Madera County

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.”

sierrausd.org / Sierra Unified School Distrcit Website

Sierra Unified School District in the Fresno County foothills is suspending online instruction for the week due to the Creek Fire burning in the Sierra National Forest. 

Superintendent Alan Harris estimates up to 75 percent of district staff and students are being evacuated or have already been displaced by the fire. 

“We need to get to safety, and get to security,” says Harris. “Once we do, then we’ll settle back into what’s happening with the learning.”

Courtesy of Tony Botti, Fresno County Sheriff's Office / Fresno County Sheriff's Office

UPDATE 12:23 p.m. 9/29/20

 

Containment is at 44% with 305,240 acres burned. 

 

The Following Evacuation Orders are Lifted in Fresno County:

Zone F1O: The south boundary extends to the end of properties located south of  Peterson Road. The west boundary begins at 37887 Peterson Road. The north and  east boundaries are the intersection of Peterson Road and James Mountain Road. 

 

Kings County Public Health Department

Only two COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the San Joaquin Valley: one each in Madera and Fresno counties. Both are related to travel on Princess Cruises. To prevent further spread, public health departments are monitoring at-risk folks daily.  

Not every county publishes the number of monitored individuals, but from those that do in the San Joaquin Valley,  about 40 individuals have been or are being monitored. About ten of those individuals were cleared after not presenting symptoms following two weeks of isolation.

California has moved its primary election earlier in the year. Instead of June, voters will now cast their ballots in March. For Fresno and Mariposa Counties, there are other changes intended to update voting technology and increase voter turnout. Fresno and Mariposa have adopted the new Voter's Choice Act Model, which means voting centers have replaced polling places, and every voter is mailed a ballot. Madera County adopted the model in 2018. 

This week on Valley Edition: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. We talk to people on the front lines tackling this complex problem. 

Plus, elections are changing in Fresno County as it adopts the Voters Choice Model. Madera County is also using that model, so ahead of this year’s primary, we ask the county clerks what local voters need to know.

And later, we hear from one of the nation’s leading researchers on chronic absence in schools.  

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

The Madera City Council passed an ordinance last night to support residents who were about to be evicted before the holidays, and before state law Assembly Bill 1482 goes into effect, enforcing stronger renter protections. Residents were overjoyed by the unanimous decision. 

Keep Bakersfield Beautiful / City of Bakersfield

The Keep America Beautiful campaign, established in 1953, has motivated communities to clean their neighborhoods, and those efforts are now expanding into the City of Fresno and Kern County. To learn more, moderator Kathleen Schock talks with Mark Standriff, Director of Communications for the City of Fresno, and Heidi Carter, Coordinator of Keep Kern Beautiful.

Alice Daniel / KVPR

 

Western novelist and historian Frank Bergon’s recently published nonfiction book Two Buck Chuck and The Marlboro Man: The New Old West gives readers an intimate portrayal of 12 small town westerners, many of whom he met growing up in Madera. From cowboys to writers, dust bowl migrants to farmers and farm workers, this ethnically diverse group provides insight into the ethics and culture of the Valley.  FM89’s News Director Alice Daniel recently sat down with Bergon.

 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Across Fresno and Madera Counties, about 2,600 kids are currently in foster care. Although foster parents, attorneys, social workers and judges work together to move cases through the court system, some needs fall through the cracks. An organization called CASA connects foster youth with volunteers to try to make sure that doesn't happen. The volunteers are also known as CASAs, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. But the organization argues there aren’t nearly enough volunteers to fill the need.

 

Rudy Diaz / Central California Women's Facility

There’s a garden in Chowchilla off of Road 22 that’s surrounded by miles of farmland. Only women tend to this garden. There are wildflowers, succulents, lavender, thyme, and perennials to name a few.  

 

Sol Mercado helped build and design it a year and a half ago.

 

“We had mulch in our eyes, we had dirt. It was really hot, but we still pushed through and we got it done,” the 33-year-old says. “We were all working as a team and it was really nice.”

 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

 

California moved it’s primary election to March. That means the 2020 Primary is only a year away. But before that happens, the Fresno County Elections Office plans to update its voting process by adopting the Voter’s Choice Act model.

“Right now, Fresno County utilizes the precinct model, meaning that there are over 268 polling locations throughout the county,” says Brandi Orth, Fresno County Elections Clerk and Registrar of Voters. “Voters are assigned a specific polling location to go to because their specific ballot will be there.”

ACLU of Northern California

Attorneys with the ACLU filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a school district in Madera County, saying it violated two students’ right to free speech and right to anti-LGBTQ bias in California schools.

When Minarets High School students Steven Madrid and Mikayla Garaffa submitted their senior quotes to the yearbook, they thought they were being inclusive. But the yearbook advisor said their quotes were “politically divisive.”

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Two weeks ago, Fresno County published its suicide prevention strategic plan. The county has been developing this plan for almost two years. During that time, its rate of suicide matched the state’s at about 10 deaths for every 100,000 people, but it wants to bring that number below the state average. Lately, though Fresno isn’t the only county looking at how to reduce the risk of suicide.

 

Madera County

Madera County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward with a plan for a new cultural and performing arts center in downtown Madera. The project would create a joint powers authority to build the facility, which includes the City of Madera, the Madera Unified School District and the Madera County Arts Council. The center would be built where probation and the district attorney’s offices are now, and would include renovation of the historic county library. It’s unknown how much the project would cost.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

A few weeks ago, Madera County District Attorney David Linn announced he’ll be running for reelection this year. In the meantime, however, he’s embroiled in a developing public scandal involving allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior, a public censure, and a likely lawsuit, that’s pit him against the Madera County Board of Supervisors.

Listen to the interview with FM89’s Kerry Klein for an update on what’s been happening and what’s likely to come next.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new bill in the assembly would grant the California State Parks Department authority over land along the San Joaquin River Parkway. The bill by Fresno Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula would expand the existing Millerton Lake State Recreation Area along the 22-mile stretch of public and private riverbottom land between Friant Dam and Highway 99. State management could help solve an operational and financial problem for public land along the river, such as the 500 acre River West open space area.

The race for Madera County District Attorney is likely to be one of the more interesting local contests in 2018. It pits incumbent DA David Linn against challenger and current Fresno County prosecutor Sally Moreno. The race took on a new tone in late 2017 after allegations surfaced that Linn had made racist and sexist remarks on the job.

Sierra On-Line

It might be hard to believe today, but the Madera County community of Oakhurst was once one of the biggest players in the world of computer gaming. For much of the 1980's and 90's, the mountain community was home to Sierra On-Line, an early pioneer in computer gaming, known for adventure game titles like Kings Quest. Sierra's games featured both innovative technology and groundbreaking storytelling, an approach that came directly from company founders Ken and Roberta Williams.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

The Madera County Board of Supervisors voted today to censure the county district attorney.

The workplace conduct of Madera County District Attorney David Linn was the subject of a special meeting this morning by the county board of supervisors. The meeting follows months after the county hired an outside law firm to investigate allegations of Linn’s inappropriate comments and behavior.

 

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