News

Madi Bolanos / KVPR

Multiple fires continue to ravage forests in the Sequoia. However, one area in the Sequoia National Forest escaped major destruction because of prescribed fires done over a year ago.

Balch Park is a Tulare County park known for its grove of Giant Sequoias. Karine Hunt, a forestry assistant 2 with Cal Fire, said a collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service saved the area from being devastated by the SFQ Complex Fire. 

Courtesy of Albert Yurgal, James Sponsler

When James Sponsler and two close friends set out on a backpacking trip Friday night over Labor Day Weekend, they didn’t know the Creek Fire had started 30 miles away.

 

“Just about lunch time on Saturday was when we noticed the massive thunderhead,” says Sponsler. “Unbeknownst to us, this was the fire itself.”

County of Kern Facebook page

 

Over the last few weeks, the local COVID-19 landscape has changed dramatically. In the San Joaquin Valley, average daily cases have dropped to a fraction of what they were in late July and early August, and hospitals are regaining the beds necessary for their normal, non-COVID volume of patients. Dozens of people are still dying of the virus each week, however, and health officials are on high alert for bumps in cases associated with Labor Day festivities.

Yosemite National Park / Twitter

For two weeks, the Creek Fire in the Sierra National Forest has been destroying property and pumping smoke and ash into the air. There's also the Bullfrog Fire in the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness and the Sequoia Complex Fire, which is currently threatening the town of Three Rivers in Tulare County.

On this week’s Valley Edition: Three hikers who were evacuated from the High Sierra by helicopter last week tell us what it was like to be stranded due to the Creek Fire. 

 

We also talk with wildfire experts about the importance of forest thinning and prescribed burning to prevent the massive outbreak of fires the West is now experiencing. 

 

Later, we’ll have our weekly COVID-19 update. 

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

People across the San Joaquin Valley have been rallying to assist evacuees from the Creek Fire. For one family, the gift of a tent led to a change in outlook.

When Matthew Warner and his family were evacuated from their home in Tollhouse last week, they weren’t planning on camping, but they have three farm dogs that make finding a hotel room difficult.

 

Alex Hall / KQED

The Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris met with service personnel for an assessment of the wildfires on a visit to Fresno Tuesday.  

 

Through smoked-filled skies, Harris arrived at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport at 11 a.m. Her first stop: Pine Ridge School in the eastern Fresno County foothills town of Auberry.

 

Courtesy of Joel Preheim

 

Joel Preheim grew up the oldest of eight kids in the tiny town of Big Creek. His 87-year-old mother still lives in his childhood home across the street from his sister. Fortunately, both of their houses survived the Creek Fire, which destroyed many of the area’s homes. But Preheim wasn’t so lucky. He and his wife, Tammy, lost their house near Cressman’s General Store last Monday night. 

County of Kern Facebook page

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams visited Kern County on Monday for a roundtable with local industry leaders and business owners to discuss COVID-19. Amidst messages of hope and progress, Adams delivered a caution about reopening too early and doubled down on mask wearing.

 

During a press event after the roundtable, the Surgeon General shared his concerns about the public health and mental health concerns related to the virus and the vulnerability of communities of color to the disease, as well as the need to reopen the economy.

 

EPA AirNow

 

So far in 2020, thousands of wildfires have torched a record-setting 3.2 million acres in California. If that makes this wildfire season unprecedented, here and throughout the West Coast, so is our region’s resulting smog. In a press conference on Monday, Valley air officials said: Don’t expect the air to clear for at least a few more days, and possibly longer.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

So far, the Red Cross has provided hotel rooms for 2,300 evacuees from the Creek Fire and counting. But because of so much demand, people may need to be prepared to stay out of county—and that can prove difficult for those with medical conditions.

When the evacuation order came down on Wednesday, Robert Alessandro wasn’t at his home in Tollhouse. He was at a Clovis clinic hooked up to a dialysis machine. The 62-year-old with end-stage renal disease receives the treatment every other day. “I’m pretty out of it” after treatment, he said. “It takes a lot out of you.”

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

With the devastation caused by the Creek Fire, the chairperson of Big Sandy Rancheria calls herself a messenger for her community. So far, most of the 170-member tribe have evacuated.

Elizabeth Kipp is the Auberry tribe’s chairperson. Since evacuating to Fresno, she’s made multiple trips back up Highway 168 to attend early morning logistics meetings with CalFire and sheriff’s deputies.

Madi Bolanos

Fresno County officials announced Thursday that the Clovis Rodeo grounds are at capacity and the rodeo is no longer taking in evacuated livestock. The Fresno Fairgrounds, however, is gearing up to receive more cattle and horses in the next few days.  

Stacy Rianda is the deputy manager at the Big Fresno Fair, but right now she’s in charge of feed donations and overseeing the barn set up. She said the facility is at 5% capacity, meaning they still have plenty of open stalls.

 

CalFire - Fresno County District Twitter

More than 30,000 people in Fresno County have had to leave their homes due to the Creek Fire. 

Sharon Souza is one of them. She left Tollhouse Tuesday morning, but spent the weekend deciding what items would stay and what would go. She says she tried to be practical rather than sentimental.  

“At some point, when I realized ‘I can’t take everything with me,’ I actually, one night, went around and took pictures of my pictures on the wall,” she says. “I took pictures of family favorite recipes, I did things like that.”

New programs are coming to Valley Public Radio’s lineup beginning September 14th. The changes make for a consistent news/talk lineup throughout the station’s weekday schedule, and the reintroduction of talk programming to the FM89 schedule. As a part of this change, the station is also moving midday classical music programming that is currently airing on weekdays to the station’s all-new digital channel KVPR Classical, which airs music programming 24/7.

We are at an inflection point for our society, our culture and even our radio station. Things aren’t likely to return to the same way they were before the pandemic, nor should they. At the same time as our nation struggles to deal with COVID-19, we are also undergoing a long overdue confrontation with ingrained racism in our society and institutions, all while we experience a period of political and economic turmoil that is unlike any in recent memory.

Valley Public Radio, in partnership with the Fresno Philharmonic and the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concert series will air a new special series celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest composers of all time. The program will feature archival performances drawn from both institution’s recorded concerts, and will be hosted by Valley Public Radio’s David Aus, with Fresno Philharmonic Music Director Rei Hotoda and special guests providing discussion and commentary.

Courtesy of Lasallian District of San Francisco New Orleans

 

Sometimes, firefighters have to do things other than battling blazes, including delivering bad news. In one Fresno County mountain town, the fire chief is uniquely suited to doing just that.

Liz Weaver, 31, lives in lower Prather with her husband, sister and daughter. Their home is in an evacuation warning area, but that didn’t stop her from organizing a team of almost 50 people to assist with mandatory evacuations.   

“I started putting together a post and asking people who need help,” Weaver said. “And I just started compiling a list of everyone who was able to do what and who had room for what.” 

 

Fresno County Sheriff's Department

 

 

The California Air National Guard routinely helps with search and rescue missions, but the transport of hundreds of campers and hikers stranded in the High Sierra by the Creek Fire has been unparalleled even for seasoned crews. 

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