: Merced County ignored ahead of flooding in 2023

Posted June 13, 2024 at 3:44 PM PDT
Brenda Ortega wades through water to salvage items from her flooded home.
Noah Berger
/
AP
Brenda Ortega, 15, salvages items from her flooded Merced, Calif., home on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. Following days of rain, Bear Creek overflowed its banks leaving dozens of homes and vehicles surrounded by floodwaters.

New documents have surfaced in a legal case surrounding the state’s role in devastating flooding last winter in parts of Merced.

According to the news website SJV Water, a string of emails recently produced as part of that lawsuit show that, for months, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife failed to respond to multiple requests from the county to clear stream beds ahead of winter rains.

Then, in January 2023, Bear Creek overflowed its banks and damaged homes and roads in the city. A trial date related to the case has been set for early 2026.

City of Fresno won't disclose firm investigating police chief

Posted June 13, 2024 at 3:42 PM PDT

The City of Fresno has contracted an outside agency to investigate Police Chief Paco Balderrama over an off-duty relationship.

But the city isn’t providing the name of the firm that is investigating. That’s one of several details that aren’t clear as public pressure intensifies.

On Wednesday, news outlets reported Balderrama was placed on administrative leave for the rest of the investigation. Balderrama issued an apology to the police force earlier this week.

Fresno police chief placed on paid administrative leave, reports say

Posted June 12, 2024 at 4:00 PM PDT
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama
City of Fresno
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama

Multiple news reports say Fresno police chief Paco Balderrama is now on paid administrative leave. Balderrama is at the center of an investigation for an off-duty relationship deemed inappropriate.

On Wednesday, hours before being placed on leave he told reporters he could not provide details about the investigation.

Balderrama was visibly emotional, and at one point pulled out a rosary he said an officer gave him as a show of support.

The Fresno Police Officers’ Association scheduled an emergency meeting for today [[Wednesday]] to discuss the matter.

Madera city workers stabilize sewer system after sinkhole damage

Posted June 12, 2024 at 3:56 PM PDT

A ruptured sewer system in the city of Madera has been stabilized. City workers say they plan to conduct more comprehensive repairs soon.

Earlier this week, a sinkhole opened up in southwest Madera and ruptured a sewer line. The city was briefly placed under a state of emergency. The impacted roads will remain closed until further notice.

Valley Children's Healthcare CEO speaks out after salary criticism

Posted June 12, 2024 at 3:55 PM PDT

The CEO of Valley Children’s Healthcare has issued public comments for the first time since outrage sparked over his multi-million dollar salary.

In a video statement posted Tuesday, Todd Suntrapak said he has no part in deciding his compensation other than “what the board committee says it’s going to be.”

Criticism has followed Suntrapak since earlier this year, when tax documents showed he earned a bonus of more than $2 million in 2020. He was also given a loan from the hospital board in 20-21 for a $5 million home in the Bay Area.

Investment firms eyeing Valley almond ranches in bankruptcy

Posted June 11, 2024 at 2:14 PM PDT

After a major San Joaquin Valley almond farming operation filed for bankruptcy late last year, buyers are now lining up for its land.

The Fresno Bee reports investment companies based in the Bay Area and Indiana are looking at purchasing more than 8,000 almond acres for sale in Tulare, San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties.

The fields belonged to Oakdale-based Trinitas Farming. The company managed 17 separate almond orchards in the Valley, but went bankrupt before a single almond could be harvested.

Community Health Systems reaches settlement with physician group

Posted June 11, 2024 at 2:12 PM PDT

Community Health Systems and a group of physicians have reached a settlement following a walkout in 2020.

The Fresno Bee reports that following a lawsuit, the physician group will pay the health system $1.2 million due to the disruptions caused by the walkout.

The physician group walked out over an expired contract. It came as the health system – which operates the only Level 1 trauma center in the Valley – faced pandemic surges.

Sinkhole in Madera leads to state of emergency over sewer line

Posted June 11, 2024 at 2:11 PM PDT

The city of Madera is under a state of emergency after a large sinkhole damaged a sewer line.

Residents are being asked to temporarily refrain from using water for non-essential things like laundry, dishes and long showers. That’s in order to help crews contain the sinkhole and repair the sewer line.

City agencies report the drinking water is safe. The sinkhole was reported Monday in southwest Madera, along Road 25 and Pecan Avenue.

Visalia keeping its 'legacy logo' following community backlash

Posted June 11, 2024 at 2:10 PM PDT
The City of Visalia is keeping its current logo up at some city facilities, following backlash to a redesigned logo.
City of Visalia
/
KVPR
The City of Visalia is keeping its current logo up at some city facilities, following backlash to a redesigned logo.

The city of Visalia has decided to keep its long-time logo design after some harsh backlash from the public. The city recently unveiled a new – some would say “simple” – look, but it wasn’t welcomed by residents.

Following a public meeting last week where residents decried the minimalist logo, and its costs, the city now says it will ditch the new design and continue to display its old one.

The city has used the current logo since 1998 – it will now be called a “legacy logo” while the city searches for artists to draw up a new look that the community can approve of.

Fresno police union board to meet over controversy surrounding chief

Posted June 10, 2024 at 4:11 PM PDT

Controversy surrounding Fresno’s Police Chief Paco Balderrama is continuing.

Last week the city of Fresno alerted the public that an independent firm was investigating Balderrama for what it said was an inappropriate relationship.

The city’s statement said the relationship involved a non-city employee, but it generated lots of speculation among the public.

According to news reports, the board of the Fresno Police Officers’ Association is set to meet to discuss the matter on Wednesday.

Eagle Mountain Casino issues refunds to George Lopez show guests

Posted June 10, 2024 at 4:09 PM PDT

Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville says it’s giving full refunds and free tickets to future shows this year to some of its customers.

That’s after comedian George Lopez walked out of a show Friday night, with half an hour left, blindsiding guests.

Lopez reportedly walked off because of an audience disruption. But casino officials dispute his version of events. The incident has garnered much reaction online.

New oil drilling wells approved in Kern County, despite state fight

Posted June 10, 2024 at 4:08 PM PDT

Despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s fight with the state’s oil industry, at least 10 new drilling permits have been approved for Kern County.

The Sacramento Bee reported last week the permits are the first since last summer. They are also the first approved under new leadership at the state’s oil and gas regulating agency.

Climate advocates criticized the approvals over concerns of oil spills and air pollution.

Second heat wave of the year sets in Tuesday

Posted June 10, 2024 at 4:07 PM PDT
 The sun sets along the San Joaquin River in Fresno, Calif.
Aracely Rodriguez
/
Contributed
The sun sets along the San Joaquin River in Fresno, Calif.

Another heat wave is set to arrive Tuesday and it’s not even officially summer. The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for the San Joaquin Valley and the foothills.

It shouldn’t be quite as hot as last week, but forecasters are still predicting triple digits in the Valley, with a high of 105.

In the foothills, temperatures are expected to reach the high 90s. The warming trend will last through Wednesday.

Remember to stay hydrated and in the air-conditioning if you can. If you work outside, forecasters advise taking frequent breaks in the shade.

Cal Fire suspends burn permits for Fresno, Kings counties

Posted June 10, 2024 at 4:03 PM PDT

Cal Fire has temporarily suspended burn permits for homeowners in Fresno and Kings counties.

Warming temperatures and winds are drying out grass and increasing the risk of wildfires.

Homeowners can protect their homes by clearing dead vegetation 100 feet from any structures. Also, disposing of landscape debris by chipping or hauling it to a waste facility is an option.

The suspension does not apply to campfires on campgrounds or private property.

Comedian George Lopez walks out of Porterville casino show, draws criticism

Posted June 9, 2024 at 10:19 PM PDT

Comedian George Lopez is drawing criticism for walking out of a set this weekend at Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville.

Online reports from TMZ say Lopez became frustrated with an "unruly" crowd, who could be heard in a video interrupting him as he tried to get through a bit.

The casino said in a Facebook post the comedian ended the Friday night show 30 minutes early. It criticized Lopez by saying he "let down" his fans, and he could have asked private security to escort any hecklers instead of just walking out.

Lopez initially had rescheduled the show in April after a medical emergency. Casino officials said they would release an official statement Monday.

Cal Water: Safe to consume water in Bakersfield neighborhood after oil incident

Posted June 9, 2024 at 10:09 PM PDT

The California Water Service Co. canceled a "do not drink" water warning on Sunday for an area of central Bakersfield after oil was found in the water lines last week.

The water agency reported after multiple water quality tests, it determined it was safe to resume normal water use.

Since Tuesday, oil was discovered coming out of water hydrants, leading crews to cut off water access to an area near Truxton Avenue and Highway 58, just west of downtown Bakersfield.

Cal Water said the cause of the oil contamination was due to a nearby crude oil storage facility improperly connecting its equipment to a hose bib, causing oil to backflow into the water lines.

The agency released information on how to resume water use.

Read KVPR's previous coverage here.

Third drowning in less than a week reported, this time at Shaver Lake

Posted June 9, 2024 at 10:01 PM PDT

A 16-year-old boy became the third drowning reported in less than a week in Central California. This time the death occurred at Shaver Lake.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office said a report was made about a boy who jumped off a pontoon boat and did not resurface. The boy was wearing a life jacket, but it somehow came off when he made it to the water.

About an hour later, the boy's body was recovered about 15 feet below by a sheriff's dive team.

On Friday, a 24-year-old man drowned at Skaggs Bridge Park along the San Joaquin River near Kerman. On Thursday, a man was also pulled from the Kern River.

Fresno airport now has a direct flight to Atlanta

Posted June 8, 2024 at 8:31 AM PDT
A direct flight from Fresno to Atlanta is now available through the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
FAT
A direct flight from Fresno to Atlanta is now available through the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

The Fresno Yosemite International Airport launched a direct flight to Atlanta, Georgia, for the first time Friday.

The non-stop route is the farthest for the Fresno airport. Officials celebrated the launch as an opportunity for Valley residents to access busy metropolitan areas on the East Coast, Latin America, Europe and Africa.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is considered the busiest in the country.

The flights are operated by Delta Air Lines.

Man drowns in the San Joaquin River near Kerman

Posted June 8, 2024 at 8:21 AM PDT

A man died Friday after reportedly drowning in the San Joaquin River in Kerman, east of Fresno, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office said.

The man was wading through knee-high water when he fell into a deeper section of the river. Friends told the sheriff's office it took about two to three minutes for him to resurface.

Friends and first responders tried to conduct CPR on the man, but he died shortly after 1 p.m. The drowning happened at Skaggs Bridge Park, a popular spot locals looking to enjoy the river.

The man was 20 years old, did not know how to swim, and was not wearing a life jacket, according to the sheriff's office.

The death came as another person drowned in the Kern River a day before. The sheriff's office warned residents to wear life jackets near water. If you can't swim, stay of water, and keep an eye on children at all times, the sheriff's office added.

AC fails at Fresno County jail facility, 130 inmates moved

Posted June 7, 2024 at 2:28 PM PDT
The Fresno County Jail's South Annex facility is located at M and Fresno streets in downtown Fresno, California.
Crescencio Rodriguez-Delgado
/
Google Maps
The Fresno County Jail's South Annex facility is located at M and Fresno streets in downtown Fresno, California.

At least 130 inmates at a Fresno County jail facility had to be moved to a separate facility after one of two air conditioning units failed this week.

A sheriff’s office spokesman says crews would be working through the weekend to install and test out a new unit. The disruption came just as the region experienced the first heat wave of the year.

Inmates were being provided ice, water and wet towels in the meantime. The incident happened at the South Annex Jail, one of three downtown facilities.

Cedar Grove to open for visitors starting Monday

Posted June 7, 2024 at 2:20 PM PDT

Cedar Grove at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is reopening to visitors for the first time since last winter’s storms.

Visitors will begin getting access starting Monday. The reopening will be done in phases through June 21st.

Most campgrounds will still not be ready to reopen this year, but park officials say the Sentinel Campground should reopen by the first of July.

Bakersfield neighborhood sees oil in its water lines

Posted June 7, 2024 at 2:19 PM PDT

Crews are working to restore water lines in a Bakersfield neighborhood after oil was found coming out of water hydrants.

Since Tuesday, crews have cut off water access to an area near Truxton Avenue and Highway 58. Cal-Water, which manages water service in that area, says the source of the oil appears to be a nearby crude oil storage facility.

They say the facility improperly connected its equipment to a hose bib, causing oil to backflow into the water lines. Water tests were being conducted as of Friday.

Valley nonprofit gets funding to reduce risks of HIV

Posted June 7, 2024 at 2:18 PM PDT

A San Joaquin Valley nonprofit is getting help in reducing the risks of HIV. The Source LGBT Plus Center in Visalia was awarded a three-year grant from the state to distribute HIV prevention medication known as PrEP.

PrEP can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by 99% when taken as prescribed.

The Source is one of two dozen organizations across the state receiving the funding. Nonprofit leaders say the aim is to increase access and utilization of the medication. HIV diagnoses statewide have seen a small increase in recent years.

Search-and-rescue team pulls dead body from Kern River

Posted June 6, 2024 at 5:10 PM PDT
Water rushes under a bridge as California's snowmelt ramps up during high temperatures.
Fresno County Sheriff's Office
/
Facebook
Water rushes under a bridge.

Kern County search and rescue teams recovered a dead body from the Kern River earlier Thursday.

Deputies were called to Riverside Park in Kernville after a man was pulled out of the river in difficult terrain. He was unresponsive.

Last month, a teenage boy drowned in the Merced River after boarding a kayak in the fast-flowing water.

First responders urge caution as high temperatures mean lots of melting snow, which may cause treacherous conditions in waterways.

Fresno police chief investigated for alleged inappropriate relationship

Posted June 6, 2024 at 5:09 PM PDT
Fresno Police Chief Pacco Balderrama is under investigation for an alleged "inappropriate intimate relationship...with a non-city employee."
Esther Quintanilla
/
KVPR
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama speaks at a press conference.

Fresno Police Department Chief Paco Balderrama is under investigation.

The city said it has hired an outside firm to determine whether the chief violated department policies when he allegedly engaged in an “inappropriate intimate relationship … with a non-city employee.”

The nature of the allegations were not disclosed. But the city says it learned of them in February. Balderrama will continue to work and lead the force pending the investigation.

Court hearing in Kern County supervisor case postponed

Posted June 6, 2024 at 3:23 PM PDT

A family court hearing for Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner was delayed Thursday.

Attorneys representing the county lawmaker and his wife agreed to postpone the hearing until December — pending the outcome of a state investigation over allegations that Scrivner sexually assaulted a child.

A temporary restraining order preventing Scrivner from contacting his wife and children remains in effect.

Historic Armenian homes in Fresno become affordable housing

Posted June 6, 2024 at 3:22 PM PDT

A group of historic Armenian homes in Fresno are now serving as affordable housing.

Council member Miguel Arias on Thursday hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for the restoration project in downtown Fresno.

The homes were originally constructed in 1890 and 1908, but sat vacant for decades. A fire also destroyed two of the historic homes in 2020. The total cost of the project was $1.3 million.

Report: Fresno didn't follow protocol when it fell victim to scam

Posted June 6, 2024 at 3:21 PM PDT
A stone sign outside Fresno City Hall identifies the building.
Alex Burke
/
KVPR
Fresno City Hall.

In 2020, the City of Fresno fell victim to a phishing scam that cost the city more than $600,000.

A grand jury report out Thursday says the city didn’t follow proper protocols leading up to the scam, which dates back to 2018 when the City of Fresno was looking to build a new police substation.

A contractor initially asked to be paid in physical checks. But months later, an email asked the city to instead make wire transfers. The city’s finance department complied.

But they were no longer communicating with the real contractor.

When they learned of the mistake, the city tried to get the money back, but couldn’t. The grand jury report took a closer look at how – and why – this happened, and found the city did not verify who was requesting payment.

In addition, the city did not perform a daily review of large payments. The grand jury recommended the city improve its fraud policies and practices, as well as reviewing its verification process with vendors.

The heatwave has arrived

Posted June 5, 2024 at 6:06 PM PDT

A blazing heatwave has made its way to the San Joaquin Valley.

According to the National Weather Service, the next few days of triple-digit heat makes for the hottest the region has been since last September.

On the Valley floor, temperatures are expected to reach a high of anywhere from 104 to 107 degrees on Thursday. Many counties have activated cooling centers.

An excessive heat warning is in effect until Friday night.

Valley Spanish-language newspaper to stop print production

Posted June 5, 2024 at 5:55 PM PDT

The Spanish-language newspaper "Vida en el Valle" announced on Wednesday that it’s stopping print production of its paper.

The newspaper will instead focus on more digital news products.

The bilingual publication was established in 1990, and has served Spanish-speaking communities across the San Joaquin Valley. The final print edition of the paper will be published June 19.

Valley graduation ceremonies delayed due to heat

Posted June 5, 2024 at 5:52 PM PDT

With temperatures rising to triple-digits across the San Joaquin Valley, schools in the area are delaying graduations.

Ceremonies for Clovis West and Buchanan High Wednesday evening were pushed back two hours due to the extreme heat.

Graduations at Madera South and Madera High School are also pushed back two hours to allow for cooler temperatures.

School officials recommend drinking lots of water and dressing in breathable fabrics and sunscreen to stay safe in the heat.

Prescribed burns scheduled in Fresno County foothills

Posted June 5, 2024 at 5:41 PM PDT

Tomorrow, you may see smoke near Friant, Prather and Millerton Lake, as well as northern Clovis.

Cal Fire is conducting a prescribed burn in the area.

These intentional fires are meant to benefit fire-dependent ecosystems, like the wildlands. The burn should help with natural regeneration, reduce future fire risks, and provide hands-on training for firefighters.

The controlled burn is expected to start at 9am and continue until mid-afternoon.

Generals Highway sinkhole repaired

Posted June 5, 2024 at 5:27 PM PDT

The road between Sequoia and Kings National Parks is now open and passable as of this morning/Wednesday.

According to park officials, a sinkhole near Stony Creek in Sequoia had become visible in one lane of traffic on the Generals Highway.

The hole was temporarily patched up with gravel and is expected to get a full repair later this week. While the work is in progress, travelers can expect a single lane closure on the highway.

City of Fresno gets boost in effort to take down wage theft

Posted June 4, 2024 at 5:37 PM PDT
The Fresno City Council is considering a new policy that would give the City Attorney's Office the power to prosecute employers through both civil and criminal action, a power that was previously exclusive to the state Labor Commissioner's Office.
Julianna Morano
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Fresnoland
Fresno City Attorney Andrew Janz speaks during a press conference.

The City of Fresno has been awarded $720,000 from the state to combat wage theft. That’s when employers don’t give employees pay or benefits they’ve earned.

Earlier this year, Fresno became the first city in California to take on wage theft cases under state law.

City Attorney Andrew Janz now has a division within his office dedicated to these cases.

Fresno’s wage protection program will officially launch in August. That will include a website where residents can file complaints online.

Ruiz Foods plant in Tulare will shut down

Posted June 4, 2024 at 5:34 PM PDT

The Ruiz Foods plant in Tulare will shut down late this summer. The Sun Gazette newspaper reports company officials feel the plant is too small for operations and would need a substantial capital investment.

The plant in Tulare originally opened in 2004 as an extension of the main plant in Dinuba. Employees at the plant can relocate to Dinuba or join a recall list.

Alleged arsonist hits homes in Fresno, fire department says

Posted June 4, 2024 at 5:32 PM PDT

The Fresno Fire Department says four different cases of arson have been reported over the last five weeks.

They say the fires were started at homes in northwest and southwest Fresno and fire officials say a hand-written note was posted at each home before a fire was ignited with gasoline.

The suspect is believed to be a middle-aged female. Anyone who has had a similar letter posted on their home is asked to report it.

Some Madera residents asked to not use tap water

Posted June 4, 2024 at 5:31 PM PDT

Residents around the city of Madera are being asked to continue refraining from using their tap water.

That’s after a sewer trunk failure, which is equipment that cleans up liquid and sludge, was reported Monday night.

Madera police say a crew has been working to fix the problem, but are waiting for proper equipment to bring the pumps back online.

New pumps are expected to be installed early Tuesday morning. Meantime, officials ask that residents not do laundry, wash dishes or take long showers with their tap water.

Fresno County dog who was shot by owner looks for new home

Posted June 3, 2024 at 5:32 PM PDT

A dog who was the victim of a vicious animal abuse case is looking for a new home.

In March a pitbull was tied to a pole in Parlier, where his owner allegedly shot him with a handgun. The dog was severely injured, but underwent surgery and has made a full recovery.

His owner, a 48-year-old man, was booked in the Fresno County Jail on firearm charges and is now facing additional animal abuse charges.

Detectives were able to confirm the crime using footage from the man's own home security system. Anyone interested in adopting the dog can contact Fresno Humane Animal Services.

West Fresno residents celebrate 'new beginning' after meat plant closure

Posted June 3, 2024 at 5:23 PM PDT
A KVPR file photo shows residents in West Fresno protesting a meat rendering plant that caused pollution concerns.
Rebecca Plevin
/
KVPR
A KVPR file photo shows residents in West Fresno protesting a meat rendering plant that caused pollution concerns.

Last week, residents in West Fresno celebrated the closure of a foul-smelling meat rendering plant in their neighborhood.

The facility, which converted animal byproducts into other materials, was owned by Texas-based Darling International Ingredients.

The closure followed more than six decades of complaints and legal battles, including a lawsuit from the Concerned Citizens of West Fresno community group.

Community members called the shuttering of the plant a “new beginning” for West Fresno.

Kern County residents continue push to oust Supervisor Scrivner

Posted June 3, 2024 at 5:12 PM PDT
Kern County District 2 Supervisor Zack Scrivner.
Kern County
Kern County District 2 Supervisor Zack Scrivner.

The fate of Supervisor Zack Scrivner is likely to come up again at Tuesday's meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors.

A group aiming to unseat Scrivner has planned a protest in front of the county administrative building at 8:30 a.m. ahead of the 9 a.m. supervisors meeting.

One of the speakers will be Kelly Carden, who had run for Scrivner’s seat in 2022.

Scrivner has not made a public appearance since Sheriff Donny Youngblood announced in April that the supervisor was under investigation for alleged child sexual abuse.

Vince Fong officially becomes member of Congress

Posted June 3, 2024 at 5:09 PM PDT
Vince Fong.
California State Assembly
Vince Fong.

Former California Assemblymember Vince Fong is officially a member of Congress.

Fong was sworn in by House Speaker Mike Johnson Monday evening in Washington, D.C. The Bakersfield Republican was elected to serve out the remainder of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s term this year.

He will face off against Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux in November for the next Congressional term.

Firefighters working to contain wildfire near Tracy in San Joaquin County

Posted June 3, 2024 at 5:06 PM PDT

Firefighters have made significant progress containing a wildfire burning in a grassland between the San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area.

The Corral Fire in San Joaquin County near Tracy scorched more than 22 square miles over the weekend, destroying one home and injuring two firefighters.

As of earlier Monday, the fire was75% contained and evacuation orders have been downgraded to warnings. The cause is still under investigation. It’s the state’s largest wildfire to date.

Merced County to open cooling centers as weather heats up

Posted May 31, 2024 at 2:24 PM PDT

Starting this weekend, Merced County will activate its cooling centers for the summer.

Sixteen cooling centers from Snelling to Gustine to Los Banos will be available most days of the week until the end of October.

Transportation to cooling centers is free on public buses. Service animals are welcome, but pets are otherwise not allowed. Find locations and opening hours at the Merced County website.

Pride Month kicks off this weekend, parade planned in Fresno

Posted May 31, 2024 at 2:23 PM PDT

A parade and festival are kicking off Pride Month this weekend in Fresno.

The city’s annual Rainbow Pride Parade will start at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Tower District, and a Pride Festival will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Fresno City College.

In addition to food and music, organizers reportedly plan to perform a same-sex marriage on the festival’s main stage.

Merced County student not the winner, but still takes prize at national spelling bee

Posted May 31, 2024 at 2:20 PM PDT

A Merced student came close, but was not crowned best speller at the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday night in Washington, D.C.

Eighth-grader Rishabh Saha tied for seventh place after misspelling the word “desmotrope.”

Saha still walked away with a cash prize and a medal. For those curious: a “desmotrope” is a specific kind of compound used in the field of chemistry.

Millions for electric school buses coming to Valley school districts

Posted May 30, 2024 at 5:17 PM PDT

Many students in the San Joaquin Valley may soon be riding to school on electric buses.

Rep. Jim Costa announced Thursday several school districts will receive federal rebates through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Among them is Fresno Unified, which will receive $6 million to purchase 25 electric buses. These have low or no tailpipe emissions, compared to traditional yellow school buses that often use diesel.

Other districts include Selma, Caruthers, Los Banos, Sierra Unified in eastern Fresno County and Wasco Union Elementary.

Biden Administration invests millions in water projects, including in Merced County

Posted May 30, 2024 at 5:10 PM PDT

The Biden Administration is investing nearly $250 million in water projects in the West.

Among them, is the B.F. Sisk Dam. That’s the dam in Merced County that forms the San Luis Reservoir.

$75 million will go toward a project already underway to raise the dam and enhance the reservoir’s storage capacity.

The funding is part of Biden’s “Investing in America” agenda.

The goal is to increase climate resilience. The Sites Reservoir near Sacramento also received funding to expand its storage capacity. Money also went to projects in Arizona, Colorado and Washington.

Merced County student competing in national spelling bee

Posted May 30, 2024 at 5:03 PM PDT
Scripps National Spelling Bee Logo
Hand-out/The E.W. Scripps Company
/
The E.W. Scripps Company
Scripps National Spelling Bee Logo

A San Joaquin Valley student is competing in final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Merced student Rishabah Saha is an 8th grader at Herbert Cruickshank Middle School. He is among eight finalists to compete for top honors tonight in Washington, DC.

The competition wraps up Thursday night. In 2017, 13-year-old Ananya Vinay from Fresno was crowned national champion.

Saha enjoys music and is an avid national park visitor. His favorite word is “Euphoria.”

Measles confirmed in Tulare County, following case in Fresno County

Posted May 30, 2024 at 4:53 PM PDT

After a case of measles was confirmed in Fresno County earlier this month, officials on Thursday said measles has been confirmed in an adult in Tulare County.

The last measles reported in Tulare County was in 2016 in an 18-month-old child.

Public health officials say they are working to trace exposure to the patient. Measles is preventable, but anyone who is not vaccinated against it is more at risk.

High Speed Rail Authority asks for $450M for rail work in Valley

Posted May 29, 2024 at 4:49 PM PDT

The California High Speed Rail Authority is asking for $450 million from the federal government to continue working on a rail extension in the San Joaquin Valley.

The funding would help advance construction on the 8-mile stretch of rail between Madera and Merced.

The rail authority expects to know if it will be given the funds by the fall. There are currently more than 25 active rail construction sites in the region.

Foxy Fresno: More foxes are popping up in the city

Posted May 29, 2024 at 4:47 PM PDT

Have you seen them? More foxes have been spotted around Fresno’s Tower District.

That’s according to a new report from the Fresno Bee. The Central Valley SPCA told the newspaper it averages about one call a week regarding fox sightings in residential areas.

While the organization only deals with domestic animals, it defers people to the state department of Fish and Wildlife — who says there’s no need to worry…as long as the foxes aren’t disturbing neighborhoods or harming pets.

Water official pleads guilty to stealing water from Central Valley

Posted May 29, 2024 at 4:37 PM PDT
FILE PHOTO.
California Department of Water Resources
FILE PHOTO.

A former California water official has pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal water from the Central Valley.

Former head of the Panoche Water District Dennis Falaschi entered the plea in a Fresno federal court Tuesday. Falaschi was accused of siphoning more than $25 million in water over two decades from a federal canal.

The Panoche Water District supplies irrigation for farmland in Fresno and Merced counties.

Wednesday marks one year since the crash of Bitwise Industries

Posted May 29, 2024 at 4:35 PM PDT

Wednesday marks one-year since the collapse of Bitwise Industries.

For nearly a decade, the startup in Fresno was built with hopes of bringing tech jobs to the Central Valley.

But last year, all employees were furloughed and the company filed for bankruptcy.

A federal investigation found Bitwise co-founders Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr. allegedly defrauded investors and embezzled funds for years. They each face fraud charges at the federal level, and await a court date in mid-July.

See KVPR's reporting on the collapse of Bitwise Industries here.

Catholic Diocese of Fresno plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy over abuse claims

Posted May 28, 2024 at 4:29 PM PDT
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno.
Monica Velez
/
KVPR FILE
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno.

The Catholic Diocese of Fresno announced Tuesday it plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August. This comes as the diocese faces over 150 claims of abuse by clergy.

The diocese says the surge in claims is due to a recent law that opened a three-year window for individuals to bring forward claims of sexual abuse they suffered as a child.

Diocese officials say seeking chapter 11 bankruptcy is to ensure “all victims are compensated fairly and equitably."

Read the full story here.

Fresno County fruit trail website tells you where to find fresh fruits

Posted May 28, 2024 at 4:05 PM PDT

The Fresno County Fruit Trail is officially open for the 2024 season. Strawberries are in full swing and available at many of the fruit stands in Fresno County.

Organizers say many tree fruits and other berries are a bit behind schedule because of a cold and wet spring this year.

If you’re curious to find these fruits, The Fresno County Fruit Trail is a self-guided tour for seasonal produce in the area. It provides a fruit trail map to different farm stands and markets in eastern Fresno County. You can find that map at gofruittrail.com.

City of Lindsay looking at renovating its 'Olive Bowl' park

Posted May 28, 2024 at 4:02 PM PDT

The city of Lindsay is scraping together enough grant funding to expand and renovate one of its parks.

The Olive Bowl honors the city’s agricultural legacy. Lindsay was at one time one of the nation’s biggest producers of table olives and the namesake of the popular “Lindsay Olives” brand.

So far, the city has pulled in about $10 million from state and federal sources. Officials hope to start construction on the park project by the end of the year.

City of Hanford seeks council member for vacant seat

Posted May 28, 2024 at 4:00 PM PDT

The city of Hanford is seeking applications to fill a vacant council seat. Sitting council members will appoint a new member through a nomination process.

Former Councilwoman Kalish Morrow announced her resignation from the District B seat earlier this month.

Neighboring District C is also vacant, leaving the city with the minimum number of council members needed to hold a quorum.

Traveler with measles came through Fresno airport, health officials warn

Posted May 27, 2024 at 9:58 PM PDT
The Fresno Yosemite International Airport
Rick Duncan
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The Fresno Yosemite International Airport

Health officials say a traveler who arrived in Fresno through the Fresno Yosemite airport earlier this month was infected with measles.

They say the traveler arrived on May 19 through a connecting flight from Los Angeles, but are just now warning those who may have been exposed.

Measles is an infectious disease that is spread easily through the air, and has no cure or treatment.

Fire comes close to homes near Millerton Lake

Posted May 27, 2024 at 9:57 PM PDT

A small fire Monday afternoon threatened several homes near Millerton Lake.

Flames threatened a community along Sky Harbour Road as some enjoyed the Memorial Day holiday.

There were no reports of homes burned or destroyed, but as the weather picks up, wildfires can become more common – especially around dry brush.

City of Fresno offers help for group to purchase troubled mobile home park

Posted May 27, 2024 at 9:56 PM PDT

The City of Fresno is throwing about $3.5 million to help a local organization purchase a troubled mobile home park.

The city council last week voted to approve the subsidy to help Self Help Enterprises make the purchase of La Hacienda Mobile Estates.

The park was formerly known as Trails End. Under the plan, the mobile home park would stay open as affordable housing.

The current owners of the park filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Fresno Unified hires coach for board members amid search for a new superintendent

Posted May 24, 2024 at 4:31 PM PDT
In a split decision, the Fresno Unified School District Board of Trustees decides to pause its search for a new superintendent and cast a wider net for candidates nationwide.
Esther Quintanilla
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KVPR
In a split decision, the Fresno Unified School District Board of Trustees decides to pause its search for a new superintendent and cast a wider net for candidates nationwide.

The Fresno Unified School District is getting some help in its search for a new superintendent.

The district will spend $100,000 for a coach to help the board navigate the ongoing search.

The Fresno Bee reports the district’s board of directors approved a two-year contract with the Council of the Great City Schools for “professional services," which includes coach and leadership support and professional development for the board members and interim superintendent Misty Her.

Additionally, the Bee reports the district got a $20,000 discount from the council because the contract was unanimously approved.

Wildfire prevention efforts are getting a boost in the Madera foothills

Posted May 24, 2024 at 4:27 PM PDT

The U.S. Forest Service has awarded Madera County a $534,343 Wildfire Defense Program grant.

It's part of an effort to reduce wildfire risks in at-risk communities by restoring and maintaining landscapes, creating fire adapted communities and improving wildfire responses.

The new funding will be used to support mitigation and outreach efforts in Coarsegold, Yosemite and other foothill communities.

Valley-born football stars to make a significant donation to Valley Children's Hospital

Posted May 24, 2024 at 4:23 PM PDT

Valley Children’s Hospital is receiving a $250,000 donation from two of the area’s most notable football stars.

Valley-natives David and Derek Carr have been long supporters of the hospital.

The funds are intended for the hospital’s Guilds Center for Community Health, a branch that helps address factors like physical environment, economic status, and behaviors in kids.

Fresno Diocese welcomes six new priests amid nationwide shortage

Posted May 24, 2024 at 4:20 PM PDT