Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio


A new report from researchers and community-based organizations released Monday shows Indigenous farmworkers across California lacked information and resources to protect themselves during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Submitted photo.

Windy conditions sparked a fire in a composting plant in Kings County on Monday. The fire is still burning. Residents in nearby communities are concerned about the smoke's impact on their health. 

Maricela Mares-Alatorre lives in Kettleman City and works for Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. She says she first smelled hints of the fire on Monday, on her drive home from her daughter's dance class. The next morning, she says, it was worse. 


On this week’s Valley Edition: Why Fresno has become such a hot housing market, and how rising prices are deepening the affordable housing crisis.

Plus, the fight to keep small town newspapers in business.

And we conclude our series Escape From Mammoth Pool with a conversation about climate change, forest management, and the increasing human toll of an intensifying wildfire season. Listen to these stories and more in the podcast above. 



Fresno State faculty members are launching a new program to incorporate the voices of marginalized community members into policymaking in the city of Fresno. 

The Center for Community Voices aims to show Fresno residents that their perspective is an important part of policy decisions, according to Amber Crowell, an assistant professor in sociology at Fresno State and co-director of the program.

“Really, there's knowledge and wisdom all around us in our communities,” she says, “through lived experiences, through being directly impacted by issues.” 

Kerry Klein / KVPR

The emergency rescues at Mammoth Pool Reservoir last September didn't happen in a vacuum. Wildfires in the West are getting bigger, faster, and more intense, and “megafires” like the Creek Fire, driven largely by climate change and a century of fire suppression, are putting people and infrastructure more at risk than ever.

A University of North Carolina study found that roughly 1,800 newspapers have closed in the United States since 2004, the vast majority of which were weekly publications that served small communities. But here in Central California, the Mariposa Gazette, is still going strong. In fact, it’s the state’s oldest weekly newspaper. Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock talked to the paper’s editor and co-owner Greg Little about the book he recently wrote and the future of small-town newspapers.

Amber Crowell, Emma De La Rosa, Kerry Klein and Ian Sharples

The Central Valley’s reputation as an affordable place to live has been challenged by skyrocketing housing prices. To learn what is behind the sharp increase in home and rental prices, and what this means for the ongoing affordable housing crisis, Valley Edition host Kathleen Schock spoke with Amber Crowell, associate professor of sociology at Fresno State; Manuela Tobias, housing reporter for CalMatters; Emma De La Rosa, policy advocate with the Leadership Council; and Ian Sharples, housing program manager for the Community Action Partnership of Kern. 


Join KVPR and our partners at Science Friday for fun night of trivia and science as part of our Virtual Trivia Night. The online event with SciFri host and creator Ira Flatow takes place online on Friday October 23rd at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. KVPR’s own science reporter Kerry Klein, who is a frequent guest on the national broadcasts of Science Friday will co-host the event with Flatow. Tickets are $30 and all proceeds will benefit Valley Public Radio.

Rain Chamberlain, who identifies with the pronoun they/them, lives in a small stucco home in Fresno with their child and a roommate. Chamberlain’s workspace is tucked into a corner of the living room.  

“This is my desk area over here,” they say as they sit at the desk and begin a usual routine, signing into one of several government websites they use to access assistance programs. 

“So if I were to go to 'My Benefits Calwin’,” they say, waiting for the page to load.

“Oh hey, guess what. The internet decided it wasn't there,” Chamberlain says with a laugh.

Jack Haskel

Last September, just days after the Mammoth Pool Reservoir rescues, thick orange smoke and falling ash from a different wildfire forced Jack Haskel to cut short a backpacking trip in Northern California. A few years before that, he had to evacuate a trail under similar circumstances in Oregon.

But not only is Jack a backpacker, he’s also a Trail Information Manager with the Pacific Crest Trail Association, and he is increasingly finding himself spending his summer days fielding phone calls from hikers and backpackers seeing smoke and wondering what to do.

San Joaquin Valley Town Hall

The annual San Joaquin Valley Town Hall lecture series returns to Fresno's Saroyan Theatre on Oct. 20 with a talk by historian Jon Meacham. Travel writer Rick Steves, violinist Vijay Gupta and restaurant critic Ruth Reichl are also among the lineup of six speakers for the 2021-22 season. To learn more, Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke to the Town Hall’s president, Jonica Bushman. 


On this week’s Valley Edition:  Rising temperatures have changed how wildfires behave - what that means for the future of the Sierra Nevada. 

Plus, living in poverty during the pandemic can be a job in itself. What it takes to keep up with government assistance programs just to survive. 

 And we continue with the wildfire smoke investigation from NPR’s California Newsroom. Listen to these stories and more in the podcast above. 


Alison Saldanha

Dangerous Air, an investigation by NPR's California Newsroom into the rise of western wildfire smoke and the extent it harms health, is based on more than a decade's worth of data. To learn more about its findings, Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke to Alison Saldanha, the data journalist who led the investigation. 

Four people seriously injured Thursday afternoon when they were struck by a falling tree were released from the hospital Friday morning. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park officials say of the four injured, one was from CALFIRE and three were Corpsmembers with the California Conservation Corps. The group was working on the southern end of the KNP Complex in Sequoia National Park when the tree fell around 3 p.m. Thursday. All four were airlifted to a hospital and treated overnight. 

For the first time in recorded history, wildfires breached the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains this year - terrain long considered to be well equipped to fend off encroaching fires. To learn more about the significance of this milestone, Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke to Crystal Kolden, a pyrogeographer and assistant professor at U.C. Merced.

At Sunset Elementary in southwest Fresno Tuesday, Governor Newsom announced sweeping investments in early education. As part of his California Comeback Plan, he said universal transitional kindergarten will soon be a reality. 

“Finally, we're in a position to create a brand new grade, TK for all in the state of California,” he said.

The legislation will help school districts create transitional kindergarten programs starting in 2022. The goal is to make the programs free and available at all schools by 2025.

Soreath Hok / KVPR



State guidelines require employers to provide outdoor workers with N95 masks for voluntary use when the air quality index is above 151. On Monday, as AQI was forecast to reach 169 in Fresno County, Carmen Cuautenco continued picking almonds. 

She typically picks grapes during the harvest season but with wildfire smoke stunting their growth, she says she’s been forced to pivot to almonds. She wore her own mask to protect against COVID-19 and wildfire smoke, but she says her employer never offered her an N95 mask.

An air quality alert first issued last week was extended until Thursday morning due to continuing wildfire smoke. The San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District says there are intense amounts of smoke from the KNP Complex and Windy Fires in Sequoia National Park and nearby forest. 

NPS / ACholo / Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Fire crews are starting to gain ground on wildfires burning in Sequoia National Park and Sequoia National Forest. But the effects are still being felt as far as Fresno County.

In Fresno, you can clearly see and smell the smoke. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued an air quality alert through Monday, all of it due to the Windy and KNP Complex fires burning for the past three weeks.

Sharrah Thompson lives on the second floor of an older apartment complex in central Fresno. Downstairs, dogs in a neighbor’s yard that is separated by a chain link fence won’t stop barking.

“It's not an area you want to live in, but if you got to and you need a roof over your head, definitely, obviously it's going to be cheaper,” she says.

Outside her building, a crime scene investigation vehicle pulls up and parks on the street. A police officer talks to people in a nearby home.