San Bernadino Sun Articles:
Diverse field seeks Republican nomination
Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 06/03/2006 12:00:00 AM PDT
Five Republicans' slog for their party's nomination to the 65th Assembly District seat will come
to an end after Tuesday's votes are tallied.
The winner of the primary election will campaign against the lone Democrat in the race, who so
far has been able to watch the GOP fray from the sidelines.
Incumbent Russ Bogh, R-Yucaipa, is termed out of the Assembly. The five Republicans trying to
keep the seat in GOP hands are San Jacinto City Councilman Jim Ayres, Yucca Valley Mayor
Paul Cook, Hemet Mayor Robin Lowe, Banning City Councilwoman Brenda Salas and collateral
lender Ken Smith of Yucaipa.
The Republican nominee will run against Democrat Rita Ramirez-Dean, a former college
professor who lives in Twentynine Palms. The district includes the Big Bear Valley, Morongo
Basin, San Gorgonio Pass and San Jacinto Valley areas.
Ayres was elected to the San Jacinto City Council in 1999 and is a regional manager for the
Riverside County Economic Development Agency. He joined the Air Force in 1982, switched to
the Air Force Reserve in 1987 and left the military in 2003. If elected to the Assembly, Ayres'
top goals are to use state resources, such as a proposed border-police agency, to reduce illegal
immigration; to enhance infrastructure in the district, particularly Highway 79; and to give
school districts more independence from Sacramento.
"I don't think anyone
in Sacramento knows what's best for Redlands," Ayres said.
Ayres, as well as Salas, is a member of the campaign seeking to put "Jessica's Law" on the
books. The law would require sex offenders released on parole to wear tracking devices for the
rest of their lives and prohibit sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any school or park.
Like many Republicans, he has also positioned himself as a foe of taxes.
A retired Marine colonel, Cook served in the military from 1966 to 1992. He was elected to the
Yucca Valley Town Council in 1996 and is a member of the board of directors for San
Bernardino Associated Governments, which plans regional transportation projects in the county.
He said illegal immigration is his top priority and wants to prevent illegal immigrants from
obtaining driver's licenses and allow local agencies to determine the immigration status of
inmates. His platform also includes planks on public safety he supports Jessica's Law and wants
the state to have more parole officers and has also signed a pledge to oppose any tax increases.
Cook said there is a disconnect between elected officials and the public and wants to reduce
cynical views of government.
"They've (politicians) created a total breakdown in communication," Cook said.
Lowe has been a member of the Hemet City Council for 12 years and is serving her fourth term
as mayor. Like Ayres, she is a member of the Riverside County Transportation Commission. She
said transportation is her top priority.
She supports the $19.9 billion bond package scheduled to appear on the November ballot and
said her goal in the Assembly would be to make sure her district gets a sufficient share of that
money. She also wants to streamline the environmental-review process for infrastructure
"Let's not take 10 years to decide what to do with the butterflies," she said, referring to the
possibility of concerns for endangered species delaying public-works projects.
Lowe also wants the state to ensure all seniors are able to afford housing.
Salas was elected to the Banning City Council in 2000 and works on Riverside County
Supervisor Marion Ashley's staff. She is also a board member for the Riverside Transit Agency.
She listed illegal immigration as her top issue and wants state prison officials to work with the
federal government to deport inmates who are determined to be illegal immigrants. She also
wants to prevent the Legislature from passing laws to influence school districts' lesson plans and
opposes bond measures and tax increases.
"Before we know it, we're going to be taxed out of our homes," Salas said.
Smith is the owner of Cindy's, a collateral lending business in Hemet. He is a board member and
former president of the Collateral Loan and Secondhand Dealers Association of California.
Smith supports deploying National Guard troops to the border as an anti-illegal-immigration
strategy and has presented himself during the campaign as a business-friendly candidate. He
favors extensive auditing of state government and wants California to streamline environmental
regulations, workers' compensation policies and other rules affecting companies. "We have to get
the regulations recrafted so we can be more attractive to business," Smith said.
The only Democrat in the race, Ramirez-Dean ran for the same seat in 2004 but was defeated by
Bogh. A former faculty member for Copper Mountain College and College of the Desert,
Ramirez-Dean wants to freeze student fee increases in the state's higher-education system and
retool education funding so 60 cents of every tax dollar dedicated to public schools is collected
as college fees to stay under the control of local officials.
"I want more money to be kept local," she said. In addition to education, Dean said she is also a
supporter of universal health care.
Residence: San Jacinto
Family: Married, one son and one daughter
Occupation: Regional manager for the Riverside County Economic Development Agency
Education: Attended Community College of the Air Force
Residence: Yucca Valley
Family: Married, one son, one daughter
Occupation: History and political-science professor at Copper Mountain College
Education: Masters' degrees from UC Riverside and Cal State San Bernardino
Family: Married, one son, one daughter
Occupation: Executive director, Prime of Life Corporation
Education: Attended Pepperdine and Northwestern universities
Occupation: Legislative aide for Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley
Education: Master's, University of Redlands
Occupation: Owner of Cindy's, a Hemet-based collateral lending business.
Education: Attended Walla Walla (Wash.) College
Residence: Twentynine Palms
Family: Divorced, two sons
Occupation: Retired college professor
Education: Doctorate, Louisiana State University
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FBI reviews Calvert links
Association with Lewis unlikely to thwart representative’s bid for House Appropriations seat
By Edward Barrera, Staff Writer
Posted: 06/18/2006 12:00:00 AM PDT
As Riverside Republican Ken Calvert seeks a seat on the powerful House Appropriations
Committee, he finds himself on the periphery of investigations into his benefactor Rep. Jerry
Lewis, an influential lobbying firm, and disgraced former Rep. Randy Cunningham.
• Feds eye Calvert ties
• FBI widens Lewis probe
• Lewis accused of offering illicit influence
• Investigation isn't fazing Lewis
The FBI pulled Calvert's publicly available financial disclosure forms in May. The scrutiny
comes amid the federal investigation into the lobbying firm Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton
& White and its relationship with Lewis, the Redlands Republican and chair of the
Though Calvert has not been accused of any wrongdoing, Copeland Lowery and its clients were
among the largest donors to his election campaigns since 1999. Lewis has been the main
proponent of Calvert's candidacy for the appropriations committee seat that opened after Rep.
Tom Delay, R-Texas, resigned.
Calvert would not comment for this story, but his spokesman, Bob Carretta, said the FBI has not
contacted the congressman.
Experts said they doubt the FBI's investigation would stymie Calvert's ambition for an
appointment to the panel, which oversees about $900 billion in federal spending.
"I think part of it will depend on how widely the scandal touches (Calvert) and whether or not
the Republicans decide what would be more hurtful -- the scandal or disregarding (Calvert's)
seniority," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a USC political analyst. "If there are more questions raised
about Calvert, then I don't think it would be wise for the Republican leadership to appoint him."
The most corrupting influence in politics is friendships, and Jeffe said the issue is whether
anyone did anything illegal for that friendship.
Jack Pitney, government professor at Claremont McKenna College, said without evidence of
wrongdoing, the impact on Calvert's pursuit will be minimal.
"One thing is clear, Republicans tend to circle the wagons when they think one of their members
is being unfairly portrayed in the media," Pitney said, adding that the more important aspect of a
candidate's chances is what have they done for the party, such as fundraising.
Calvert was elected to the 43rd District for the first time in 1992 and has been re-elected each
two-year cycle since, though his district was re-numbered as the 44th District in 2002. The
district includes western Riverside County, including the cities of Norco, Corona and Riverside,
and eastern Orange County and the cities of San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente.
He serves as chairman of the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space and
Aeronautics. He is also on the Committee on Armed Services and the Resources Committee.
The investigation into the lobbying firm stems from the corruption scandal that eventually sent
Rep. Randy Cunningham, R-Escondido, to jail for eight years. He admitted to accepting $2.4
million in bribes from businessmen for steering federal contracts by using "earmarks."
The practice allows lawmakers to insert provisions into spending bills that are specifically
tailored to a project and circumvents the normal budgetary process.
Calvert has connections with two people who reportedly are unindicted co-conspirators in the
Cunningham case -- Thomas Kontogiannis and Brent Wilkes.
The Cunningham investigation grew out of a sale of the congressman's house for an inflated
price to a defense contractor, Mitchell Wade. Cunningham netted $700,000 more for the house
than it was sold for a year later.
Court records show that Cunningham eventually received millions in bribes -- including cash,
antiques and vacations -- to steer federal appropriations to certain defense contractors.
Wilkes, who headed a defense contracting company ADCS Inc., and previously worked with
Wade, allegedly provided campaign cash and favors to Cunningham and obtained lucrative
defense contracts. No charges have been filed against Wilkes.
Also ensnared in the scandal is New York developer Kontogiannis. Cunningham helped the
developer with New York prosecutors when he had legal trouble, and a mortgage company run
by relatives of Kontogiannis helped finance a Virginia condo and Rancho Santa Fe house for
Cunningham, Kontogiannis and Calvert took a December 2004 trip to Saudi Arabia, according to
the Copley News Service. Calvert's financial disclosures show a businessman, Ziyad
Abduljawad, paid for the trip that was "to promote discourse and better relations between the two
Wilkes and company associates have given Lewis more than $60,000 in campaign contributions
and $9,000 to Calvert. Wilkes also was a Copeland Lowery client.
Wilkes gave the lobbying firm $160,000. The founder of the firm -- former San Diego
Republican Rep. Bill Lowery -- has been a longtime friend to Lewis and served with the
Redlands congressman on the appropriation committee more than a decade ago.
The company, family members and clients donated about $480,000 to Lewis in the past six
years. At the same time, the firm's clients received $100 million in federal grants, according to
the Washington watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.
The revelations may have prompted the ongoing federal investigation that has seen subpoenas
handed out to local municipalities and public agencies with ties to Copeland Lowery in the
According to public records, the lobbying firm and its clients have donated nearly $30,000 to
Calvert since 1999, with the firm being the single largest donor during the 2003-04 election
Friday, Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton & White announced that it is splitting into two
groups, attributing the decision to "the current media focus on the firm."
Craig Holman, legislative representative for Public Citizen, a watchdog group, said the current
investigations will likely show that some lobbyists are so influential they might have been able to
buy favors from certain lawmakers.
"I fully expect indictments and for the FBI to uncover earmarks that have been bought and sold,"
In a January interview about campaign contributions, Calvert said earmarks allow him to fairly
represent his district when it comes to federal spending and that he publicizes any money he
"There is always going to be tension between meeting with lobbyists and contributions," Calvert
said at the time. "I do work with a number of companies, but any support of campaign
contributions is completely unrelated. You don't do (appropriations and fundraising) in the same
"People should be concerned about their government and that's a good thing. But I also think
people should recognize that 99 percent of Republicans and Democrats are honest and
hardworking, but unfortunately there a few bad apples."
FEDERAL DOLLARS FOR CALIFORNIA
Calvert was on the short list early this year for the appropriations seat vacated by Cunningham,
but he initially was muscled out by Delay, the former majority leader. This month, however,
Delay resigned from his seat amid a continued fight against campaign money-laundering charges
in Texas and an investigation into another corruption scandal tied to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
California -- with only four representatives on the appropriations committee -- is
underrepresented, said Tim Ransdell, executive director of California Institute for Federal Policy.
"It's critical (for California) to have a strong and substantial presence on appropriations," he said.
While it's not a sure thing -- even with Lewis' backing -- Calvert is in a good position and is
respected on both sides of the aisle, Ransdell said.
He added that typically an empty seat on the appropriations committee would be dealt with
quickly because the heavy lifting on the budget is normally completed by the summer break in
Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley said any questions about Calvert's decisions on
earmarks benefiting his district are ridiculous.
"He has done a fantastic job and has created thousands of jobs," Ashley said. "As a congressman,
he has the highest character. This whole thing would be laughable if it wasn't so serious."
Associated Press contributed to this story.
Edward Barrera can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at
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Battling the ravenous fire
Santa Ana winds make it that much tougher
By George Watson, Jeff Horwitz and Guy McCarthy, Staff Writers
Posted: 10/28/2006 12:00:00 AM PDT
TWIN PINES - Firefighters tried to quell the ravenous Esperanza Fire on Friday as investigators
sifted through more than 100 phone tips, any of which could indicate who lit the blaze that killed
four firefighters a day earlier.
Authorities hope that a reward fund that grew to $500,000 in government and private
contributions will boost their arson investigation.
NEW VIDEO: Esperanza Fire Update
NEW Fire Photo Galleries: Gallery1 | Gallery 2 | Gallery 3 | Gallery 4 | Gallery 5 | AP
Videos: Fatal Fire | Arsonist believed to have started fire
Map: Esperanza Fire area locator
- Winds to torment area through Saturday
Foremost on everyone's mind, though, was when the wildfire would be tamed. At 8 p.m., it was
only 25 percent contained.
Gusting Santa Ana winds carrying hot and dry desert air continued to fuel the arson blaze that
doubled in size to more than 39,900 acres after burning past the small mountain communities of
Poppet Flats and Twin Pines.
For most of the day, the fire continued moving southwest, splitting into three tendrils as each
gobbled up acre after acre through canyons and hillsides that were more appropriate places for
goats than weary firefighters.
But as darkness approached, winds shifted, sending flames back where they came, leading to the
re-evacuation of at least one community.
"I just wish the thing was over," said Dwayne Wright, 40, of Poppet Flats, after spending
Thursday night with his mother, who lives in the Silent Valley recreational park, which is near
Poppet Flats. Wright was making final arrangements before he and his mother joined the slew of
RVs streaming down the mountain as part of a mandatory evacuation.
Santa Ana winds are expected to slack slightly today, with gusts up to 35 mph, said National
Weather Service meteorologist Steve Vanderburg. The top wind gust recorded Friday was 46
mph in the Banning area, Vanderburg said. Humidity will remain low, meaning very dry
A red flag warning for critical fire weather remains in effect until 9 p.m. today but a dramatic
shift is expected later in the night and early Sunday that could aid firefighters.
"On Sunday, we'll get pretty much a 180, with light onshore winds of about 10 mph,"
Vanderburg said. "That should bring the humidity up to 20 percent by Sunday morning, and
higher by that evening."
Friends and family mourned the four dead firefighters, and turned their prayers toward a fifth
member of the U.S. Forest Service strike team who suffered burns over most of his body
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the 23-year-old injured firefighter, Pablo Cerda, whose
prognosis, his doctor said, remained poor.
As Cerda fought to survive, authorities examined the wildfire's ignition point and began pouring
over the potential tips. They also looked to see if any of the recent rash of arson fires that have
struck this area could be related, including a 40-acre fire Sunday in nearby Mias Canyon.
Michael Wakowski, a fire division chief in the San Bernardino National Forest, said there had
been so many fires that investigators had ample evidence to try to connect the dots.
"You can tell from the site that obviously they knew they were doing," Wakowski said. "You
have to have a knowledge of wind, weather, topography and fuels. All summer long there have
been numerous fires.
Boosting investigators efforts could be a still-growing reward fund that rose to $500,000. On
Thursday, members of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors pledged $100,000 for
information that leads to the successful arrest and conviction of anyone connected to the arson.
That total was matched Friday by San Bernardino County supervisors, the state of California and
the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. The tribe gave money in part because of the series of
suspicious fires, said Robert Martin, a Morongo tribal council member. Tim Blexseth, an
influential businessman in Rancho Mirage, also gave $100,000.
"A lot of tips are coming in, and I don't think they are calling in for the money, though maybe
some are," said Marion Ashley, a Riverside County supervisor. "It's going to be easier than
winning the lotto to get this guy."
Sgt. Earl Quinato of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department added that there is a "big
difference between calls and leads." Still, he urged anyone who thinks they know something to
Assisting the sheriff's department was the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection,
the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.
Pattern of destruction
Investigators have not said what evidence of arson they have. But Ashley said the finding
involved the burn "pattern." He gave no details of the pattern.
"They know it was arson," he said. "There was also another major arson a few weeks ago that
had a similar pattern."
Altogether, after two days of wildfire, 10 structures have been destroyed and 500 are reported
threatened, authorities said. More than 400 people have been evacuated in Popeet Flats and
More homes were lost about 2 a.m. Friday on Sunset Avenue just south of Interstate 10 near
Highway 243 remained closed from Banning to Lake Fulmor, and Highway 79 was closed
between Beaumont and Hemet.
More than 2,078 fire personnel, 279 engines, 20 bulldozers, 15 air tankers, 22 helicopters and
four air attacks continued battling the deadly blaze.
Several hundred people spent Thursday night in the Silent Valley RV park after fire cut off the
only road out, but many had left in the morning. Many firefighters remained with them for
"We were watching the news on someone's portable TV and looking over our shoulders," said
Wright, the Poppet Flats resident who came to care for his mother.
Firefighters worked on cutting a 50-foot fire break on both sides of the existing fire perimeter
overnight Thursday and into Friday morning.
Fighting the fire as the day passed proved an arduous, and at times impossible task. Winds
gusting to 45 mph boosted the blaze's forward progress and at times forced firefighters to race
Firefighters were not "even cautiously optimistic" as they battled the wind-driven Esperanza Fire
that killed four firefighters Thursday, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
spokeswoman Julie Hutchinson.
The fire moved so fast and in a handful of directions, Hutchinson said, that the department did
not have precise knowledge of the fire's size. All they know is it is growing, she said. It was last
reported at more than 24,000 acres.
"It's moving through the canyons," she said. "You can't just block off an area on the map and
count the acres."
Nothing was immediately threatened, Hutchinson said, but fire crews are being extra cautious
because the area is populated.
"We've got some schools, some large developments there," she said.
A tough battle
Around 10:30 a.m., the fire jumped across Highway 79 near Banning but firefighters beat it back
and contained the flames on the east side of the highway.
"We were ready because of the turns in the highway and by the drainage, it was a real vulnerable
spot," said Engineer Dave Baker of the Carpenteria-Summerland Fire District.
Flames reached the highway even setting the guardrail posts on fire like thick wooden candles.
"Everything has to have some kind of a line built around it," Baker said.
Bulldozers and hand-crews constructed a firebreak on the ridge above the east side of the
highway to prevent the smoldering fire from breaking out anew.
Orange-clad hand-crews worked with shovels and picks as they scaled the precipitous hillside.
Others atop the ridge wielded chainsaws to clear the highly combustible brush.
Around 4:30 p.m., authorities issued a mandatory evacuation from the Silent Valley RV park.
As Wright contemplated the order, a giant yellow helicopter sucked up water from a nearby
pond. Behind the pool of water, dozens of RVs decorated with Halloween stuff were scattered
among trees, abandoned by people seeking safety.
And then, Wright alluded to the concerns of authorities investigating the arson.
"Everytime the brush grows up, somebody tries to burn it down," Wright said.
By nighttime, the winds were changing, and officials hoped their fortunes were, too.
"We prefer to have no wind at all, but an offshore wind has higher humidity," said Matt Streck, a
A dangerous forest
The fire was burning near areas where three out of four trees are already dead from drought and
bark beetles, said Pim Chavez, a fire behavior specialist.
Fuels have been exposed to humidity as low as 5 percent for more than 36 hours, making for
explosive conditions with the gusty winds.
"Fire behavior has been spectacular," he said.
The cities of San Jacinto and Hemet were safe because the area between the fire and the cities is
defensible, said Janet Upton of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The bulk of the fire was in very difficult terrain.
"It's mountain goat country," she said.
No new injuries were reported, but the identities of the firefighters killed Thursday in the fierce
wildland blaze were released this morning.
Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, 44 - a father of five from Idyllwild - led the group on U.S. Forest
Service engine 57 that was trying to protect homes when they were overwhelmed by flames.
Loutzenhiser, an admired youth coach and 21-year veteran of the fire service, died along with
three of his men.
Also killed were Jess McLean, 27, of Beaumont, a fire engine operator with seven years of
service; Jason McKay, 27, of Phelan, a fire engine operator with five years of service, and Daniel
Hoover-Najera, 20, of San Jacinto, a seasonal firefighter in his second season.
Cerda, of Fountain Valley, suffered burns over 90 percent of his body and was unconscious and
on a ventilator at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center's burn unit. The firefighter was in his
second season with the Forest Service.
He has shown some improvement but his prospects remain poor, said Dr. David T. Wong, chief
of trauma and critical care services at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton.
Surgeons removed about 70 percent of Cerda's dead and damaged skin, said ARMC spokesman
Jorge Valencia. He remained in critical condition.
Burn victims with such extensive injuries have survived, Wong said.
Family members stayed by Cerda's side.
"Our deepest condolences go out to their families and friends during this very tragic time," said
Jeanne Wade Evans, supervisor of the San Bernardino National Forest. "All of us on the forest
and in the fire service community are suffering a great loss."
"The human factor"
At a makeshift memorial Friday morning in Pine Cove, where the dead crew members were
stationed, several firefighters stood silently with their hats off.
A moment later, Forest Service Fire Capt. Andy Thorne, 50, tried to put his feelings into words.
"We're people, that's the way the Lord made us," Thorne said. "I've had acquaintances die in fires
before. It's the human factor, over time and age you harden like a shell. But you still have a heart,
you have feelings."
A wicker basket of flowers and another bouquet lay below a hand-drawn sign.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the friends and families of the crew members of USFS BDF
Engine 57," the sign said. "You will be missed!"
Elsewhere in Pine Cove, some residents expressed outrage and anguish for the fallen.
Karen Wood, who lives next door to the fire station where the fallen firefighters worked, grieved.
"You go into town and everybody acts like nothing happened," Wood said of their deaths. "We
can't ignore what happened.
Wood sobbed as she recalled their kindness.
"They did so much for us," she said. "Once they went and found my dead dog for me. They made
sure I didn't see it but they brought back his collar to me."
Bobby Salibean, 26, clerk at the Pine Cove Market and Gas, said, "Property can be replaced, but
these guys' families and kids are going to grow up without fathers," Salibean said. "It's just sad."
Ed Grove, 50, runs an auto shop at the same business.
"It definitely strikes personal up here," Grove said. "It's just sick when you get an arson-set fire
that burns up the whole mountain and kills firefighters. Up here, you could be killing hundreds of
people. Dying is never a fair trade to saving houses, especially when it's arson-set."
Staff Writers Andrew Silva, Andrew Edwards, Megan Blaney and Leonor Vicanco and the
Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Esperanza Fire victims apply for disaster
By Megan Blaney, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/19/2006 11:58:19 PM PST
BANNING - Repairing and restoring the San Jacinto mountain communities in the aftermath of
the deadly Esperanza Fire may be more feasible now that federal loans are available.
A few residents of the small mountain communities affected by the blaze filed into the Banning
Community Center last week to apply for low-interest disaster loans that could help them regain
the lives they had before the fire took so much of the hillside in the San Jacinto mountains.
The loans are offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. They became available when
the SBA declared Riverside County and neighboring locations a disaster area.
Before the federal agency made the announcement on Thursday, there was little in the way of
low-interest rebuilding money.
Officials in the area are ecstatic.
"We're just delighted," said Riverside County 5th District Supervisor Marion Ashley. "I was
fairly confident the SBA would come through with it - they've been very sincere about helping -
but you never know."
Ashley said uncertainty about the SBA's ability to help was due to questions about whether the
damage was severe enough to warrant federal assistance.
"It usually has to be so severe," he said. "I'm glad they decided to go ahead and grant it."
SBA spokesman Richard A. Jenkins said an incident must meet strict criteria before it can be
declared a disaster. At least 25 homes or businesses must suffer at least 40 percent of uninsured
loss due to the incident, he said.
Lili Arroyo, 76, thinks it's pretty obvious that it's a disaster up in the mountains where her trailer
used to be.
She didn't have a whole lot, but she lost it all - tools, artwork, and a tape of her father singing and
playing guitar, among other treasures.
Even her little bird, Toots, died as they escaped the flames early on Oct. 26.
"So I'm glad they called that a disaster because they couldn't have called it anything less,"
Arroyo said. "There's nothing left up there."
The SBA opened a loan center in Banning for people to apply for relief.
Jenkins said residents should remember three things when applying for a loan: They don't need
an appointment; they do not need to have their insurance settlement completed; and they don't
need to have a contractor in place.
It's important for residents to apply as soon as possible, he said.
"We're looking at what was lost and what it will take to rebuild it," Jenkins said. "We're not
going to try to upgrade that, say from basic tile to marble. ... We want to replace it as near as
possible to what you lost."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's press secretary, Margita Thompson, said the governor is pleased
with the SBA's response.
"The governor is grateful that the Small Business Administration acted so quickly to provide
much-needed assistance to the business owners and residents that were devastated by the
Esperanza Fire," Thompson said.
"With the destruction of dozens of homes and buildings, this wildfire impacted the lives of so
many people who are only beginning to recover. These emergency SBA loans will help victims
to begin the process of rebuilding and restoring their lives."
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DHL misled in hub deal
By Guy McCarthy, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/22/2006 11:36:00 PM PST
Behind the story
Web Link: March Joint Powers Authority
PDF File Download: Investigation report to March Joint Powers Authority regarding
flight patch information File size: 30.8 MB, 2 pages .pdf
A Riverside County developer's misrepresentation of flight paths and up to $16.5 million in
public revenue may have swayed multinational delivery giant DHL's decision 16 months ago to
pick March Air Reserve Base over airports in San Bernardino and Ontario, elected officials in
two counties said Wednesday.
If inaccurate and misleading information provided by March GlobalPort tainted negotiations, the
developer may have cost the two San Bernardino County competitors a shot at landing what
analysts have called a "huge economic plum" – worth up to 250 jobs, $65 million in new
construction, and a magnet for more industry, said Riverside County Supervisor Bob Buster.
"This involves a serious breach of trust in Riverside County, and it could in San Bernardino
County as well," said Buster, who serves on the March Joint Powers Authority commission.
"The state Attorney General needs to look closely at this to determine if any laws were broken."
GlobalPort brought the DHL cargo hub to March in 2004 despite vocal protests from nearby
residents concerned about noise from jets taking off and landing. Residents later filed a lawsuit
alleging GlobalPort misrepresented flight paths, but the lawsuit failed.
An investigation completed this month by Los Angeles attorney Leonard Gumport shows March
GlobalPort managing partner Greg Diodati admitted displaying inaccurate flight path maps
during packed public meetings in Riverside in
A second investigation shows Diodati overcalculated $16.5 million in landing fees and other
revenue in July 2004.
"These deceptive tactics could well have led DHL to choose March over other contenders,"
Buster said Wednesday. The JPA commission paid for both probes.
San Bernardino County Supervisor Dennis Hansberger, a vocal proponent of bringing DHL to
the former Air Force base at Norton Field in San Bernardino, said further scrutiny may be
"If there was anything wrong with the process, I hope there will be a re-examination of the
negotiations," Hansberger said. "I appreciate Supervisor Buster is attempting to find out what is
Residents of two south Riverside neighborhoods, Orangecrest and Mission Grove, have
expressed concerns about increased noise from cargo-laden jets' night flights over their rooftops.
Diodati's projected flight patterns were narrow lines following Riverside County freeways,
routes the Federal Aviation Administration later dismissed.
Diodati has claimed both errors were honest mistakes, not intentional attempts to mislead the
public or local authorities. Diodati did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment.
Both misrepresentations took place months before Germany-based DHL chose March and
GlobalPort over San Bernardino International Airport and Ontario International in December
"I'm very disturbed by the findings in both reports, and our leadership needs to sit down with
GlobalPort post haste," said Marion Ashley, another Riverside County supervisor who serves on
the March JPA commission. "Appropriate action will be taken, and we cannot rule out anything."
Asked whether the Texas-based parent developer of March GlobalPort retains confidence in
Diodati, LYNXS principal Ray Brimble in Austin said, "We have no comment at this time. We
will be making a statement in the near future."
A DHL America spokesman in Seattle said Wednesday morning he would call back with a
statement. He did not.
The March JPA oversees reuse of the former Air Force base in west Moreno Valley. The nine
commission members are elected officials from Riverside, Moreno Valley, Perris and the county
Board of Supervisors.
Economist John Husing of Redlands, a consistent proponent of growth in the Inland Empire, said
whatever DHL decides to do now, they are invested in March and it's unlikely recent
investigations will change that.
"DHL made their decision based on whatever they did," Husing said. "The JPA people would
have settled for less to land this plum. … If Riverside County wants to have a huge controversy
over this and chase them away, then San Bernardino or Ontario or Victorville would love it."
City of Ontario Economic Director Mary Jane Olhasso declined to draw any conclusions from
GlobalPort's reported credibility issues.
"If we're back in the mix, DHL will contact us," Olhasso said. "They know how to get ahold of
us. We're always looking for opportunities to expand cargo at Ontario International."
Fallout since the two probes' findings were released has led to infighting among some JPA
commission members and Buster's call to sever ties with GlobalPort altogether.
In an effort to regain public trust, the March JPA commission posted Gumport's investigation
report online last week. Gumport has conducted at least three investigations in San Bernardino
County, including two last year.
San Bernardino County leaders, however, have refused to fully disclose Gumport's findings to
"In most cases, you don't have any reason to keep these things confidential," said Moreno Valley
councilman Richard Stewart, the JPA's commission chairman. "If it's going to be bad, it's
important to get it out there as soon as possible. If not, you end up with public reaction to
keeping things hidden and a perception that you're covering up."
Buster said full disclosure is the only way to regain credibility.
"If we didn't, the public would think we're corrupt, we're part of the problem," Buster said.
"Lying to the public is not always a violation of the law, but in some cases it's worse. Just like in
San Bernardino, it destroys trust in our public institutions."
Hansberger repeated his contention that San Bernardino County should release Gumport's recent
investigation of a lobbyist and other officials' conduct in a $31.2 million jail purchase.
"Our process should be equally open," Hansberger said. "The information Leonard Gumport has
uncovered in San Bernardino County should be made public."
Gumport declined to draw any parallels from his two most recent Inland Empire probes.
"Each investigation is different," Gumport said. "There are allegations of misconduct made in
each, but beyond that I can't say anything more because one of the reports, namely the one for
San Bernardino County, remains confidential."
Guy McCarthy can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (909) 386-
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Arson blaze claims homes, lives of
By George Watson, Jeff Horwitz and Guy McCarthy, Staff Writers
Posted: 10/27/2006 12:00:00 AM PDT
CABAZON - An arsonist's despicable touch killed four U.S. Forest Service firefighters and left a
fifth fighting for his life Thursday while nearly 1,000 of their colleagues struggled to restrain a
fast-moving wind-propelled wildfire that burned along the base of the San Jacinto Mountains.
NEW Video: Fatal Fire
NEW Photo Gallery: Firefighers killed in blaze today | Gallery 2 | Gallery 3
Map: Esperanza Fire area locator
Enraged officials promised to catch whoever intentionally set the blaze around 1 a.m. in dry
grass along a winding stretch of Esperanza Road in Cabazon. The problem, though, will be
trying to make an arrest in a crime that is typically one of the hardest for authorities to solve.
"You will not rest," Riverside County Undersheriff Neil Lingle, warned the unknown arsonist
now considered a murderer. "We will find you. You will be brought to justice."
The fire remains untamed. Officials estimated it was only 10 percent contained and the fire
jumped Highway 79 by mid-Thursday evening, and authorities were concerned that it could
grow significantly overnight and throughout this morning. Weather conditions are still ripe for
"We are going to continue to see the strongest gusting from the east in the morning," said Steve
Vanderburg, a National Weather Service meteorologist in San Diego.
Winds are predicted to blow 15 to 25 mph from the north and northeast with gusts up to 35 to 45
mph, he said. The wind should lessen as the day progresses and weaken significantly into the
weekend, but will continue to come from the east.
Humidity rates remained at 5 to 10 percent, which, when combined with fuel moisture reported
at critically dry levels, makes for extreme fire conditions, Vanderburg said. Temperatures will be
in the low 60s to 70s in the mountains and about 70 degrees in the fire zone.
Highway 243 was closed from Banning to Lake Fillmore while Highway 79 had been shut down
from Beaumont to Hemet.
On Thursday, the desert dry Santa Ana winds took the ignition and sent the blaze west, leaving
more than 12,000 acres of charred land in its wake on its way into the edge of the San
Bernardino National Forest. Firefighters struggled to defend the mountainous communities of
Twin Pines and Poppet Flats.
Approximately 600 people had been evacuated with another 2,000 put on alert, officials said.
Three years and a day after the devastating Old Fire wreaked havoc in the San Bernardino
Mountains and foothills below, one resident suffered burns while the Esperanza Fire destroyed at
least 10 homes as of Thursday evening. And yet, as devastating as the Old Fire was, not a single
firefighter perished in that conflagration.
Smoke was so thick Thursday - it covered the sky in eastern Hemet and coastal communities
reported smelling smoke 100 miles away - that assessing the damage proved a struggle for
A total of 972 firefighters from across Southern California using 144 engines tried to slow the
blaze's advance. Ten air tankers, 13 helicopters and four air attack planes that coordinate efforts
fought the fire from the air while eight bulldozers worked from the ground. Three ambulances
were also on hand.
The firefighters from the nearby ranger station in Idyllwild died Thursday morning while trying
to protect a home along San Gorgonio View Road in Twin Pines, a community spread over
hundreds of acres of mountain slopes, beginning in the foothills above Cabazon at about 2,000
feet elevation and continuing up to near 6,000 feet.
"Their first goal was to get humans out, and their second goal was to save the house," said
Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins. "In the course of trying to save the house, the fire
A wall of flames surged forward, boosted by 25 mph winds, and swept over the strike team,
killing three on the ground on which they stood, officials said.
A fourth firefighter died at 11:20 a.m. after being taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center
in Colton, and a fifth sustained burns over 90 percent of his body and was hooked up to a
respirator at the center's burn unit.
Doctors and nurses constantly monitored the injured man's condition and updated his family,
said hospital spokesman Jorge Valencia.
"We also have a full staff of social workers," he said. "We're meeting all their needs as best we
It's the worst loss of Riverside County firefighters' lives in at least three decades. And now with
the four deaths, a total of 19 California firefighters have been killed in the line of duty in the past
year, according to the California Professional Firefighters, a lobbying organization.
As news of the deaths circulated around the area, friends stopped at the Idyllwild ranger station
to express their sympathies.
"You guys are our saving grace," said Emily Pearson. "It shouldn't have happened."
Pearson said she had lived in the area 35 years, and her family knew all five firefighters.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pledged to bring to bear the full force of the state's firefighting
resources. He also lamented such an unnecessary loss of life.
"These men and women risk their lives on a daily basis and we are forever grateful for their
service," the governor said.
The governor's office also declared a state of emergency for Riverside County.
Members of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors offered a $100,000 reward for the
successful capture and conviction of anyone involved.
"Turn the scum in, please," pleaded Supervisor Marion Ashley during a news conference.
Somewhere between 400 to 1,000 people remained stuck in a recreational vehicle park after
flames blocked the only road out. People in the Silent Valley Club RV park near Poppet Flats
were unable to leave after firefighters closed Highway 243. TV footage showed vehicles racing
through smoke and flames just before the road was closed.
"Everybody is hunkered down here. They're fighting the fire around us. It's across the street from
us," said Charles Van Brunt, a ranger at the station at the entrance to the Silent Valley Club,
adding that no one was in immediate danger, although smoke had enveloped the area.
Hawkins, joined by Redlands Rep. Jerry Lewis, Palm Springs Rep. Mary Bono and other
lawmakers, praised firefighters for their valiant work in attempting to beat back the blaze.
At the same time, they offered heartfelt condolences to the families of the fallen firefighters,
promising to bring to justice the person or people responsible for setting the fire.
"We all know in our hearts what first responders mean to us," Bono said, referring to the slain
Lewis called for the public to support the firefighters' families, urging that donations be sent to
the Riverside County Government Center.
The congressman also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency would pay 75 percent
of costs related to fighting the fire. And the federal government, Lewis added, naming the FBI
and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, would assist in hunting down the arsonists.
"We're going to do everything we can from a federal level to find these people," Lewis said.
The blaze, named the Esperanza Fire because of its starting point, was reported at 1:12 a.m.
along Esperanza Avenue at the San Gorgonio wash, Luther said.
Firefighters ordered evacuations of up to 400 people at 6 a.m. as flames raced south toward the
Twin Pines area. Twin Pines, the Twin Pines Boys Ranch, Poppet Flats and Wonder View were
evacuated. Electricity between Twin Pines and Poppet Flats was shut off.
"They wanted to get everybody out, but I got a horse and my dogs, so I got the wife out," said
Randy Ebersole, 72.
He said he was unsure where his wife, Gloria, 72, had gone.
"I just feel fortunate - all my neighbors lost a lot," Ebersole said. "I have no idea how many
homes burned, but two of my neighbors here lost their houses."
Authorities opened evacuation centers at the Banning Community Center at 789 S. San Gorgonio
Ave. and Hemet High School, 41701 E. Stetson Ave.
The fire, with flames reaching as high as 100 feet in the air, created a huge pillar of smoke that
blew southward, darkening the sky above the San Jacinto Valley.
South of Banning, sunlight filtered through the smoke to create an orange glow. The effect was
like looking at the sun setting in the south.
Dale Brooks and his wife, Chris, watched the smoke grow thicker by the minute from the Lawler
Lodge campground in the mountains where they work as caretakers.
The 10-acre campground sits about eight miles south of Poppet Flats.
"We're packed up. When we see the flames, we're out of here," he said.
Brooks said he had been watching the fire since he came home from work just hours after the fire
"It was really something to see this morning. It was this big red glow," he said.
High in the San Jacinto Mountains, the village of Idyllwild was largely unaffected by the fire as
of Thursday afternoon. The streets were mostly quiet and Marilyn Johnson, a clerk at the Pony
Express trading Post, said there had been no warning from officials regarding the need to
However, she said, the road closures and news of the fire were keeping people away.
"As soon as they hear about the fire out here, no one comes," she said.
When the fire jumped Highway 243, officials closed the road from Banning to Lake Fulmor.
Firefighters retreated Thursday morning from a point along Highway 243 where 20- to 30-foot
flames were blazing too dangerously for them to pass.
The fire started just hours before the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for
critical fire weather conditions in Riverside County and other areas of the Inland Empire.
The red flag warning is expected to last until Saturday.
The fire was burning in 30-year-old grass and shrubs, said Richard Minnich, a professor of fire
ecology at the University of California, Riverside.
Minnich said the blaze slowed once it reached an area that burned in the 1974 Soboba Fire,
which charred nearly 20,000 acres. Beyond that await thousands of acres of 90-year-old
chaparral, and beyond that are 100-year-old stands of trees that lead to the mountain town of
"I don't see it getting into that 90-year-old stand toward Idyllwild, though," Minnich said. "But,
boy, if it did. It would be explosive."
The San Bernardino County Fire Department has sent out two strike teams and two state Office
of Emergency Services engines to the fire, said department spokeswoman Tracy Martinez.
Each strike team consists of five engines with four firefighters, she said. Firefighters serving the
Fontana area were among those deployed.
Several area fire departments also sent personnel to the fire.
Chino Valley Independent Fire District along with the Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga and Upland
Fire departments each sent an engine and firefighters as part of a strike team from western San
In addition to a city fire engine, Ontario also sent an engine provided by the state Office of
Emergency Services that is kept in the city along with four Ontario fire personnel to man it, said
Ontario Battalion Chief Dave Carrier.
The four fatalities Thursday was the most in California in one incident since Oct. 7, 1971, when
four U.S. Forest Service firefighters were killed in the Romero Fire near Malibu.
In 1953, 15 firefighters were killed while fighting the Rattlesnake Ridge Fire near Mendocino --
the most fatalities in a single wildfire.
The most recent multi-fatality fire in the region was in 1959. Six firefighters were killed fighting
the Decker Fire in Lake Elsinore.
Since 1990, 36 firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service and California Department of Forestry
and Fire Protection have fallen fighting wildland fires in California.
23 -- U.S. Forest Service
13 -- California Department of Forestry
Of those killed, 25 died in aerial accidents, 11 while firefighting on the ground.
Source: California Fire Foundation and California Firefighters Memorial
Staff Writers Melissa Pinion-Whitt, Monica Rodriguez, Andrew Edwards, Megan Blaney and
Robert Rogers and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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