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3 people in trouble with the law after someone told CAL FIRE officers they had been robbed at gunpoint. The Mendocino County Sheriff’s office got a call yesterday morning to an area on Highway 162 approximately .5 miles from the intersection of the 101. The victim said there were 3-4 armed suspects, with assault weapon style rifles and dressed in body armor who took off in a black Chevy Tahoe and a gray Toyota Tacoma. A Sergeant on routine patrol on Highway 20 east of Potter Valley saw the two vehicles and took chase after the Tahoe which went onto a dirt road. The Sergeant stopped chasing as a deputy stopped the Tacoma. The driver was arrested, Jesus Estevan Vargas Jr. for armed robbery. Shots were heard where the Tahoe had stopped, two victims tied up, one shot as they tried to run, and the remaining two suspects were finally taken down with the help of a SWAT team. One suspect shot himself in the head and was flown to an out of county hospital for treatment. The investigation continues with several charges for the 3 arrested. The Sheriff’s office working with CALFIRE, the CHP, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, Ukiah Police and the Potter Valley Fire Department.

The August Fire is getting up near 900,000 acres and remains the largest fire to ever burn in the state. The fire has 3 zones, and is 43% contained. So far 86 structures have been destroyed. For weeks another 1,595 have been threatened. The Forest Service reported critical fire conditions yesterday with extremely hot and dry weather which is expected to hang around for several days. The fire is moving slowly though, but that could change with the fire weather. Firefighters have been working in the Lake Pillsbury area and other critical areas for days and report being ready for potential fire spread and firelines to be tested. The east side of the South Zone remains fully contained, and is being patrolled for any threats to control lines. There are evacuations in the South Zone of the Complex, and orders are in place for portions of Mendocino and Lake counties. The fire is spread amongst Lake, Mendocino, Colusa, Glenn, Tehama and Trinity Counties

*South Zone 487,666 acres, 70% contained
*North Zone 280,577 acres, 36% contained
*West Zone 104,836 acres, 70% contained

Evacuation Warnings in Mendocino County have been upgraded to Evacuation Orders and new Evacuation Warnings have been issued.

Zone R: West and south of Mina Road, south of the North Fork of the Eel River, east of the Eel River.

Zone P: South of the county line, east of Mina Road north of Hulls Valley Road and west of Hulls Creek.

Zone O: South of the county line, east of Hulls Creek, north of Mendocino Pass Road, and west of Williams Creek.

Zone Q: South of the County Line, west and north of the North Fork of the Eel River, north and east of Bald Mountain Road.

Zone S: South of the county line, east of Bell Springs Road, north of Bell Springs Creek and west of the North Fork of the Eel River.

More firefighters needed in Calif. That’s the word from State Sen. Mike McGuire who says its’ the state’s “top priority” for Sonoma and Napa counties and that right now the state’s “squeezing as many resources out of the system as possible”. As of early this morning more than 6,000 more homes were evacuated in Sonoma County due to the Shady fire which broke out last night and was rampaging thru homes already. The fire jumped Highway 12 and started burning in neighborhoods. It’s burning on the Nuns and Tubbs fire scars. There were a couple of other new fires that started yesterday, in Butte (Byoote) and Shasta counties. The state has limited resources already due to the massive August complex and more than 20 others that started 6 weeks ago in a lightning storm. the 2017 Nuns and Tubbs fires, which under other conditions might have lessened the fire’s growth.

The red flag warning has been expanded for the whole North Bay which includes all of Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties and won’t end until tonight. It was only for the higher elevations of the North Bay hills and was supposed to expire this morning, but it changed.  The intentional power downs from PG&E also changed to include more homes. The utility company utilizing its Public Safety Power Shutoffs again to prevent its equipment from starting any more fires. The National Weather Service reported the expanded alert into the lower elevations was because of winds in the valleys. Some gusts in higher elevations could reach up to 50 mph. Firecrews watching containment lines on the LNU Lightning Complex which started around the same time the August Complex ignited. 

A new playground is coming to Westside Community Park in Lakeport. The Lake County Tribal Health Consortium working with the Lions Club for the new playground. The Tribal Health Consortium donated $5,000 last week for the new park after the Lions Club donated $100,000. Apparently a fundraising letter went out to raise $5,000 more after the Lions Club’s donation and the Consortium stepped up. There were also $4,000 in donations from the community.

A couple of meetings from the Lakeport Board of Education to discuss in person, hybrid and distance learning for the next school year. There were in person board meetings, that were socially distanced last week. The school Superintendent delivered a presentation about the possible change-over to hybrid learning. The Record Bee reports some administrators who attended the meeting by Zoom said it had been a challenge to teach online and manage kids in person. Some of the children were without internet as only 50 of 200 hotspots were delivered because the cell phone companies were late with them. That was noted as a priority so the students who couldn’t log on were taken care of. They also discussed how classrooms would be reconfigured for in person learning. The district reportedly working with the Lake County Office of Education to open learning hubs around the country. School officials said hybrid learning was the goal ASAP and as safe as they could make it.

Mendocino County has a plan for homelessness and Ukiah is signing on. The Daily Journal reports the City Council voted unanimously to endorse the county’s Strategic Plan to address homelessness. But a couple of councilmembers said they thought it would be a good idea for administrators to be hired to manage what more than 30 agencies and service providers were doing on the matter. It all started with the county considering a plan on homelessness after a report was prepared by a doctor who studied the local homeless and transient populations and blossomed from there. There is a list of four goals with action steps, timelines to meet them and their final results.

It’s official, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors has approved of buying a motel to be turned into affordable housing. In a closed session meeting last week the board agreed to buy the Best Western motel on South Orchard Avenue for $10.6. million after it was announced the state was sending $9.6 million to the county to create housing. The county quickly entered negotiations on the property for transitional housing for individuals and families already homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The rooms will be studio-style units and there will be upgrades to about half of them for permanent housing within about ten years. It’s all part of Project Homekey.

Since there’s been more cases of Covid-19 in Lake County, the Public Health Office has announced possible new business restrictions. Dr. Gary Pace says the last few weeks have seen a surge in cases and outbreaks at two Senior Residential Facilities. One of them had 39 residents test positive, 7 of whom died. 16 staff members were infected. At the other, 3 residents and 8 staff tested positive.  There have also been clusters of infections at some businesses, schools, and in first responders.  If there’s a new case rate for any county in the state at more than 4.7 cases/day, they’re placed in the “Purple Tier” which replaced the “Watch List”. With that Dr. Pace is ordering  indoor services at restaurants, places of worship and gyms and fitness centers to be prohibited in Lake County by this Friday unless things don’t change. But Dr. Pace says they’re appealing to the state to delay it because if the senior facilities are all clear, the county could stay in the Red Tier. The county could be placed in the Purple Tier as soon as tomorrow.

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