Sunday, 14 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – Brilliantly blue skies over Lake County Wednesday became a hazy mess as an early afternoon cloud of smoke was seen crawling over the horizon.

By evening, the county was so socked in with smoke that Mt. Konocti was difficult to see from across the lake and even from nearby homes, according to area residents.

Wildland fires burning around Northern California are the cause of Lake County's smoky skies, according to reports from Forest Service, Cal Fire and the National Weather Service.

The Northern Sacramento Valley on Wednesday morning had a thick haze of smoke hovering over it, with reports throughout the day that the valley's haze came from the Moonlight Fire, burning in the Plumas and Lassen National Forests in northeastern California.

The National Weather Service reported that northeasterly wind flow across the northern Sierra Nevada and the western foothills was spreading considerable amounts of smoke from the Moonlight Fire into the Sierra's northern foothills, across the central and southern portion of Sacramento County, the northern San Joaquin Valley and into the Sacramento Bay-Delta.

The Moonlight Fire, located about 12 miles southwest of Susanville, has burned 18,500 acres since it began Monday afternoon. It was only five percent contained on Wednesday evening, according to a report from Cal Fire and the National Forest Service. The fire's cause has yet to be determined.

Officials reported that winds from the northeast were pushing the fire to the south and southeast; those same winds also were responsible for pushing smoke into the Sacramento Valley and then across into Lake County, according to Cal Fire.

At the same time, the Yolla Bolly Complex, located 20 air miles northeast of Covelo, continued to burn Wednesday, and officials warned of smoke traveling to the Sacramento Valley and outlying areas.

As Lake County News previously reported, the Yolla Bolly Complex – composed of several fires in a portion of the Mendocino National Forest and the Shasta-Trinity National Forest – was ignited by lightning strikes Aug. 29.

Mendocino Forest spokesperson Punky Moore reported that forest officials had issued a red flag warning due to strong, gusty northeast winds on the complex, which were hampering firefighting efforts and pushing smoke south.

The Yolla Bolly Complex is close to 300 acres in size, according to Moore. No report on its percent of containment was available.

Strong winds also were affecting efforts to battle the Lazy Fire, part of the lightning-caused Yolla Bolly Complex burning in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, according to a Forest Service report. The 500-acre fire was 30 percent contained Wednesday, with full containment expected Sunday.

The National Weather Service forecast north winds through Thursday over the fire area, which could push the fire south onto the Mendocino National Forest, with smoke moving over the northern Sacramento Valley.

Smoky conditions, the National Weather Service reported, are expected to persist until midday Thursday, when prevailing winds are expected to shift, allowing conditions to improve.

People with vulnerable respiratory systems are advised to take precautions, including staying indoors and avoiding strenuous physical activity, until the smoke clears, the National Weather Service advised.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


KELSEYVILLE – Besides keeping an eye on the extra holiday activities, a local California Highway Patrol officers found himself chasing down a man suspected of stealing a car on Saturday.

CHP Officer Adam Garcia reported Tuesday that at 10:22 p.m. Saturday CHP Officer Robert Hearn spotted 31-year-old Clearlake resident Erik Wayne Sutch's 1992 Saturn crossing the double-yellow lines on Point Lakeview Drive near Fairway Drive in the Clear Lake Riviera.

Hearn attempted a traffic stop of Sutch, Garcia reported, but rather than pull over, Sutch took off, driving recklessly into Lower Lake.

Sutch was unable to negotiate a left turn onto Mill Street from Main Street and ended up hitting a utility pole, said Garcia.

After hitting the pole, Sutch attempted to flee on foot, said Garcia, but was taken into custody a short time later.

Why he attempted to run may be explained by the CHP's discovery the following day that the vehicle had been stolen from Kelseyville shortly before the chase occurred, according to Garcia.

Sutch, whose occupation is listed as mechanic on his booking sheet, faces charges, including felony vehicle theft, possession of narcotic controlled substances, evading a peace officer and bringing a controlled substance into a jail, and misdemeanors including driving without a license, driving under the influence of alcohol, obstructing a peace officer, and hit and run with property damage.

Sutch has since posted bail and been released from the Lake County Jail.

Garcia said it's important for the public to remember to lock vehicles and secure keys in a safe place to deter theft.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The message should be clear to anyone ... STOP! Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKE COUNTY Attention motorists: Be on the lookout for several very large, bright yellow vehicles once again crisscrossing our city streets and country roads starting this week.

On Tuesday, all of Lake County's schools will be open for business and dozens of school buses will be back to work.

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The buses will roll out of bus barns early in the morning from every school district and for the next 180 school days the drivers, transportation managers and the California Highway Patrol want to remind motorists of the hazards as well as the consequences of failing to abide by the laws regarding school bus safety.


The most common traffic violation relating to school buses is the failure to stop for a school bus while it is stopped for loading or unloading passengers, according to CHP Officer Mike Humble, who oversees the local CHP school bus driver program.

In order to put greater focus on traffic laws relating to school bus safety, Humble said new regulations have been implemented for both school bus drivers and the general driving public.

In the past, bus operators were required to begin flashing the red lights on the bus only when the bus was not in motion, said David Norris, director of transportation for Lakeport Unified School District.

These days state law requires each driver to activate a set of amber lights at least 200 feet from the next intended bus stop, thereby warning motorists of the bus's intention to stop, Norris added.

Once stopped, and before the doors open, the flashing red lights will indicate that all vehicles traveling in all directions must come to a full and complete stop, Norris explained.


Failure to stop puts the children as well as the bus driver in danger of injury, said Humble.

Though the numbers vary by district, roughly 35 percent of the county's students and their parents rely on these buses to get to and from school safely, according to information provided by local school districts.

The drivers are well trained and continually tested, said Humble.

The buses are likewise inspected frequently and must be maintained to very high standards, with safety equipments updated regularly, according to Norris. At a district level, he added, buses also go through annual safety checks.

That leaves the average motorist the one uncontrollable variable in the school bus safety equation. As a result CHP and county transportation officials ask that motorists familiarize themselves with bus stop locations whenever possible.

Officials indicate the while the problem occurs throughout the county the most active locations for bus stop violations occur in areas such as downtown Lakeport, where the roadway offers a middle two-way turn lane. Many drivers believe this allows them an opportunity to pass the bus safely.

Drivers also should be on the lookout for students approaching the bus stops as well as those actually loading and unloading, said Humble.

Other factors that every driver should consider are tailgating, stopping short and trying to beat the flashing lights by accelerating around a bus before it comes to a full stop, said Humble.

Whether you're traveling on busy Highway 20 or in the hills of Nice, downtown Lakeport or the main drag of Middletown, patience and awareness of your surroundings is paramount, said Humble.

The penalties for failing to stop can be steep. If convicted of violating section 22454 of the California Vehicle Code, a motorist can count on a fine of $150 for the first offense. A second offense will bring a fine of between $500 and $1000. Further violations can result in a suspension of driving privileges for one year.


It's the average motorist's responsibility to adhere to regulations and the common sense rules of the road. Bus-related injuries are rare in Lake County, thanks to the diligent work of all the transportation professionals responsible for so many lives.



E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LAKE COUNTY – Friends and family of a young local man with a rare and deadly disease are organizing a Friday benefit to assist with his medical costs.

County resident Mark Elsa, 23, has been diagnosed with a rare synovial sarcoma cancer, said his brother, Tyler.

While the cancer usually is found in the body's joints, Mark's cancer has moved to his lung, according to Tyler Elsa. Two large tumors – one measuring 4 inches, another 6 inches – have been found on his right lung.

Mark requires several rounds of chemotherapy, which already have been started, according to information provided by his brother. He may also be facing lung surgery to move the cancerous growths, followed by radiation treatments.

The lengthy treatment process will likely involve weeks of hospitalization at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and University of California, San Francisco's hospital, according to information provided by his family.

Because of the astronomical expenses involved, Mark's family is working to raise money to pay for his care.

A benefit pasta feed is planned on Friday, Sept. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Lakeport Elks Lodge, 3775 Lakeshore Blvd., Tyler Elsa reported. The cost is $8 per person, and includes spaghetti, salad, coffee and dessert.

Donations to help fund Mark's care – including personal expenses, transportation, lodging and medical bills – also are being accepted, his family reported.

The family reported that donations can be made to the Mark Elsa Cancer Fund at any Bank of America branch. They thank the community for any and all donations.

Most of all the family asks that everyone keeps Mark in their prayers.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


CLEARLAKE – An accident that took place late Monday night sent three people to the hospital and resulted in an arrest for driving under the influence.

California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia said the accident occurred at about 8:30 p.m. Monday.

Joseph Edward Lawson, 43, of Clearlake was driving a 1989 GMC Blazer on a dirt road east of Davis Street near the Lake County Landfill when the accident occurred, Garcia reported.

Lawson was traveling on a downgrade and drove over the road edge, rolling down a steep embankment before coming to rest approximately 150 feet from the road, according to Garcia.

Riding with Lawson were 38-year-old Shawn Hammond and Patrick Robinson, 34, both of Clearlake, said Garcia.

The three men were able to climb out of the wrecked Blazer before emergency personnel arrived, Garcia added.

While Lawson was flown by REACH air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with injuries that later turned out to be minor, Garcia said Hammond and Patrick were transported to Redbud Hospital with moderate injuries.

Lawson later was released from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where CHP officer picked him up and arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence.

CHP transported Lawson, who works as a painter according to his booking sheet, to the Lake County Jail where he was booked for felony DUI.

He remained in jail Tuesday on $10,000 bail.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LOWER LAKE – A Friday evening crash killed one driver and seriously injured another.

The California Highway Patrol reported that the collision took place at 7:30 p.m. on Point Lakeview Road east of Highway 29.

William Jeffrey Shephard, 18, of Kelseyville was driving his 1991 Jeep eastbound on Point Lakeview Road at an undetermined speed, according to the report. Coming from the opposite direction was a 1986 Toyota driven by a 48-year-old Kelseyville man whose identity has not yet been released.

The CHP reported that, for an unknown reason, Shephard turned his Jeep to the left and crossed the double yellow lines into the oncoming, westbound lane of Point Lakeview.

The other driver turned to the right in an attempt to avoid being struck by Shephard, but couldn't avoid the resulting head-on collision, the CHP reported.

Despite the fact that he was wearing his seat belt, the second driver died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the collision, according to the CHP.

Shephard, who also was wearing his seat belt, sustained severe injuries, including facial fractures and a chest contusion, the CHP reported. He was transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital via REACH helicopter.

The CHP reported that it was determined that Shephard was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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LAKE COUNTY – A Ukiah man was arrested after attempting to escape on his motorcycle from a Lake County Sheriff's sergeant.

Lt. Cecil Brown of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that 36-year-old Troy Allen Crabtree was arrested in the incident.

Brown reported that Sgt. Kip Ringen was driving a marked patrol car near the intersection of Highway 29 and Live Oak Drive in Kelseyville at about 3 p.m. Monday when he saw a black Suzuki GSXR 1000 motorcycle traveling north on Highway 29 on its rear wheel.

Ringen attempted to stop the motorcycle and contact the rider, later identified as Crabtree, Brown reported.

Instead of pulling over, Crabtree accelerated to more than 100 miles per hour, Brown reported. He passed four northbound vehicles over the double yellow line, and caused two southbound vehicles to pull off of the roadway to avoid a collision with the motorcycle.

Brown's report said Ringen pursued Crabtree on Highway 29, Merritt Road, Renfro Drive and Bell Hill Road, where he lost sight of the motorcycle.

As Ringen approached Hummell Lane, he saw a man pointing down Hummell Lane, according to Brown's report.

Ringen subsequently found the Suzuki on its side in a cloud of dust on the shoulder of Hummell Lane, with Crabtree running from the motorcycle, still wearing his helmet, Brown reported.

Brown reported that Ringen pursued Crabtree on foot, and as he began to overtake him he ordered Crabtree to stop.

At that point, Crabtree finally stopped and submitted to arrest, Brown reported.

Crabtree was booked into the Lake County Jail for evading a peace officer and reckless driving. He has since posted bail for $11,000 and was released.


KELSEYVILLE – The name of a Kelseyville man who died after a Friday head-on collision has been released.

California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia reported that 48-year-old Robert Faulknor was the victim of the collision, which Lake County News first reported over the weekend.

Faulknor was driving westbound on Point Lakeview Road near Lower Lake Friday at about 7:30 p.m. when 18-year-old William Jeffrey Shephard of Kelseyville crossed the double-yellow lines in his Jeep, hitting Faulknor in his Toyota head on.

The CHP reported that Faulknor had veered to the right in an attempt to avoid the collision. He died at the scene, despite having worn his seat belt.

Shephard, who also wore a seat belt, sustained major injuries including a chest contusion and facial injuries. He was transported by REACH helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Garcia said Shephard remains in the hospital due to the severity of his injuries.

As Lake County News previously reported, CHP determined Shephard was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The crash was the Labor Day weekend's only fatality, according to Garcia.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


MENDOCINO COUNTY – Mendocino County authorities have arrested two men for a series of burglaries around Mendocino and Lake counties.

A report from Captain Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office explained that deputies arrested Ben Brooks, 25, of Redwood Valley and Brent Harding, 32, of Ukiah on burglary charges for incidents that occurred between April and June.

Beginning in April, Smallcomb reported that a series of commercial burglaries began taking place in Mendocino County. Businesses hit included the Hopland Subway and the Superette, Lemons Market in Philo, storage sheds in Ukiah and the Buckhorn Bar in Covelo.

In Lake County, the Fast and Easy Market in Upper Lake also was burglarized, Smallcomb reported.

Items taken from the stories included cash, safes, an ATM machine, liquor and cigarettes, according to Smallcomb's report.

Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies, led by Deputy Derek Hendry, investigated all of the burglaries, said Smallcomb.

Those investigations, Smallcomb reported, led to Hendry's arrests of Brooks and Harding on Aug. 31.

Brooks already was in custody on unrelated charges and booked for burglary, said Smallcomb.

Harding, Smallcomb added, was booked into the Mendocino County Jail for the burglaries along with a

probation violation. Because of the probation violation, Harding remains in jail on a no-bail hold.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LAKE COUNTY – Labor Day weekend is usually a busy time for local law enforcement, and this year was no different.

California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia said the combination of the Lake County Fair, concerts and the X.S. Weekend at Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa kept officers busy.

Statewide, CHP reported 36 people were killed in its jurisdiction while 13 died within California’s incorporated cities which are patrolled by local police. In 2006, a total of 46 people were killed on California roadways during the Labor Day weekend.

Of the 36 fatalities within the CHP's statewide jurisdiction this year, one was a pedestrian, three were motorcyclists and 32 were in passenger vehicles, the agency reported. Vehicle passengers were required by law to wear seat belts or child safety seats but 26 of the 32 did not.

In Lake County, the weekend had one fatality that resulted from a head-on collision which took place Friday night on Point Lakeview Drive, as Lake County News previously reported. The victim was 48-year-old Robert Faulknor of Kelseyville, Garcia reported Tuesday.

“Everything else was what you could expect for a holiday weekend,” said Garcia, who noted that there weren't any particular hot spots, but that activity was spread across the county.

Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke said it was a very mellow Labor Day weekend, with only a few fights reported the last night of the Lake County Fair, which didn't result in arrests.

Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Cecil Brown reported a few battery arrests and vehicle pursuits were the notable events that took place over the weekend. Brown said he expected to issue a report on Wednesday explaining the pursuits in more detail.

Clearlake Police Lt. Mike Hermann was out of the office Tuesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment on how the weekend went for that agency.

CHP usually has extra officers on for Labor Day, said Garcia. This year, they had 85 percent of their officers on duty, with two out-of-area officers coming to the county to assist.

An intersection safety grant from the Office of Traffic Safety helped fund the extra officer hours, said Garcia.

Just the extra officers alone accounted for 67 citations, 63 of which were for moving violations and four for open containers of alcohol, on Saturday and Sunday, Garcia reported.

In addition, the weekend yielded eight arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol, according to Garcia.

The numbers are still preliminary, but Garcia said so far he's counted a total of 199 CHP-issued citations for the weekend, which included everything from seat belt violations to the DUI arrests.

Statewide, during the Labor Day Weekend Maximum Enforcement Period (MEP) up to 80 percent of CHP’s officers were on the road looking for violators. They arrested 1,580 impaired drivers compared with 1,749 last Labor Day Weekend.

All told, there were 39 arrests over the weekend for charges ranging from DUI to bench warrants, according to the Lake County Sheriff's logs.

There were four arrests in Lakeport, 10 for the Lake County Sheriff's Office, 14 for Clearlake Police, 10 for CHP and one for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

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MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Work continues on the 270-acre Yolla Bolly Complex located 20 air miles northeast of Covelo.

There are three remaining uncontrolled fires in the complex: Butte (40 acres), Sugarloaf (95 acres) and Lazy (170 acres), according to a report from forest spokesperson Punky Moore.

Moore said the Lazy Fire is established in an area of the Yolla Bolly Wilderness on the Shasta Trinity National Forest with limited access, rugged terrain and extremely steep ridges that are contributing to constant rolling material and uphill runs. Fire activity has increased significantly on the east, south and west flanks.

About 100 personnel are working on the Lazy Fire with two helicopters dropping water on hot spots, delivering supplies and transporting crews, Moore said. Due to the complex nature involved in containing this fire, it has been elevated to a Type 2 incident and Kent Swartzlander’s NorCal Type 2 Incident Management will assume command of this incident Monday evening.

Meanwhile, firefighters continue the process of controlling the other fires in the complex, according to Moore. Some of the most difficult work remains: reinforcing existing line, suppressing smoldering debris and patrolling burned areas to ensure no fire is lingering that may flare up again. More than 100 personnel are working to contain the Yolla Bolly Complex.

Deer rifle season begins in B-Zone in the Yolla Bolly Wilderness on Sept. 15, Moore reported. Hunters are encouraged to call ahead to one of our offices to check on current conditions in case areas are still affected by fire activity. A temporary flight restriction is in place for a 10-mile radius around the fire area.


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The latest forest fire news from Mendocino National Forest officials is that firefighters are getting a hold on a series of fires northeast of Covelo.

Forest spokesperson Punky Moore reported Sunday that after days of battling the many fires in the main Yolla Bolly Complex, firefighters have contained all but one, the Lazy Fire.

The complex is located 20 air miles northeast of Covelo. It has grown to 190 acres and is 50 percent contained, Moore reported.

Over the weekend, the 40-acre Lazy Fire picked up momentum and posed significant problems for firefighters because of rolling burning debris and very steep terrain, according to Moore's report. Air tankers and additional firefighters were ordered to help prevent this fire from getting established in areas that are extremely difficult to manage. Fire activity has been decreasing as evening approaches.

It was determined Saturday that the Lazy Fire is located on the Shasta Trinity National Forest and not the Mendocino National Forest as initially reported, Moore noted. Both forests decided to continue to manage this fire within the Yolla Bolly Complex.

The contained fires (Butte, Hammerhorn, French, Fern, Stockton, Sugarloaf, Rock, Long and Spring) range in size from one acre to 95 acres, according to Moore. Even though these fires are contained, some of the most difficult work remains: reinforcing existing line, suppressing smoldering debris and patrolling burned areas to ensure no fire is lingering that may flare up again.

More than 250 personnel are working to contain the Yolla Bolly Complex, Moore said. In addition, three helicopters are assisting firefighters dropping water on areas of fire that have potential to grow and are difficult to reach, transporting personnel and delivering supplies.

Deer rifle season begins in B-Zone in the Yolla Bolly Wilderness on Sept. 15, Moore reported. Hunters are encouraged to call ahead to one of our offices to check on current conditions in case areas are still affected by fire activity. A temporary flight restriction is in place for a 10-mile radius around the fire area.


Upcoming Calendar

07.16.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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07.17.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
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