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Ezra David Romero / KVPR

 

Kern County is known for Big Agriculture and traditionally leans to the right.  Many of the farmers there support Donald Trump. But when it comes to immigration—one of the President's signature themes—not all the farmers there line up behind him.  

Tom Frantz is a fourth-generation almond farmer in Shafter, California.  It’s a small town of 16,000 people— just up the road from Bakersfield. Fields in the area grow almonds, pistachios, cotton, grapes and alfalfa.  

 

Frantz relies on a local contractor to provide the workers he needs to tend his farm. 

Joshua Slack Facebook, Riddhi S. Patel and Alexandria Benn

There’s a prevailing narrative that young people in America are not politically engaged and are unlikely to vote. But Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock recently spoke with three individuals who are actively challenging that assumption: Riddhi S. Patel, a 24-year-old coordinator for Sunrise Kern in Bakersfield, Alexandria Benn, a 25-year-old community advocate in Fresno, and Joshua Slack, a 25-year-old activist who co-organized a protest in downtown Fresno following the death of George Floyd.

California Blueprint for a Safer Economy

 

After weeks of improving COVID-19 numbers, Fresno County has advanced to the next tier in the state’s reopening framework known as the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

KVPR / Madi Bolanos

For over 35 years, the United States has partnered with Mexico to share resources during peak fire activity. And right now, 100 Mexican firefighters are in Tulare County helping to battle the SQF Complex Fire.

The crew from Guadalajara arrived Friday at the Kern County High School in Lake Isabella, where they were greeted by California fire officials. It’s not the first visit for Ramon Silva, deputy chief of the National Forestry Commission of Mexico. He helped fight the Camp Fire in 2018 so he’s seen the devastation wildfires have wreaked on the state and it concerns him.  

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

On a weekday afternoon, Elvia Baies’ two teenage daughters finish up their school day while her younger children, a 4 and 5-year-old, play on tablets. 

Baies asks them to turn the tablets down and then points out the tight space where they’ve lived for nine months. 

“This is obviously the room that we're sleeping in, our two beds, we have a TV across from the beds,” Baies says. 

 

On the far end of the room, she opens a door. 

“Our bathroom, and our tub, our sink, along with our kitchen.”

Maya Washington

The Central Valley has been called “The Land of Poets,” and its rich literary tradition continues with Fresno poet Sara Borjas. She recently received the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for her debut collection, titled “Heart Like a Window, Mouth Like a Cliff.” Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with Borjas about this deeply autobiographical collection, and why Fresno has inspired so much award-winning poetry.

Kern County Television Youtube Channel

Earlier this week, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to challenge a part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan to reopen counties during the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing a data algorithm unfairly penalizes the county.

California State University

 

Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro has been appointed the eighth chancellor of the California State University, the CSU Board of Trustees announced Wednesday. Castro is the first California native and the first Mexican American to oversee the nation’s largest public university. 

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. 

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.

 

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.”

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.”

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. 

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. 

 

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