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News

California wildfires reduces years-long dreams to embers

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Jose Garnica worked for more than two decades to build up his dream home that was reduced to ashes in a matter of minutes by the deadly firestorm striking Northern California.

Garnica, who moved to the U.S. from Mexico over 20 years ago, had finally decided he could afford to upgrade parts of his Santa Rosa house after building a stable career with the local garbage company and saving nearly everything he and his wife earned.

Over the past two years, he replaced the siding and installed a new air conditioner, stainless steel appliances and new flooring. He bought a new 60-inch (1.5-meter) television. On Saturday, the 44-year-old got an estimate to replace the fence, one of the last items on his list.

But at 3:30 a.m. Monday, he watched his house become one of the more than 2,000 homes and businesses destroyed by the series of blazes across the region that had killed at least 17 people.

“You feel helpless,” he said Tuesday. “There’s nothing you can do. Everything, your whole life, goes through your mind in a minute. Everything you had done. I left all my family behind in Mexico to get a better life. Finally we were just coming to the comfort level, and this happens.”

Garnica tried to save the home with a garden hose. He and a neighbour tried to cut open the neighbour’s above-ground pool, hoping the water would protect their homes. In 15 minutes, the entire neighbourhood caught fire, he said.

“If I knew this was going to happen, maybe those 45 minutes I spent trying to put the fire down, I should’ve just grabbed all the belongings,” Garnica said. “But I didn’t think it was going to happen.”

Those destructive flames raced across the wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties and the coastal beauty of Mendocino further north, leaving little more than smouldering ashes and eye-stinging smoke in their wake. Whole neighbourhoods are gone, with only brick chimneys and charred laundry machines to mark sites that were once family homes.

“This is just pure devastation, and it’s going to take us a while to get out and comb through all of this,” said Ken Pimlott, chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. He said the state had “several days of fire weather conditions to come.”

In some torched neighbourhoods, fire hydrants still had hoses attached, apparently abandoned by firefighters who had to flee.

The wildfires already rank among the deadliest in California history, and officials expected the death toll to increase as the scope of destruction becomes clear. At least 185 people were injured during the blazes that cropped up Sunday night. Nearly 200 people were reported missing in Sonoma County alone.

David Leal, 55, and his wife and stepson salvaged a few decorative items from their Santa Rosa home, including a wind chime, tiles from the backsplash in the kitchen, a decorative sun and a cross.

“Our plan is to keep those things, and when we rebuild, they’ll be mementos of what we’ve lived through, and of, just, resilience,” Leal said. “It’s hard not to get emotional.

In the meantime, Leal got a post office box so the family can get mail, a new laptop and some clothes. They’re living out of their two vehicles for now.

“We’ll be back home again sooner than later, and with our chins held high,” he said, choking back tears. “And hopefully we’ll be amongst our neighbours and friends as they do the same.”

Leal, a U.S. Navy veteran, evacuated with his family, two dogs and cat to nearby Petaluma late Sunday after seeing fierce, hot winds and flames whipping in the distance.

“We didn’t have time to think about what to grab. We grabbed what we saw,” he said. He got his external hard drive, which was lying out, but left his laptop.

Garnica also hung onto hope, saying he was not back at square one.

“I came into the States with nothing. I didn’t have anything,” Garnica said. “I think I’m better off than how I came in. At least I got a job. I got a family. I’m healthy.”

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Knickmeyer reported from Sonoma, California. Associated Press writers Jocelyn Gecker, Olga R. Rodriguez, Sudhin Thanawala, Juliet Williams and Andrew Dalton in San Francisco and Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento contributed to this report.

___

Follow the AP’s complete wildfire coverage here: https://apnews.com/tag/Wildfires.

Jonathan J. Cooper And Ellen Knickmeyer, The Associated Press




















Crime

Red Deer RCMP arrest wanted woman in stolen truck after collision

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 Red Deer, Alberta – A Red Deer woman appears in court today after RCMP arrested her in a stolen truck on Orr Drive on February 16 and executed numerous outstanding warrants on her.

Shortly before 7 am on February 16, RCMP responded to a report of a suspicious truck parked on Orr Drive. As RCMP approached the truck it fled, narrowly missing colliding with the police cruiser and striking a vehicle in the intersection of Orr Drive and Oak Drive. The female driver then abandoned the truck and attempted to flee police on foot but was arrested after a brief foot chase. Several vehicles were damaged as a result of the collision, but, fortunately, no one was injured. The truck driven by the suspect had been reported stolen out of Edmonton.

At the time of her arrest, 27 year old Melissa Marie Bowie was wanted on warrants out of Edmonton for seven charges of possession of stolen property and two for failing to appear in court. She was further wanted on a warrant out of Leduc for failing to comply with court-imposed conditions.  

 Bowie now faces the following additional charges:

·         Criminal Code 355(a) – Possession of stolen property over $5,000

·         Criminal Code 129(a) – Resist/ obstruct peace officer

·         Criminal Code 249(1)(a) – Dangerous driving

·         Criminal Code 145(3) – Fail to comply with conditions

 Bowie was remanded to appear in court in Red Deer this morning, February 20.

 Red Deer RCMP thank the public for your continued engagement in Red Deer crime reduction efforts through reports of suspicious vehicles and suspicious activity. 

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Crime

Drayton Valley RCMP lay charges following pursuit of stolen vehicle

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 Drayton Valley, Alberta – The Breton RCMP were alerted to a truck spotted on Highway 39, that had been reported stolen in an earlier armed robbery/ car jacking in Stony Plain.  Following a brief pursuit which ended in Rimbey’s RCMP detachment jurisdiction, the truck was stopped, driver arrested and charges have been laid.

On February 16 just before 1:00 a.m., Stony Plain responded to an armed robbery/ car jacking that occurred on Highway 43, where a citizen had his truck stolen from him.  Two Caucasian males demanded his wallet, cellphone, Ipad and his truck.  The citizen complied and the suspects fled in both the truck they were initially driving and the stolen truck.

The male suspects were described as Caucasian in the age range of 20 – 30 years old.  They were driving a 2000s model GMC crew cab with a tidy tank in the back. 

Notification was sent to all surrounding detachments to be aware of this incident, and to monitor for both the stolen truck and the suspect truck.

At 8:30 a.m., Breton RCMP members received information that led them to locate the stolen truck on Highway 39.  The driver failed to comply with demands of the RCMP and fled.  A pursuit ensued which included assistance from the detachments of Rimbey, Rocky Mountain House, Drayton Valley and Thorsby. 

23-year-old Christopher Jacob Burke was arrested in the stolen truck and taken to Drayton Valley RCMP Detachment.  The truck was recovered by the RCMP for return to the owner.  Burke is facing criminal charges as follows: Operation of MV while being pursed by police, Dangerous Operation of MV, Possession of Property Obtained by Crime over $5000.00, and Mischief.

He has been remanded in custody and is scheduled for court on February 20 at the Provincial Court of Alberta in Drayton Valley.

The Stony Plain/Spruce Grove RCMP investigation into the initial armed robbery/ car jacking is ongoing.  The Stony Plain GIS Unit is investigating.  If you have information about this investigation, please call the Stony Plain RCMP at 780-968-7200 or call your local police detachment.  If you want to remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), by internet at www.tipsubmit.com, or by SMS. 

Read more stories about area crime and police activities.

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COMMUNITY CALENDAR

february, 2018

wed14feb - 4aprfeb 146:00 pmapr 4TRIPLE T -Act/Dance/SingYouth 6 Create Your Own Play!6:00 pm - (april 4) 7:45 pm

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