Note: This chronology of the video project is part volunteer briefing and part diary....so read the first page for the historical perspective and the last page for the latest news and skim everything in between.
5,000 years B.C.E. to A.D. 1820 The art of control burning, as strong medicine practiced by traditional witch doctors where the proper dosage was critical for the patient, is practiced on the land to improve hunting and gathering conditions. Soon after the arrival of Spanish missionaries, soldiers and fortune seekers in the mid-1700’s, this knowledge is lost, along with a way of life. Less frequently burning, lightning strike fires and man made fires, all become larger and more intense. Fire as a tool, which has long been used by the Indians as a form of land stewardship, is now wrecklessly combined with the axe, the plow, and the hoof, to radically reshape the landscape. No longer does fire, acting like the wolf, balance the hand of vegetative life...with death. So what were once carefully managed open grasslands become orchards, centers of commerce, suburbs, weedy meadows, stunted second growth forests and brushy hillsides. Streams that once ran year ‘round, become heavily silted and dry up in the Summer in their lower reaches. Some fish species like steel head and salmon, have never returned.
Circa 1900: After a series of large and destructive fires, with some set by loggers and ranchers to clear logging slash, the first laws are passed in the California State Legislature prohibiting ranchers from purposely setting fire to their land to improve pasture.
April 1906 A devastating fire levels most of San Francisco after a powerful earthquake.
Summer 1919 Curtiss Jennies biplanes patrol forests in California to provide early detection of forest fires.
Summer 1924 Berkeley is ravaged by a grass fire that ruins 50 city blocks and destroys 600 homes. According to official reports and newspaper accounts, the fire started in Wildcat Canyon, burned up to the ridgeline and roared down through the center of town. The people of Berkeley try to ban wood shingle roofs through the City Council but are defeated by construction interests. The people respond by attempting to shade over the grassy hillsides by planting Monterrey pines and eucalyptus, a strategy that will later cause a catastrophe.
1941: Wartime manpower shortages make forest fires a national security issue and something to be avoided at all costs. A mobilized citizenry heeds calls for fire prevention while the Japanese, uniquely aware of the jet stream, launch balloon bombs across the Pacific Ocean towards the dry American West.
1942: Walt Disney studios premiere "Bambi", a nature film that adds a heavy dose of emotion to the issue of fire on our wildlands.
August 1946: Twelve experienced firefighters are killed on a mountainside in Montana trying to escape a fire by running uphill. This accident forces major changes in fire fighting tactics and training and becomes the inspiration for a book by Norman McClean entitled; "Young Men and Fire". The same author later writes, "A River Runs Through It", which becomes a popular movie.
May 9th, 1950: A badly singed bear cub is rescued by firefighters and nursed back to health. Christened Smokey the Bear, he becomes a symbol of forest fire protection and spends the rest of his life in a zoo cage.
1961-1964 Fires in Los Angeles, Napa and Santa Barbara Counties destroy over 650 structures, 120,000 acres and result in several injuries and at least one death.
September 1964: The Hanley Fire starts in the dry vegetation of Mark West Canyon and, pushed by nighttime winds of 70 MPH, tears into the outer edges of Santa Rosa, destroying more than 100 homes and burning 52,000 acres. Fifty years later, the deadly Tubbs Fire will follow almost exactly the same path when pushed by powerful Diablo winds, but this time, straight into the suburban heart of Santa Rosa, jumping the 6 lane highway 101 and destroying whole neighborhoods.
1965 The California State legislature enacts Public Resources code Section 4291, requiring vegetation clearance and other fire hazard mitigation measures around structures in forest, brush and grass covered areas.
1970 Wildfires throughout California destroy over 500,000 acres, 722 homes and result in at least sixteen deaths and over $230 million in damages and suppression costs. Subsequent watershed damages and severe landslides more than double these damage estimates.
August 1970: The Santa Cruz Mountain Regional Pilot Study by Tito Patri illustrates the scope of the Fire Hazard problem on page 86 with a map of the southern half of the county. This study was put together by students at UC Berkeley in the school of landscape architecture, was funded by grant money from San Mateo County and was used by the San Mateo County Planning Department.
Summer 1973: A bad fire burns ridge top homes in the Oakland and Berkeley hills. Most of this area will burn again in 1991.
August 1977: California burns badly as a series of lightning sparked fires start in remote areas. The CDF convoy in which the author of the vegetation management video script is traveling abandons plans to join crews working in Southern California on the Marble Cone Fire to help encircle a large fire on Mt. Diablo. This fire is visible at night from all over the Bay Area. The author is away from his base station for 12 consecutive days of firefighting working on four major fires at St. Helena, Mt. Diablo, Grass Valley and Eagle Lake.
Summer 1978: The author of "The Cannonball Express" spends a quiet summer with CDF along the coast near Fort Bragg. One fire starts among driftwood piled on the beach but is extinguished before reaching the bluffs below Highway 1.
1980-1982 Fires in Los Angeles, Napa and San Bernardino Counties destroy over 500 structures, more than 25,000 acres and result in at least four deaths.
1982 The California State Legislature enacts Public Resources Code Sections 4201-4204, requiring CDF to perform classification of fire hazard severity levels throughout all State Responsibility Areas (SRA) lands for the purpose of identifying measures to retard the rate of wildfire spread, and to reduce the potential intensity of wildfires that could destroy resources, life and property. The legislature also enacts Health and Safety Code Section 13108.5, requiring the State Fire Marshal (SFM) to adopt roofing and attic-opening regulations relevant to the new SRA fire hazard assessment for all structures located on SRA land.
July 1982: The author helps a Forest Service crew encircle a fire burning in sage brush on a ranch in eastern Nevada.
August 1985: The author's friend, John Pezzoli, a veteran of the First World War, loses his barn, car and tractor in the Lake Lexington Fire. The author helps him restock his pond with fish.
1987-1988 Wildfires in California destroy another 550 homes and over 35,000 acres.
1988 A legislative milestone is reached with the successful adoption of the State Fire Marshal’s fire retardant roofing regulations pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 13108.5
January 1989: The author builds and burns a large pile of Scotch broom on John Pezzoli's property in the Santa Cruz mountains during a steady drizzle.
1989 Wildfires destroy another 873 structures in California. Via Senate Bill 1075, the legislature enacts Public Resources Code Section 4290, requiring CDF to develop and adopt fire safety regulations for State Responsibility Areas (see Title 14, CCR, Sections 1270 et seq.). Via Assembly Bill 1812, Section 4125 was amended and Section 4136 added to the Public Resources Code, requiring sellers of real property to provide a Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement of risks associated with SRA “Wildland Fire Areas”.
September 1990: The author attends the first ever, and, first of many, Fish & Wildlife Advisory Committee meetings to propose a fish stocking proposal in Wunderlich County Park.
1990 An arson related wildfire in Santa Barbara County destroys another 4,900 acres, 641 acres and results in one death.
June 1991: After many hours and an investment of approximately $1200 the Salamander Flat fish stocking proposal crashes and burns for the last time. The author claims "squatters rights" and stays on with the committee.
October 20th, 1991: The Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm destroys 3,354 homes, 456 apartments and kills 25 people. The author, on a Sierra Club hike in the noticeably brushy SF watershed watches all that smoke go out the Golden Gate and turn south. People hiking in the Marin headlands notice the smoke going out the Golden Gate and turning north. The author spends several hours hiking and wondering "What's burning?". A billion and a half dollars of damages are later tallied up.
1992 Via Assembly Bill 337(Bates), the legislature enacts Government Code Sections 51175-51188 and amends Health and Safety Code Section 13108.5, requiring CDF to identify and local agencies to subsequently adopt “very high fire hazard severity zones” in Local Responsibility Areas (LRA’s) for the purpose of requiring vegetation clearance and other fire hazard mitigation measures around structures in addition to minimum Class B fire retardant roofing material regulations.
Early 1992: The Fire Safe Committee of San Mateo County helps get the ball rolling in Marin County on a vegetation management plan for communities at the base of Mt. Tamalpais.
April 27th, 1992: The first Community Workshop hosted by Leonard Charles and Associates introduces the concept of the vegetation management plan to residents of Marin County.
1992-1993 Firestorms in Shasta, Orange, Los Angeles, Calaveras and Riverside Counties destroy more than 140,000 acres, nearly 2000 homes and result in at least four deaths. FEMA allocates significant Disaster Recovery (DR1005) funding for California.
January 1993: The author makes initial contact with Leonard Charles through the Marin County Water District.
August 1993: SF Chronicle publishes article entitled "Fire Plan Proposed for Mt. Tamalpais".
September 3rd, 1993: The author meets with SM County Supervisor Ruben Barrales to discuss the danger of a large neighborhood fire, the BEHAVE computer program, and the Fish & Wildlife Committee. Supervisor Barrales recommends contacting the Fire Safe Committee.
September 8th, 1993: The author attends a public hearing hosted by Leonard Charles & Associates.
September 15th 1993: The author meets with Fire Safe Committee Chairman David Soho at his office in Felton.
October 8th 1993: Portola Valley Schools hold wildfire evacuation drill.
October thru February '93: The author analyzes the Fire Safe Committee's mission statement, goals and the environmental results of the on-going brush clearing program. Minutes of previous meetings show interest but lack of progress in a fire safety video.
November 3rd '93: Fire sweeps through Malibu and other communities in Southern California. Dozens of homes are destroyed. Additional damage will be done by mud slides caused by the lack of ground cover as the winter rains arrive.
1994 Via Assembly Bill 3819 (W. Brown), the legislature enacts Government Code Sections 51178.5 and 51189 and amends health and Safety Code Sections 13108.5 and 13132.7, requiring local agencies to provide maps and information about local fire hazard zoning for public review, and requiring Class A fire retardant roofing and development by the Sate Fire Marshall of a model ordinance for comprehensive defensibility of space and structures.
Feb 10th '94: The author makes a rambling presentation to the Pacifica Environmental Family on the merits of vegetation management.
Feb. 14th '94: The author attends a Napa County Wildlife Commission Meeting to watch, listen and make a pitch for vegetation management.
Feb. 16th '94: The author meets with Fire Safe Committee chairman David Soho for a second time at CDF headquarters in Felton. Dave describes his wish for a video that is easily digestible, covers multi-issue interests (?) and is aimed at homeowners.
Feb. 24th '94: Fire Safe Committee Chairman David Soho calls a preliminary version of the Vegetation Management Video Project script "unacceptable", citing a lack of group consensus on the basic concepts, target audience, length etc and a lack of funding. The author proceeds with the script anyway in hopes of finding backing first from the San Mateo County Fish & Wildlife Citizen's Advisory Committee and later from the Fire Safe Committee.
March '94: Urban planner Leonard Charles reviews the script and makes several suggestions for improvements.
March 2nd '94: The author and brush cutter Cliff Murray attend a Fire Safe Committee meeting in San Carlos. The author introduces himself, Cliff Murray and the concept of vegetation management. Cliff shows photographs of recent projects and compares notes on techniques for clearing brush.
March 8th '94: SF Chronicle reports in an article that State Farm Insurance snubs new clients for fire insurance.
April 4th '94: The author interviews SM County Sheriff's Deputy Dave Anella on location in the SF Watershed while an all-latino inmate crew clears brush on Pilarcitas dam. Among other secrets of inmate supervision, the author is told that work crews of the same ethnic background are purposely put together because "there are fewer fights this way." The author later realizes how this section of the script describing the judicial and ethnic backgrounds of the inmates represents a thorny public relations issue for the Fire Safe Committee. i.e. How can they produce a video that doesn't raise the issue of racism nor the spectre of Willie Horton? Would any city council that saw a Fire Safe Committee video containing footage of an ethnic work crew knowingly agree to a contract that could put a convicted burglar in a position where he could case his next job?
April 10th '94: The author begins recruiting the members of the Vegetation Management Video Project Committee by posting fliers on kiosks at Junior Colleges and on grocery store bulletin boards.
April 14 '94: Author attends a Fire Safe Committee meeting in Half Moon Bay. At least one member objects to allegedly "racist" content of the script. Fire Safe Members vote to reject the script from consideration for further study, yet copy and distribute it among them selves.
April 20th '94: The author introduces the Vegetation Management Video Project to the San Mateo County Fish & Wildlife Advisory Committee. The committee chair requests part II application forms, a complete budget, an outline of the script, a list of people to be interviewed and a list of groups supporting the proposal.
May 15th '94: The San Francisco Water Department publishes a newsletter prepared by environmental consultant, EDAW, Inc., with a front page article entitled "Fire, Friend or Foe"? This article uses much of the same language and draws nearly the same conclusions as the script of the vegetation management video project.
May 18th '94: The author introduces four crew members to the F&W; Committee while providing two large boxes of study materials and evidence for the non-game sub-committee. This material consists of CD ROM and software disks, video tapes, magazines and news paper articles. During the next month the author will supply additional materials by mail to two of the three committee members and his phone calls will go unreturned.
May 25th '94: The author meets with Mid-Peninsula Open Space District Resource Manager Alice Cummings to discuss support for the video project.
May 26th '94: The author attends an Alameda County Fish & Game Commission meeting to look, listen and assess the support for vegetation management projects in Alameda County.
May 28th '94: The non-game subcommittee members discuss the video project by telephone during this week but do NOT meet face to face. The Recorder-Progress publishes an article entitled, "A Bad Fire Season Anticipated".
June 1st '94: The SF Water Department hosts public hearings in Sunol and San Mateo to assess public sentiment for the future of the watershed lands.
June 10th '94: Despite tremendous losses from fire and flood, the Community Relations Committee of State Farm Insurance declines to participate in the video project.
June 15th '94: At the regularly scheduled meeting of the F&W; Committee the group votes to prohibit videotaping by the video project committee. The non-game subcommittee then presents a report recommending against funding the video proposal, citing a lack of video experience by the author and his crew. The report also states that the vegetation management video "has little to do with wildlife".
June 20th '94: The author attends a Public Seminar on Preparing Horses and Stables for Fire and Earthquake. The author hands out fire safety literature and solicits donations from the 95 people in the audience.
July 2nd '94: The author and Ed LaMoy inspect a restored steam locomotive and talk to the crew on a spur line in downtown Redwood City. The author also turns over a copy of the script to the San Mateo County Historical Society for review.
July 5th '94: A fire started by kids playing with fireworks burns up a steep hillside, jumps four lane Ralston Avenue, and burns well into the backyard of a home on the other side of Ralston Ave.
July 6th '94: Fourteen firefighters, including members of the Prineville Hot Shot Crew and 4 women, are killed in a deadly blowup on an otherwise small fire in Colorado. A "Can Do" attitude on the part of the victims is partially blamed for the deaths.
July 9th '94: The author attends the first of three camcorder training classes at Mid-Peninsula Access Corporation (MPAC) in Palo Alto.
July 10th '94: The author researches grant and foundation money at Burlingame library.
July 11th '94: The author contacts Broderbund Software in Novato, which has previously donated $5,000 to the American Red Cross for victims of the Berkeley Hills Fire.
July 12th '94: The author attends 2nd camcorder class at MPAC.
July 17th '94: The author attends 3rd camcorder class at MPAC.
July 20th '94: Karl Mittlestadt, Director of Belmont Parks & Recreation Department, signs a site release approving videotaping at Waterdog Lake Park in Belmont.
July 22nd '94: Walt Stringer, property manager with the Joint Powers Board/Caltrain, gives verbal approval to film the opening sequence at Millbrae train station.
July 27th '94: The author makes first contacts with Mr. Crotty of Crotty & O'Halloran, and Kurt Magowan of the Chamberlain Group re: videotaping in the area above Polhemus Road which later results in a letter permitting the videotaping.
July 28th '94: The author attends MPAC's Producer's Network Meeting to meet other amateur producers and view clips of award winning videos.
July 29th '94: The author makes first contact with John Ward of the Chamberlain Group.
August 7th '94: To offer proof that the committee can handle a live video shoot, the first videotaping is done at the Millbrae Train Station starring Jessie and Helen Goldstein. Lauren Etcheverry handles the camcorder, Ed and Dennis Lamoy are the stage crew. The author handles lighting. Additional taping is done later that afternoon at Yerba Buena Nursery where Cliff Reese runs a Husqavarna weed whacker around a long neglected wooden barn to clear a 30 foot defensible space around this structure. This swath of cleared area had contained dry weeds including wild blackberry and stinging nettle up to 8 feet tall. The author later interviews Cliff Reese on camera and appears himself on camera to provide narration and transitions to other scenes and locations.
August 8th '94: The author takes the first of two video editing classes at MPAC in Palo Alto. Duplicates of the demo tape are ordered.
August 18th '94: The author contracts with a professional consultant for advice and assistance in successful grant writing techniques. The consultant recommends against pursuing non-profit 501 (c)(3) status in favor of getting another group to 1) assume liability, 2) act as a pass through, 3) serve as treasurer, and 4) be the fiscal agent.
August 26th '94: Bunker Hill Investors grants to the Vegetation Management Video Company their permission to use property located above Polhemus Road and south of Bunker Hill Drive for the purpose of videotaping certain scenes. etc etc etc
August 27th '94: First contact is made with another environmental group, Urban Ecology, to seek help in managing anticipated video project grant money. Urban Ecology agrees to meet with the author to informally discuss acting as a fiscal agent for an externally generated project after a regularly scheduled meeting on September 14.
September 6th '94: The author faxes Al Lagomarsino a letter requesting that he be allowed to videotape (for documentary purposes) several meetings of the San Mateo County Fish & Wildlife Committee (during discussions of the Vegetation Management Video Project). These meetings are held in a private building (First American Title) near the county administrative center.
September 6th '94: First contact is made with Ken Entlinger of the Earth Island Institute regarding a vegetation management video. With Ken's consent, the author faxes Earth Island Institute a copy of the funding proposal.
September 8th '94: America's Funniest Home Videos/Vin Di Bona Productions' segment producer declines to lend use of two video clips for use in the video project citing "various legal reasons".
September 10th '94: The master and three copies of the Millbrae train station scene/Yerba Buena demo tape are received by the author and the copies are then passed on to video project members for editing.
September 13th '94: The screenplay is completed, copied, and distributed to the cast and selected crew members of the video committee.
September 14th '94: The author is informed that the September 14th Urban Ecology meeting was actually held on the 13th.
September 17th '94: Additional taping is done with a volunteer crew in San Mateo near Don Coyne's house and a short while later from Skyline Blvd just south of highway 92
September 28th '94: The author attends a videotaped public meeting hosted by Rick T. Reed, the Public Information Officer for the Office of Emergency Services, San Mateo Operational Area. The topic of the meeting is disaster preparedness for pets. The author gives Rick a folder of information on the video project including the funding proposal but not the script or screenplay. The man running the video camera describes the video editing equipment at a City of San Mateo fire station at 27th and Edison Streets
September 30th '94: The author persuades Rick Reed to call Fire Safe Committee Chairman David Soho and discuss the video project. Rick declines to endorse the video project until he has had this conversation.
October 4th '94: The author pays a visit to the fire station at 27th and Edison and meets with Kevin Ruane, Battalion Fire Chief. The author describes the video project and the educational opportunities available through the Mid-Peninsula Access Corporation. The author also leaves a copy of the Help Wanted flier and the script, and persuades Kevin to discuss it all with his supervisor. The equipment available for Kevin's staff to make training videos with is very similar to the SVHS gear used at MPAC. Few of the firefighters have the skill required to use it, however.
October 4th '94: Early rain puts a damper on the fire season for a few days. This is the first measurable rain that has fallen on the area for 5 months. Thunder and lightning that accompany the storm cause no major fires or damage.
October 5th '94: The author meets other active video makers at a MPAC channel 6 news show meeting showcasing the most recently aired program. Note worthy segments feature the Palo Alto gun buy back program and Japanese festival.
October 12th '94: The author attends an Urban Ecology meeting in Oakland.
October 13th '94: The author attends and photographs a 20 acre control burn on East Bay Regional Park Property. Although several homes with wood shingle roofs border the property the area was reportedly chosen for control burning because of the high concentration of native grasses. The area was also notable for the presence of Monterrey pines and acacia trees, the latter being a fire adapted species.
October 15th '94: A fast moving fire fanned by gusty winds reminiscent of the Berkeley Hills fire, destroys three homes and damages two others near Lake Chabot in Castro Valley (and less than two miles from the meeting place of the Alameda County Fish & Game Commission.) The blaze, of suspicious origin, was thought to have been started by children seen in the area. Eucalyptus trees hung directly over one of the homes that burned. Ironically, at least one of the homeowners whose house burned down had argued against removing the trees because he reportedly did not want a view of houses that might be constructed in the area. Eucalyptus trees hung directly over one house that burned.
October 16th '94: The author puts up help wanted fliers on telephone poles in the fire scarred neighborhood.
October 17th '94: The Board of Directors of the Marin Municipal Water District votes unanimously to approve the Environmental Impact Report for contractor Leonard Charles & Associates' vegetation management plan. This plan will require expenditures of $435,000 the first year and $200,000 a year for the next ten years to be funded by annual leases and parking and day use fees.
October 18th '94: The author attends another meeting of the SM County F&W; Committee, notable in that the secretary tape records the meeting to augment her notes. No vote is taken on this issue and no one complains. The author requests that the minutes reflect that the meeting was tape recorded.
October 19th '94: The author attends a Hills Emergency Forum Meeting in Oakland. The author takes the opportunity to introduce himself and the project during the public comment period and sets up an information table from which to distribute literature. Among the 50 or so people in attendance are many people in local fire departments whom the author has spoken to previously only by phone. Also in attendance is a local brush cutter by the name of Johannes Smith who receives a large information packet on the video project from the author.
October 24th '94: The author meets one of the fire victims of the recent Castro Valley fire and later that day tours the scene of the Oakland- Berkeley Hills fire while putting up help wanted fliers.
November 2nd '94: The author puts up a dozen help wanted fliers on the UC Santa Cruz campus.
November 3rd '94: The author attends a SM County Fire Safe Committee meeting in Redwood City. Steve Richmond and Greg Anella agree to test view and critique the video.
Early November '94: Heavy autumn rains effectively end the 1994 fire season.
November 15th '94: The author files form PA for a work of the performing arts in the United States Copyright Office, entitled, "The Cannonball Express".
November 16th '94: The author meets with Alan Merrifield, the director of Peninsula Community Services, a local non-profit, 501 (C)(3) tax exempt organization heavily involved in brush clearing operations. The meeting is held to discuss fiscal sponsorship although Allen is wary of being the deep pockets in a lawsuit that could possibly arise from an accident during filming.
November 17th '94: On his day off, the author mails off a three page preliminary letter of inquiry to the Peninsula Community Foundation, which offers to create an environmental video in exchange for grant funding. The author later puts up more help wanted fliers on the campus of the College of San Mateo, makes follow up calls to Peter Berg at Planet Drum, and writes and mails a follow up letter to Linda Sipos at The Tides Foundation.
November 22nd '94: The author mails off a three page preliminary letter of inquiry to the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation which offers to create a video in exchange for a grant from the Arts & Humanities Fund. The author also makes a follow up call to Ms. Charlie Danielson, director of Native Here, a native plant nursery in Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills to discuss a letter of support. A letter to Dr. Steve Edwards, PhD, the Director of the East Bay Regional Parks Botanical Garden, requesting permission to film, is also written and mailed.
November 25th '94: The author receives two letters. The first is a letter of support from director Peter Berg at Planet Drum Foundation that stops short of offering services as a fiscal agent or an outright cash grant. The second letter is a brief note from executive director Thomas Layton of the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation which dismisses our offer to create a video with a grant from the Arts & Humanities fund as not "directly related to current programmatic priorities of the Foundation" (?) in the area of film and video.
November 28th '94: In a telephone conversation, Allan Merrifield offers to draft a fiscal agent agreement to take to the board of Peninsula Community Services and suggests we follow model "c" from attorney Greg Colvin's guide book to being a responsible fiscal agent. The author agrees to make a presentation to the board of directors during the regularly scheduled January meeting. Later that morning at the Peninsula Community Foundation Library the author gleans information from the Catalog of California State Funding Sources on grants available from state agencies for educational and environmental projects.
November 29th '94: The author makes numerous long distance calls to Sacramento to discuss funding for the video. The author makes contact with various agencies listed as possible State funding sources, including the Department of Education, Environmental Education Program, the Urban Forestry Grant Program, (Eric Oldar) and the California Forest Improvement Program (Steve Jones). The author also makes a first contact with Bruce Turbeville, the Fire Prevention Education Coordinator with the State Fire Safe Program Committee.
November 30th '94: The author discusses the video long distance with Bruce Turbeville and Eric Odar with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection located in Sacramento. Bruce offers to share the script with other resource managers and otherwise keep it confidential. Eric requests to see something in writing regarding a "conceptual idea on the general subject matter".
December 2nd '94: The author mails off information packets to Eric Oldar and Bruce Turbeville in Sacramento, actress Lisa DeCari, and UC Santa Cruz student Chris Pawsey.
December 7th '94: The author attends a SM County Fire Safe Committee meeting in Belmont. During a discussion on possible goals for 1995 the author suggests a video that straddles the fence between fire safety issues and environmental issues. When this plum assignment seems to be pointedly handed over to someone else by the committee chairman the author points out the legal ramifications of copyright infringement. The author later hands over to Laurel Holsman a copy of the funding proposal, the outline, and the script, who, in turn, promises to avoid plagiarizing the existing material.
Dec. 8th '94: The author attends an orientation for grant writers at the Peninsula Community Foundation.
Dec. 9th '94: The author meets with actress Lisa DeCari at the Good Earth Restaurant in San Mateo to discuss the video project and her career in acting. The author also later researches like minded environmental groups and public agencies listed in the Harbinger File, a soft cover book on the shelves of the Peninsula Community Foundation Library in San Mateo.
Dec. 9-16 '94: The author contacts several of the groups listed in the Harbinger File by phone to assess the level of support and request letters of endorsement.
Dec. 16th '94: The author mails off letters to several of the organizations listed in the Harbinger File requesting letters of support and providing additional information about the video project.
Dec. 20th '94: The author discusses the video project and script by long distance telephone with Ronny Coleman, the State Fire Marshall in Sacramento. The author is told the video script is consistent with what other groups are doing in other areas of the state on the same topic. The author agrees to mail a packet of materials today, including a formal funding request.
Dec. 22nd '94: The author makes a cold call long distance to video maker Richard Lambert in Santa Barbara. The author introduces him self and the video project and makes inquiries regarding the video projects that Richard is doing for Ronny Coleman and CDF. The author and Richard agree to exchange an information packet on the vegetation management video project for a copy of Richard's latest video. Later that day, the author meets with San Mateo County Parks Ranger Steve Durkin on the site of a control burn on the edge of the SF Watershed along Sawyer Camp Road. The author introduces himself and talks up the project while passing out help wanted fliers (but is not allowed to take pictures). That evening, the author attends a San Mateo County Fish & Wildlife meeting where a Bay Area Action funding proposal for an Earth Day '95 centered around exotic plant removal projects is informally discussed as new business and is generally well received.
1995 Via Assembly Bill 747 (V. Brown), the legislature amends Health and Safety Code Section 13132.7, requiring fire retardant treatment for wood roof shingles and passage of a ten-year weather test to determine durability over time. FEMA approves Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Funding to the State Fire Marshal of development of the first model urban Wildand Interface (fire and building) Code in cooperation with the International Fire Code Institute (IFCI).
January 4th '95: The author of the Cannonball Express submits a revised video project proposal to the San Mateo County Fish & Wildlife Committee.
January 4th '95: A thirteen year old boy is arrested at school in connection with the 1.5 million dollar Castro Valley fire.
January 7th '95: The author helps Bay Area Action video producer Peter Drekmeyer clean up San Francisquito Creek.
January 17th '95: The author drops off an information packet at the Parks and Rec Department for Parks Director Pat Sanchez who will attend a F&W; Committee meeting the next day to introduce the new county liason (Park Ranger Dennis Hanley) to the committee.
January 18th '95: The author receives an oral promise of support (at the Parks & Rec Commission level of the funding process) just minutes before the beginning of the monthly meeting of the Fish & Wildlife Advisory Committee. This pledge comes from Pat Sanchez, the Director of the SM County Parks & Recreation Department. Later in the evening (after Pat has left), the author reintroduces the video project to the Fish & Wildlife Committee members, under new business. Because the author does not yet have a co-sponsor to make the project less dependent upon the F&W; Committee for funding, the funding request is for half the amount originally requested and denied six months earlier. Other major changes and improvements have also been made since the first introduction, such as a full budget and completion of hands-on video coursework by the author and crew.
This new business item is brought to committee despite the fact that the project still allegedly "has little to do with wildlife" (which was an earlier problem for the F&W; Committee members) and is still unabashedly designed to pander to the crass commercial needs of homeowners living blissfully in neighborhoods at risk. The project, however, is now perhaps more appropriately called the "habitat enhancement video project". Nevertheless, a motion is introduced (by the owner of a wood shingle roofing company) to reject the funding proposal from further study. Despite the glaring conflict of interest, the motion is quickly seconded and passes unanimously with no abstentions (meaning that the project will never get far enough to receive the promised help from Pat Sanchez).
Jan. 20th '95: The author receives a phone call from Jill Butler, CDF Santa Rosa, who says she has discussed the author's idea for a video with Fire Safe Committee Chair Dave Soho. According to Jill, Dave prefers a video with a "broad applications". Jill reiterates her and her supervisor's support for the video to the author and pledges to promote the author's project at the February 2nd Forest Improvement Program meeting in Sacramento, a meeting closed to the public.
The author makes a cold call to the Department of Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley to discuss the video project. The author briefly discusses the video project with a staffer, gets the name of the department chair and the whereabouts of Tito Patri, co-author of the 1970 Santa Cruz Mountain Regional Pilot Study-Early Warning. The author pledges to send information packets to both locations. In a later phone call Tito Patri describes use of the fire hazard map as something that would have a "significant impact".
Jan. 24th '95: The author receives a "Certificate of Registration" for a work of the performing arts from the United States Copyright Office.
Jan. 25th '95: The author secures a pledge from Anita Parsons of the Walden West Outdoor School to write a letter of support for the video expressing interest in including the video in their curriculum.
Jan. 30th '95: The author receives a letter of support from landscape architect Tito Patri.
Feb. 2nd '95: Much to his surprise, the author is invited by Fish & Wildlife Chairman Jerry Hearn to speak at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Parks & Recreation Commission. After Jerry's report on the committee's recommendations for the month (including a unanimous vote against further study of the video project) the author is invited to address the commission. Never one to miss an opportunity, the author then gives the commission a full report on the video project. This report is accompanied by five copies of a three page letter addressed to the commission members and includes an oral description of expected obstacles when the project is again eligible for review. These reported obstacles include overcoming conflicts of interest and other difficulties anticipated six months hence posed by the construction interests and the wood shingle roofing contractor on the committee. The author also deftly answers questions fielded by the commission. Jerry Hearn then returns to the podium for rebuttal and "takes umbrage" at some of the author's statements.
Feb. 3rd '95: The author meets with Alan Merrifield of Peninsula Community Services and receives the draft version of the fiscal agency agreement between PCS and the Video Project Committee.
Feb. 3rd: The author picks up SS-4 forms at the local office of the IRS to apply for a Federal Employment Identification Number.
Feb. 6th: The author receives a FEIN # from the IRS.
Feb. 15th: The author presents the video project to Alan Merrifield and the other six members of the Board of Directors of Peninsula Community Services in a bid to enlist a fiscal agent for fundraising purposes.
Feb. 22nd: The author signs a Fiscal Agency Grant Agreement approved by the Board of Directors of Peninsula Community Services.
Feb. 27th: The author opens a checking account at Bank of America
Feb. 28th: As required by the loan officer, the author files a fictitious business name statement with the County of San Mateo. The author also places an ad (as required by the county) with a local newspaper (The Country Almanac).
March 1st: The author mails off a preliminary proposal for review and comment to Jill Butler; CDF-Santa Rosa. This proposal concerns funding from the Forest Assistance Program.
March 13th: The author meets with Claire M. Hay, an environmental modeling/spatial analysis consultant, in Boulder Colorado. This meeting is held to discuss the Vegetation Management Video Project in relation to Claire's work with the Boulder County, Wild fire Hazard Identification and Mitigation System (WHIMS) Hazard Risk Rating Model.
March 23rd: The author mails off form letters (with attachments and SASE's) to the presidents of 17 homeowner's associations in Portola Valley that describe the video project. These form letters ask for letters of endorsement for the video project. Another 2 form letters go to the heads of similar homeowner's associations in Redwood City.
April 15th, '95: The author visits Dennis Judd, a landowner in the hills above Sebastopol, to learn more about the CDF's Stewardship Incentive Program and how it can be applied to acreage such as his. Dennis paid a registered professional forester for an approved land management plan and over the past seven years has been reimbursed several times by the CDF for a variety of tree planting, wildlife enhancement, soil conservation and riparian habitat restoration projects outlined in the plan.
April 15th, '95: The author meets with nursery owners Margret Graham and Walter Earle at Mostly Natives Nursery in Tomales.
April 25th, '95: The author again visits Dennis Judd and reads his forest stewardship landowner plan. The author also meets with Jill Butler at CDF headquarters in Santa Rosa to discuss the Forest Assistance Program grant proposal.
May 2nd, '95: The author mails off 4 sets of the proposal to Stephen Jones, CDF Sacramento.
May 13th, '95: The author mails 12 sets of the proposal to The Strong Foundation for environmental values in San Francisco.
May 15th, '95: Peter Drekmeier, chairman of Bay Area Action, declines to collaborate on the Cannonball Express.
May 18th, '95: The author discusses the project with San Mateo County Supervisor Mike Nevin and hands a packet of information on the project to one of his staffers.
May 20-30, '95: Initial contacts are made with aides in the offices of several local politicians, including Congressman Tom Lantos, Assemblyman Byron Sher, Assemblywoman Jackie Speier, and County Supervisor Ruben Barrales.
May 30th, '95: A staffer in Assemblywoman Jackie Speier's office calls and reports that Jackie has seen the materials and declines to participate in or endorse a "private" project.
May 31st, '95: The author and Ed Lamoy deliver a car load of one gallon plastic pots to Yerba Buena Nursery. The business manager reports that the property is in escrow and is unable to shed any futher light on the future of the nursery.
June 12th, '95: The author receives a letter of support from United States Congressman Tom Lantos. This letter joins a portfolio of more than a dozen letters from a wide spectrum of society including botanists, firemen, park rangers, nurserymen, landowners, college professors, urban planners, foresters, and county park volunteers.
June 13th, '95: The author mails a grant application in the amount of $500 to the San Mateo County Arts Council. This grant would represent "seed money" which the producer could use to create the film footage with which to bill the CDF for work completed under the terms of a signed video contract.
June 21st, '95: The author attends a meeting of the San Mateo County Fish & Wildlife Advisory Committee. During the public discussion forum, the author gives the committee an update on the project and mentions several reasons the committee should reconsider the proposal and include it under new business.
June 23rd, '95: The CDF responds to Forest Assistance Program applicants with a letter explaining that due to budgetary constraints there will be no funding for any projects in the 1994-95 fiscal year (ending July 1, 1995). The author has been recently informed that there will be little chance for funding under the new budget just completed in Sacramento although there is apparently some linkage through the USDA and the Forest Service with the 1995 farm bill under scrutiny in Washington DC.
Summer 1995: The author begins a tense wait for news of funding and works hard to keep the project alive by....
1) Delivering another load of black plastic pots to Yerba Buena Nursery
2) Attending the usual Fish & Wildlife Committee meetings and speaking out on the subject
3) Soliciting additional letters of endorsement from firemen and college professors (bringing the total to 22)
4) Putting up more fliers in Marin County and recruiting new talent.
August 23rd, '95: The author meets Sierra Club staffer Julia Bott at a meeting of the F&W; Committee and passes on some materials on the video project.
August 28th, '95: The author is invited to make a presentation to the Sierra Club's Conservation Committee and gives four information packets to sub-committee members who will study the video materials and the issues involved.
September 12th, '95: The author attends a meeting of the Marin County Fish & Wildlife Committee in an attempt to secure a letter of endorsement. The author makes a short presentation, answers questions and turns over video project material to a subcommittee headed by Gil Murphy.
September 28th, 1995: Wildlife Rescue writes to say that they do not endorse other organizations projects.
September 29th, 1995: John Knox at Earth Island Institute writes a very nice letter of endorsement in support of the project.
October 6-10, 1995: A large fire burns 40 homes and dozens of cars near the town of Inverness in western Marin County. Smoke blankets all of central Marin county and the Concord area. The fire reportedly costs $4 million to control and tallies up $40 million in property damage. Several youths later confess to building and abandoning the illegal campfire that would later spread to nearby brush and timber. In a way the location and timing of the fire are supreme ironies. Just weeks earlier the author has blanketed the town of Pt. Reyes Station with help wanted fliers and even put one up at the Inverness post office. The timing of the fire also helps persuade the Marin County Fish & Wildlife Advisory Committee to pass a motion to endorse the video project, a proposal that was under consideration at least two months before the fire.
Nov. 12, 1995: the author meets with Fire Captain Rick Landis at the Palomar Park Volunteer Fire Station in the hills above Redwood City to discuss a possible letter of endorsement.
November 14th, 1995: the author speaks at a San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting to support Rick Landis' Palomar Park volunteer firefighters (and hype the video) as the Board of Supervisors considers a proposal to shut down the station and transfer the engine to the CDF station down the hill on Edgewood Road.
A short time later the author meets with Roman Gankin and Sam Herzberg in the County Planning Department to elicit comments on the station closure proposal. While briefing Roman and Sam on the progress of the video project the author learns that it is not necessary to have access to fire insurance to obtain a building permit in San Mateo County.
December 20th, '95 The author hears a streams subcommittee report at a meeting of the San Mateo County Fish & Wildlife Committee that is critical of the site preparation grading for the replacement structures being set up to house the Palomar Park Volunteer Firefighters in their new location at Cordilleras Center. A later tour of the site convinces the author that Rich Landi was right in calling the location "a terrible site for a fire station". It is in a box canyon surrounded by flammable fuel, it is a long way from the road and the community it serves and it is literally, where the sun don't shine, making it a damp, cold, uncomfortable and unpleasant place to work.
1996 The State Fire Marshal publishes and distributes to local agencies the Model Ordinance for Defensibility of Space and Structures.
January 4th, 1996 The author heads over the hill to Santa Cruz County to drum up support for the video project. On the agenda are visits, some planned in advance and some not, with George Gray, Resource Ecologist with the State of California, Department of Parks and Recreation, Jay Robbins with Santa Cruz Action Network, Helen and Ilene with Community TV of Santa Cruz County, Richard Casale, District Conservationist with the United States Natural Resources Conservation Service, the staff and students of the Cabrillo Junior College Horticulture Department, botanists Barbara, Peter and Erin with Native Revival Nursery, Vicky Nichols with Save Our Shores, and finally, Matt Baldzikowski with the Santa Cruz County Planning Department (and a dozen members of the Santa Cruz County Fish & Game Commission). The author picks up a letter of endorsement from George Gray, and makes a good presentation to the Fish & Game Commission. The author logs 195 miles on his car and counts 25 stops from doorstep to doorstep.
January 5th, 1996 The author spends the afternoon at the Peninsula Community Foundation library in San Mateo, doing basic research on foundations which appear likely to contribute money to an environmental video project.
January 9th, 1996 The author says hello to supervisor Ruben Barrales during a break in the Board of Supervisors meeting and gives him an update on the video project. The author also passes Ruben a card with our web site address and urges him to check frequently for new developments.
Mid-January, '96 The author bumps into Fish & Game Warden Patricia Anderson at the Los Trancos Fish Ladder. The author passes on to her a business card containing the web site address of The Cannonball Express.
January 19th, 1996 The author sends an 8 page proposal for video project funding to the Compton Foundation in Menlo Park, CA.
January 16th, '96 The author leaves a copy of "Bear Facts" with Ruben Barralesí receptionist at the County building in Redwood City.
January 22nd, '96 The author touches bases with Ruben Barrales about the video "Bear Facts" during a seventh inning stretch break in the board of supervisors meeting.
January 29th, '96 The author again meets briefly with Ruben Barrales (who promises to watch the video) and also with Fire Chief Rich Landi.
January 29th, '96 The author bumps into Bay Area Action leader Peter Drekmeier and steelhead expert Jim Johnson at the Los Trancos Creek fish ladder. After several days of steady rain the swollen creek taxes the capacity of the fish ladder design. The fish ladder still remains closed to steelhead which apparently haven't yet made their move upstream. Peter Drekmeier, who produced an environmental video on the creek with funds from the San Mateo County Fish & Wildlife Committee has earlier endorsed the Cannonball Express.
Jan 30th, '96 The author gets fiscal agent Alan Merrifield's signature on a grant proposal to the Columbia Foundation and enjoys a wide ranging conversation covering computer hardware, progress on the video, grant applications, cougar sightings, feral chickens, cat eating coyotes and the legacy of Walt Disney nature films in dealing with nuisance wildlife in suburbia.
Jan 30th, 1996 The author mails off a grant proposal requesting $3,000 for the purpose of web site development. This proposal goes to the Columbia Foundation in San Francisco, CA.
February 1st, 1996 MicroTimes, Northern California's Computer Magazine, publishes a guide to the world wide web and lists "The Cannonball Express" as the second of four entries in the Arts section. A phone call to Best Internet reveals that 15 computer literate people browsed our website today.
February 8th, 1996 The author meets with Celia and the web site construction crew soon to be known as Plugged In Enterprises, at the local computer school,"Plugged In", to discuss improvements on the authorís web site, cost estimates for new html programming and registration with Yahoo and other web indexes.
February 9th, 1996 The author telephones San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President Ruben Barrales to touch bases on the Fire Safe Committee's video, "Bear Facts". Ruben claims to have seen it and promises to return it by mail. The author also gives Ruben progress reports on the video project and the web site.
February 12th, '96 The author takes a two hour lunch from work to give a short presentation to the assembled members of the Santa Clara County Fish & Game Commission. The author briefs the group on the video project in terms of goals, strategies and plans for the future. The author also fields questions from the commission regarding the requested letter of endorsement and distributes literature and floppy disks to complete the briefing.
February 13th, '96 The author briefly meets with San Mateo County Board of Supervisors president, Ruben Barrales to touch bases on the video and get back the "BEAR FACTS" tape.
February 14th, 1996 The author attends a meeting of the CRMP group (Coordinated Resource Management Plan) at the Peninsula Conservation Center and makes a presentation regarding a letter of endorsement.
March 8th, 1996 ABC airs Good Morning America, on nationwide television, featuring a segment on Plugged In, a Community Computer Center located on University Avenue in East Palo Alto. This grant funded drop in computer school is just blocks from the authorís place of residence and is frequented by the author before work and on days off. The author, as a paying client of Plugged In Enterprises, is seen explaining the steam train analogy to one of the teen age computer wizards and gets invaluable nationwide publicity for the video project.
March 16th, 1996 In a mass mailing campaign, the author sends letters mentioning the web site and requests letters of endorsement from 22 Australian environmental groups in a bid for international support for the video project.
March 17th, 1996 The author receives a letter from the president of the Marin Chapter of the California Native Plant Society which stops short of endorsing the project. The letter from Robert Soost does state that “we find the proposal interesting, and hopefully useful in educating the public on the problems of vegetation management, including the use of native plants”.
March 18th, 1996 The author receives a rejection letter from Michael A. Papo at the Koret Foundation, which wins an Unclear on the Concept award. i.e. Thank you for your letter of inquiry to the Koret Foundation requesting support video about the Oakland/Berkeley firestorm. (sic) (Heavy sigh)
Early April, 1996 New material is added to this web site and some editing is done to improve readability.
March -July , 1996 The author continues his work on The Cannonball Express by soliciting additional letters of endorsement, collecting more resumes/letters of interest and by improving and promoting the web site. The author also attends several meetings of the San Mateo County Fish & Wildlife Committee.
August 2nd, 1996 PG&E; spokesman Bill Roake accepts responsibility for the $2 million wine country fire, the worst of the season in the Greater Bay Area. This 2,000 acre fire, which destroyed several homes and scorched prime vineyards, was started by power lines arcing to a nearby tree. The author continues to draft proposals for video funding and sends them to companies in Silicon Valley.
Mid-October, 1996 Large fires costing millions of dollars to control burn at Big Sur, Malibu, and around the Los Angeles basin.
October 26th, 1996 The author participates in a native plant celebration and work party on top of San Bruno Mountain. This three acre plot has been cleared of eucalyptus to improve habitat for endangered butterflies and now is a work-in-progress demonstration garden for native plants.
October 29th, 1996 The first rains of winter come to the Bay Area. Balmy and dry weather continues for several more weeks.
Mid-November 1996 Heavy rains come in a series of drenching storms to end the fire season. Shoots of green grass soon sprout on hillsides through the dead and matted Turkish straw.
November 20th, 1996 The author speaks at a meeting of the Contra Costa County Fish & Wildlife Committee to acquaint new members with the project prior to committee review for grant funding.
December 12th, 1996 The author meets with Tony Spitaleri, Assistant to the Fire Chief & Public Information Officer at Palo Alto City Hall. Fire Chief Ruben Grijalva arrives later to further discuss The Cannonball Express and possible funding.
December 12th, 1996 The author meets with members of the Napa County Wildlife Conservation Commission to make a presentation and request a letter of endorsement. This request is soon granted.
1997 The first version of the IFCI model Urban Wildand Interface Code is published. FEMA approves more Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding to the CDF Office of the State Fire Marshal for research and development of additional fire prevention information, including Structure Ignition Assessment, Fire Environment Modification, Fire Hazard Zoning and Assessment, Fire Mitigation Plan development and more.
January 8th, 1997 The author tours the Arastradero Preserve with Tony Spitaleri and Bruce Martin to look at homes in the interface zone and discuss shooting locations.
February 1997 The author contacts Tom Ness and Sophie Sparks, the owners of New Tribe in Grant's Pass, Oregon and manufacturers of the Weed Wrench tool. The author purchases a jumbo size tool for $150 and receives permission to publish their brochure on the author's web site. The hit count meter on the author's web site soon registers a significant increase in activity.
February 28th, 1997 The author meets with John Walton at the Palo Alto Children's Museum to request a copy of the 1984 Palo Alto Hills Fire Management Plan. The author receives copies of the 1984 Park Master Plan For the Arastra Property & City of Palo Alto Management Plan For The Arastradero Preserve (approved in November of '96). The author briefs John on The Cannonball Express but is referred to Bruce Martin for a copy of the 1984 Fire Management Plan. John explains that the update for the 1984 Plan is on City of Palo Alto Fire Chief Ruben Grijalva's desk for review and won't be released to the public for some time. (The author desperately needs a look at one or the other to adapt the script of The Cannonball Express for distribution by Palo Alto Fire Marshalls during home inspection visits in the Palo Alto area.
March 1997 The author continues work on the web site by adding new material and correcting errors.
April 1997 The author continues the search for letters of endorsement for the video project.
May 1997 The author works nearly every day on the video project, making phone calls and sending email.
February 3rd, '97 The author and a partner take a 16 foot red aluminum canoe down Southbound 101 in East Palo Alto as San Francisquito Creek overflows from a combination of El Nino rains and a high bay tide. This flood does over $5 million in damages to real estate in low lying but high priced neighborhoods from mid-town Palo Alto on down to E. Palo Alto. Several weeks later, City of Palo Alto Fire Chief Ruben Grijalva almost breaks down at a meeting of angry homeowners. Less than four months later, however, Ruben again denies funding for the video project on the grounds that they are looking for something approximately five minutes long to be filmed entirely in Palo Alto.
September 6th,'97 The author leads a Community Impact work crew in removing several tons of brush above the outbuildings of the Thornwood Estate in Woodside.
October 11th, '97 The author attends a CALEPPC (California Exotic Pest Plant Conference) in Concord to listen, learn and talk up the video.
October 19th, '97 The author works with the Wildlands Restoration Team on a control burn at Big Basin State Park by watching for spot fires and patrolling the fire lines.
October 25-26, '97 The author returns to Big Basin to help ranger George Gray on the same fire. By now the fire is the largest control burn ever conducted in a redwood forest (over 300 acres).
1998 Via Assembly Bills 6X and 1195, the legislature enacts Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement requirements for very high fire hazard severity zones in Local Responsibility Areas (see Civil Code Sections 1103 et seq.).
February 25th,'98 The author meets with California Dept. of Fish & Game field biologist Terry Palmisano at DF&G headquarters in Monterrey to discuss the video and request a letter of endorsement.
March 28th, '98 The author removes cottoneaster and oleander from the site of the old ranch house on the Arastradero Preserve in the hills above Palo Alto.
April 4th,'98 The author receives a grant check for $350 from Romic Technologies in East Palo Alto.
April 8th, '98 The author addresses a meeting of the SM County Fire Safe Committee to brief the members re: progress on the video.
May 7th,'98 The author receives a check for $1,000 from Romic Technologies for web site improvements.
May 14th, '98 The author meets with goat herder Ken McWilliams high in the Berkeley hills to discuss the video project and a possible video scene written around the use of goats for fuel reduction and vegetation management. Ken cites the possible loss of "trade secrets" as a reason to decline participation in the project.
June 4th, '98 The author addresses a joint meeting of the SM County Parks & Recreation Commission and the Fish & Wildlife Committee re: progress on the video project.
June 13th, '98 The author works at the steel head fish hatchery near Davenport with members of Community Impact doing roof repairs and other storm damage repairs.
June 24th,'98 The author receives a grant check from Romic Technologies that becomes the financing for the video portion of the project.
July 4th weekend. The author removes exotic invasive knapweed from the vacation home town of Foresta, an island of private property in Yosemite National Park. The author is told the knapweed seeds arrived with a truck load of log cabin logs shipped in from Montana. Ironically, the cabin that burned was one of many destroyed there as a lightning sparked wildfire ravaged the woods around Foresta in 1992.
July 5th,'98 The author delivers a load of black plastic pots to Yerba Buena Nursery in Woodside.
July '98 The author becomes a member of the Film Arts Foundation.
July '98 The author talks with Ken Heins and other members of the CNPS at Edgewood Park in Redwood City while pulling out exotic invasive yellow star thistle.
August 8th,'98 The author tours the San Francisco Rail Museum at Hunters Point to meet the volunteers, talk up the video project, and inspect the engine (which is 5 feet up in the air on blocks and not expected to be running again until the end of the year.)
August 12th, '98 The author leaves town for a much needed vacation.
August 13th, '98 The author attends a meeting of the Quincy Library Group in Quincy, CA to request a letter of endorsement and mutual web site link. (The QLG is an unlikely assemblage of logging professionals, townspeople and environmentalists concerned with the economic sustainability of resource based towns like Quincy, fuel loads and sustained yields in 2 1/2 National Forests around Lake Tahoe and Quincy. The group apparently started meeting at the Quincy Library back in 1991 either because it was a neutral area or because it was the only place to meet where they couldn't yell at each other.)
August 14th, '98 The author dons wet suit, fins and mask and swims underwater with 30 migrating salmon in the 2-3 foot range at Chico's Bidwell Park, just upstream from "Bear Hole".
August 15th, '98 The author gets an eye full of small town America at the annual Quincy Main Street parade. One banner on a logging truck loaded with prime timber wrapped in gold foil proclaims, "Trees are Plumas County's Gold!" The author makes a few more contacts and departs for Susanville.
August 15th, '98 The author gives an impromptu talk on the view from the front lines of the '77 Eagle Lake Fire to 30 campers at the Forest Service ampitheater when the park interpreter cancels her planned talk and slide show on the same fire due to illness.
August 19th,'98 The author tours the 1977 Eagle Lake Fire area by bicycle, noting areas of brush obviously treated with aerial applications of herbicide in preparation for control burning.
August 22nd, '98 The author meets with CDF engineer Adam Mattos at the Eagle Lake CDF station to discuss new developments in CDF equipment & tactics, the fire inspection process, the 1977 Eagle Lake Fire, control burning and the video project.
August 26th, '98 The author holds the first primary interviews and briefing sessions with 8 candidates for the producer's position.
August 30th, '98 The author works at the Forest of Nicene Marks with members of the Wildland's Restoration Team removing exotic invasive eupatorium in stream side areas.
September 5th, '98 The author attends Ted Lempert's pancake breakfast to request a letter of endorsement from Ted and other local politicians and candidates including Bill Lockyer.
September 10th, '98 The author and fiscal agent Liza Loop interview producer candidate Michael Fasman at Liza's home in Palo Alto.
September 11th, '98 The author and Liza meet for a second time to interview other candidates for the producer's position.
September 14th, '98 After consultations with Liza, the author formally offers the producer/director's job to Michael Fasman. Michael immediately accepts and begins video pre-production.
September 13th, '98 The author removes Cape Ivy near Muir Woods in Marin County with members of the GGNRA Habitat Restoration Team. and hands out a few business cards to interested parties.
September 15th, '98 The author continues the process of building support for a letter of endorsement and mutual web link by sending followup letters to individual members of the Quincy Library Group.
September 16th, '98 The author attends a meeting of the San Mateo County Citizen's Fish & Wildlife Advisory Committee to brief the members regarding progress on the video project.
September-October '98 The author prepares to assist producer Michael Fasman in the pre-production phase of the Cannonball Express, i.e. Recruiting additional volunteers, auditioning actors and actresses and updating the screen play. The author also continues to seek additional letters of endorsement from individuals such as Ted Lempert and organizations such as the Quincy Library Group.
October 3rd and 7th '98 Auditions for the actresses roles are held in San Francisco.
October 4th, '98 The author Steve Kennedy, director Michael Fasman and cameraman Jarid Johnson do a walk through at Yerba Buena Nursery to plan for the upcoming video shoot.
October 17th, '98 The author works on a Community Impact landscaping project at the Firestorm Memorial Garden in Berkeley. Coordinator Gordon Piper, a homeowner who rebuilt his home just up the street after losing it in the fire, points out blackened telephone poles nearby and tells the group what the fire was really like on that terrible day.
October 18th, 98 The author travels to La Honda for the Pumpkin Pancake Breakfast at the La Honda Fire Department.
October 21, '98 The author attends a meeting of the San Mateo County Fish & Wildlife Advisory Committee and again briefs the committee on the progress of the video.
October 24th, '98 The first video shoot at Yerba Buena Nursery is cancelled by rain. The cast and crew retreats to Buck's Restaurant in Woodside for a delicious breakfast.
October 25th '98 The author works with the Habitat Restoration Team in the Tennessee Valley area of the Golden Gate Recreational Area.
October 30, '98 The author drops off 500 pounds of topsoil and some flower seeds at the Golden Gate Rail Museum in the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Area of San Francisco. The locomotive planned for use in the attention getting scene is being restored here.
November 1, '98 The author drops off another "good will" load of topsoil at the Rail Museum.
November 7, '98 The second video shoot day is also rained out. The author drops off a third load of topsoil at the rail museum.
November 9, '98 The author receives another grant check for $350 from Romic Environmental Technologies in East Palo Alto.
November 14, '98 The author drops off a final load of topsoil and finishes the landscaping around the caboose by spreading out the dirt, placing railroad ties around the raised bed and scattering the flower seeds.
November 15, '98 The third video shoot day is cancelled when Jarid Johnson takes a paid gig to film an interview featuring British Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.
November 21, '98 The author signs a contract with Julian Lacey at Pluggged In Enterprises for $325 worth of web site improvements, including new links and a theme song for the home page. After a week of careful study of the weather reports the author and the director agree to go ahead with the shoot on Sunday. The author calls all the members of the cast and crew to deliver the good news and loads up his car with groceries and other vital equipment and supplies. All is for naught however, a the cameraman again scotches the scheduled video shoot by calling the author at 10PM to announce that it is raining in SF and for that reason he won't be working on the shoot on Sunday.
November 22nd, '98 The show does not go on... leaving hard feelings all around. The author and assistant camera woman Mrs. Stephanie Argast, (who didn't get the word in time) rendezvouz at the appointed time at the car pool point to take the drive to Yerba Buena Nursery for a walk through. After an elegant tea in the Nursery's Tea Terrace they later briefly stop in at the Thornewood Estate on the way down the hill. Meanwhile, blue skies and balmy weather lasts well into the afternoon. In a phone conversation later in the day, the author and Michael Fasman agree to reschedule the video shoot for some time in the late Spring of 1999.
Winter and Spring of '98 and '99 The author dedicates his efforts to keeping the project alive (and the hapless but dedicated cast and crew on stand by). Despite the lack of a single scene "in the can" to show off and despite generous financial support from Romic, the author vows to continue the pursuit of corporate and foundation grants from new sources.
1999 Via Assembly Bill 423 (Dutra) the legislature again amends Health and Safety Code Section 13132.7, requiring listing by the State Fire Marshal of wood roofing materials that have passed at least five years of the ten year weather test, and requiring that insurance companies honor replacement cost coverage for the increase cost of fire retardant roofing materials over non-fire retardant materials.
August, '99 The author works with a Lucent crew installing a voice and data network at the San Jose Fire Department headquarters in downtown San Jose. The author's request for a letter of endorsement for the video project moves all the way up the chain of command to Chief Staples where it is politely but firmly denied. "We can't endorse something that we haven't seen".
August 11th, 1999 The author files for candidacy at the County offices at 40 Tower Road. The suggestion to file for candidacy for the Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board of Directors comes from Chris Stampolis, Manager of Community Relations at Romic Environmental Technologies, Inc. in East Palo Alto. The author has received several checks for web site improvements at Plugged In Enterprises from Romic in the past.
October '99 The author has dinner with crews at each of the 5 fire houses in the Menlo Park Fire District to better understand their concerns and fire safety issues.
November 6th, 1999 The author does a "ride-along" with the crew at Station II. During this 8 hour shift, no major fires are reported, two drunks are assisted and dinner is interrupted four times.
December 3rd, '99 The author takes a tour of Cornflower Farms in Elk Grove, CA with business manager Janet Gerland. The author requests a letter of endorsement and promises to put the owner on the video distribution list upon receipt of the letter.
December 6th, '99 The author takes a tour of Hedgerow Farms outside of Davis, CA with owner John Anderson. The author requests a letter of endorsement and promises to put the owner on the video distribution list upon receipt of the letter.
December 7th, '99 The author meets with Rick Heredia at DQ University outside of Davis, CA to describe the video project and request a letter of endorsement.
December 8th, '99 The author makes a presentation to the members of the Palo Alto Rotary Club and requests a letter of endorsement.
December 15th, '99 The author is formally sworn in as a member of the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.
December 16th, '99 The author spends 8 hours riding with two MPFPD paramedics on Medic 110, an ambulance owned by AMR (American Medical Response) and subcontracted to the Fire District. Without any major car crashes, shootings or stabbings happening, the author sees the usual assortment of sick and hurt people.
December 22nd, '99 The author meets with owner Robert Stephens at Elkhorn Native Plant Nursery in Moss Landing to request a letter of endorsement.
2000 FEMA approves additional funding to the State Fire Marshal for development of fire safe building standards for the Urban Wildland Interface, based on the research conducted under the previously funded Fire Environment Modification and Structure Ignition Assessment Guide projects.
January 7th, 2000 The author's request for a letter of endorsement comes up for a vote at a Board Meeting of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District. Directors Ross and Borden vote no, Director Prather and Chair Vierra vote yes. With Director Dahlgren having resigned his position, the Board is split and cannot muster a majority to pass a motion to authorize a letter of endorsement. The Board has 60 days to select a new Board member.
January 8th, 2000 The author receives a letter of endorsement from Frank Maurer, Executive Director of the Quail Ridge Wilderness Conservancy.
January 9th, 2000 The author spends yet another Sunday working with volunteers from the Habitat Restoration Team in the GGNRA. The exotic invasive species targeted this time are Cape Ivy, Bull Thistle and Himalaya Berry. Several native species are planted just upstream from Stinson Beach, along Easkoot Creek, including rushes and willow. This creek supports a respectable spawning run of steel head salmon every winter, although a long dry spell prevents fish from yet entering the mouth of the creek.
January 10th, 2000 The author calls Phil Favro of Favro & Associates in Sacramento to discuss wood shingle roofs and chemically treated wood shakes.
February 24th, 2000 The author makes a presentation to the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority's Board of Directors in hopes of landing a letter of endorsement and expanding the video distribution list. The Board declines to endorse the project, apparently out of fear that the author will return and ask for money to make the video.
June 21st, 2000 The author talks by phone with Townsend "Townie" Anderson, program officer with the Orton Family Foundation in Colorado. This Foundation sponsors grassroots video projects designed to bring local participation to the planning and zoning process at the County level. Through Townie, the Foundation declines to support a video with grassroots potential on the subject of Vegetation Management.
July 25th, 2000 The author's proposal to restrict the use of wood shingles in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton is voted down by the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire District. The Menlo Park Building Inspector appears at the meeting to voice his dissatisfaction with the ordinance.
July-August, 2000 Huge lightning sparked forest fires hit Montana, Idaho and Colorado. Several communities around Denver, Colorado are forced to evacuate and dozens of homes there are burned to the ground. More acreage burns across the West in the Summer of 2000 than when organized fire fighting begins in 1910. Thus, are decades of efficient fire suppression, a tactic that was most effective in the 1950's, reaped in a harvest of sterilized top soil, hydrophobic dirt and groves of trees scorched up to the crown.
August 20th, 2000 The author spends the day at Kirby Cove on the North shore of the Golden Gate, pulling out exotic invasive Cape ivy with the members of the GGNRA's Habitat Restoration Team.
Spring, Summer and Fall of 2000 The author sucessfully lands letters of endorsement from the Menlo Park and Atherton City Councils, the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, and Stanford University Professor Dick Luthy. The author also pursues endorsements from the Bolinas Fire Department and the Bolinas Community Public Utility District's Vegetation Management Committee, which has been charged with evaluating a Timber Harvest Proposal concerning a hundred acres of aging eucalyptus on District land. At last report the Committee remains polarized on the Timber Harvest issue, although the Board of Directors of the BCPUD has agreed to put the endorsement request on the Board's agenda. The Bolinas Fire Department declines to endorse the video PROJECT because they "can't endorse something that we haven't yet seen".
September 15-22nd, 2000 The author auditions actresses recruited via the internet using http://www.craigslist.com These auditions are held in restaurants, a brew pub, an apartment and the very elegant lobby of the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill in San Francisco. The auditions consist of a cold read of the screenplay.
September 17th, 2000 A seven alarm wildfire aggravated by gusty winds and Indian Summer weather approaching a hundred degrees, destroys one home in Novato and severely damages another. Damages are estimated at close to $1 million. Two boys playing with matches are blamed for the fire. Ironically, a video shoot originally scheduled for this date at Yerba Buena Nursery is postponed and then scrubbed altogether, due to the high cost of insurance. An insurance company in San Rafael that specializes in insurance needs for film crews quotes a price of $450 for $1 million dollars worth of coverage over three days, far more than what the author can afford. The owner of Yerba Buena had demanded a half million dollar policy before permission would be granted to film there and a liability policy to those specifications was simply not an option from firms the author checked with in Northern and Southern California.
October 1st, 2000 A successful video shoot is held at Al's Nursery Incorporated in beautiful Portola Valley in perfectly warm and balmy Fall weather. Mara Luthy stars as "Karen the Botanist", Sara Betts stars as "Helen" and Jenny Rae stars as "Claudia". Francis Choung directs the actresses and operates the video camera while the author takes polaroid snapshots and records the effort on another video camera. The cast and crew enjoy a gourmet lunch next door at a restaurant after the shooting is completed for this demo tape containing the Botanist's Scene.
October 3rd, 2000 For the second time in six months the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire District votes to spend a half million dollars of the taxpayers' money on a pair of new fire engines.
October 10th, 2000 The author completes logging the miniDV tapes at Mid-Peninsula Access Channel 6 in Palo Alto.
October 16th, 2000 The author does windshield reconaissance in the Walsh Road neighborhood of Menlo Park and notes the abundance of wood shingle roofs, eucalyptus trees, Monterey pines afflicted with pitch canker disease and roadside infestations of exotic invasive French broom. Despite a local weed abatement ordinance, highly flammable broom begins to colonize new areas.
October 22nd, 2000 A wind whipped grass fire, starting at approximately 1 AM when a PG&E power line falls to the ground, destroys one home and damages five others in the hills of East San Jose. Similar fires start after daybreak in the Oakland hills and at other locations around the Bay Area, raising fears of the events of October, 1991. The author watches air tankers circle the fire in the Marin headlands as he works with the Habitat Restoration Team in Rodeo Valley on Sunday afternoon.
October 25th, 2000 The author talks to several homeowners along Dorel Drive in the area of the fire, noting the grove of burned eucalyptus trees that surely rained flaming debris on the wood shingle roof (?) of the charred remains of the home belonging to Joe Gallo.
October 28th, 2000 The author emails a "step one" grant application to Creative Capital.
October 30th, 2000 The author attends a neighborhood fire meeting hosted by the San Jose Fire Department at the Berryessa Community Center. The author listens as the firemen recount the events of the night from their perspective and members of the audience tell their stories and ask their questions. Although this is the author's first experience at a meeting like this, the stories have a familiar ring to them.....tales of heroism in the face of the fire, trucks and crews dispatched by state-of-the-art command centers, firemen responding from several jurisdictions with well practiced, almost military precision, and at least one member of the audience, apparently giving his best acting performance for a shot at that 5 second clip on the evening news. Nowhere are there any comments from the audience as to how this fire might have been prevented, nor brilliant strategies for replanting the land that burned with less flammable, native grasses and plants. Shouted down by hecklers in the audience, the author refrains from reminding the San Jose Fire Department that their Chief had turned down a request to endorse the video project in August of 1999, a video which, had it been completed, been distributed and the lessons been applied, would surely have prevented the loss of the home belonging to Joe Gallo and the damages to the roofs of the others. Stung by this defeat, the author storms out of the meeting onto the rain slicked streets.
November 1st, 2000 The author returns home to find a message on his answering machine from a staffer at the SJFD asking the author to give a presentation to Assistant Chief Dale Foster on November 13th or 14th.
November 5th, 2000 Resigned to having lost the opportunity to "strike while the iron is hot" and having finally scraped up some cash, the author delivers a check for the purchase of a new hard drive and hands the three miniDV tapes to cameraman and computer wizard Francis Choung. The author begins planning the distribution network for this long overdue demo tape as the rains of winter bring this year's fire season to a rapid close.
November 15-20, 2000 Francis Choung receives a 40 GIG hard drive, installs it at home and begins the editing process in his spare time.
November 18th, 2000 The author delivers another load of topsoil to the Golden Gate Rail Museum and watches the members attach the rear wheel drive assembly to the locomotive's chassis. One volunteer estimates that the locomotive will be operational by December, ending a long and extensive rebuild.
November 19th, 2000 The author works in warm and balmy weather with the Habitat Restoration Team in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area at Stinson Beach and Whitegate, removing exotic invasive Himalaya Berry and African Kikuyu Grass.
November 21st, 2000 The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Hewlett Packard co-founder William Hewlett's home in the Palo Alto foothills suffers $1.5 million in damages as a result of a fire caused by a defective ventilator to a wood burning stove. The Hewlett's are pulled from the house through a second story window by firefighters to avoid smoke in the house. While not an interface fire per se, this blaze proves how vulnerable we all are to fire. A short time later, the President of the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation turns down an opportunity to fund the Cannonball Express, saying, "It's too far afield from what we normally fund." Go figure.
November 28th, 2000 The author watches as Francis Choung finishes editing the video. After 8 years of non-stop effort the author realizes he finally has 8 minutes of finished videotape. The author immediately takes the finished master on miniDV to a nearby video store for transfer to VHS cassette. With a dozen copies in hand, the author begins distributing the demo tape containing the Botanist's Scene to the first of many VIP's, friends and family. The release of the demo tape leads the author to dare hope that we may soon enter an era in which wildlands may be managed in order to be saved. And he dares hope that the days when we could pretend to conserve nature by leaving it alone, are numbered.
December 5th, 2000 The author attends an Informational Workshop at the Peninsula Community Foundation to ask specific questions about their grant application.
December 6th, 2000 The author attends a book signing in Berkeley to celebrate the publishing of a book on exotic invasive plants. The author passes out five copies of the video to influential botanists and habitat restoration experts.
December 10th, 2000 The Botanist's Scene is cable cast over MPAC Channel 77 at 6:35 PM to the residents of East Palo Alto, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and the Stanford Campus.
December 13th, 2000 The author attends a hotly debated panel discussion on managing fuels buildup in our National Forests at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco featuring representatives from the Sierra Club and the Quincy Library Group. The author hands a copy of the demo tape to the moderator and a week later later receives the video back in the mail with a handwritten letter containing valuable criticism of the video.
December 16th, 2000 The Botanist's Scene is again cable cast as program filler over MPAC Channel 77 at 6:35 PM to the residents of East Palo Alto, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and the Stanford Campus.
December 28th, 2000 With an additional dozen copies of the video soon in circulation, the author estimates that over a hundred people have so far seen the demo tape, including 25 at a Holiday Open House at the Peninsula Conservation Center in Palo Alto on the evening of December 8th. With a single stroke, the author silences critics of the video project who have long contended that this artist would never ship and should never be trusted with a writing instrument sharper than a crayon. (The twin goals of the demo tape are to interest foundations in funding the rest of the project and to make it virtually impossible for two knowledgeable parties to discuss the phenomena of suburban forest fires in the SF Bay Area without mentioning the Cannonball Express.)
2001 Wildfires destroy over 300,000 acres and 331 structures in California, causing at least two deaths.
May 10th, 2001While construction workers toil on custom houses all across the burn zone, a completed and occupied $600,000 home burns in a fire of suspicious origin. The previous home on this lot in the Oakland hills off of Skyline Boulevard burned in the conflagration of 1991.
October 21st, 2001 The author meets Oakland Mayor and former California Governor, Jerry Brown, at the groundbreaking ceremonies for, "The Pavilion", an outdoor deck and rock garden dedicated to those who died in the 1991 fire. In response to Jerry's request, the author later drops off a copy of the demo tape at Oakland City Hall.
2002 The UWIBS working group, a coalition of fire service, state agencies and building industry representatives, begins to draft regulations for building codes in the urban-wildlands interface. The new regulation will be predicated on the test standards developed by the Forest Products Laboratory under a previous FEMA grant.
2002 Wildfires destroy over 480,000 acres and 1248 structures in California, causing six deaths. FEMA approves time extension and additional funding for the State Fire Marshal to complete code development of fire safe building standards for Urban Wildland Interface areas.
January 5th, 2002 The author attends a lecture on exotic invasive weeds at Tilden Botanical Garden.
January 10th, 2002 The author attends a meeting of the Mill Valley Emergency Preparedness Committee.
January 17th, 2002 The author attends a meeting of the Diablo Fire Safe Council in Orinda. The author also attends a meeting of the Commonwealth Club's, Environmental and Natural Resources section, at a private home in Mill Valley.
January 19th, 2002 The author meets rock 'n roll icon Grace Slick at an art gallery reception in Sausalito. Despite being a victim of a Marin County grass fire started by Marin County Open Space District employees welding a gate at the bottom of the hill and a near victim of the recent brush fire in Malibu, Grace declines to record the author's theme song.
January 24th, 2002 The author attends a meeting of the Hiller Highlands Homeowner's Association at Kaiser School and meets the school principal, Katie McLane, who accepts a copy of the demo tape.
January 30th, 2002 The author begins a class offered by the San Mateo County Regional Occupational Program entitled, "Microsoft Front Page" which covers a popular web authoring software program.
February 2nd, 2002 The author attends a meeting of the Shepherd Canyon Homeowners Association in the East Bay hills to meet the chairs, network and talk up the video.
February 4th, 2002 The author attends a grant writing workshop at the headquarters of the East Bay Regional Parks at Lake Chabot.
March 2nd, 2002 The author attends the 4th annual San Francisco Ecological Restoration Conference at the Randall Museum. With a TV and VCR set up next to a scale model recreation of a 1906 Earthquake Refugees' shack, the author plays the demo tape containing, "The Botanist's Scene" for the people viewing the displays in the lobby.
March 5th, 2002 The author attends an Integrated Fire Workshop at the University of California Forest Products Laboratory and, as the lone representative from the political sciences and humanities, screens the demo tape containing, "The Botanist's Scene" for the audience.
March 6th, 2002 The author visits the Bentley School, which suffered the loss of several buildings in the 1991 firestorm. The author picks up a school brochure and gets the name and phone extension of an environmentally minded school teacher named Roger Nichols. The author also stops by the environmental center at Merritt College to discuss a role for the video at the upcoming, "East Bay Fire and Watershed Convention".
March 15th, 2002 The author shows the demo tape to a roomful of people at the East Bay Hills Fire & Watershed Convention held at Merritt Junior College in the Oakland hills.
March 21st, 2002 The author attends a meeting of the Diablo Fire Safe Committee at the headquarters of the San Ramon Valley Fire District. The author turns in 6 copies of the Sacramento Regional Foundation grant application, speaks briefly about the proposal and hands out 5 copies of the demo tape to politician's aides, homeowner association reps and firemen.
March 21st, 2002 The author meets with cameraman Greg Frediani to discuss filming the steam train on it's Spring Excursion run scheduled for March 30th.
August 2002 The author's meticulous and detailed, four page request for video production funding in the I&E (Information and Education) category of the grants competition offered by the Bureau of Land Management, the Sacramento Regional Foundation and the Diablo Fire Safe Council is turned down for the second year in a row. Later it is revealed to the author that successful fuel reduction and fire prevention grant proposals across California were almost invariably sited in rural neighborhoods located in or adjacent to BLM lands, (an item that is curiously not found in the SF Bay Area).
September 2002 The author begins the long process of distributing miniDV and SVHS copies of the demo tape to community access cable TV stations from Monterey to Santa Rosa and from Pacifica to Martinez. By early October, at least half of the 14 stations contacted by the author had cablecast the 9 minute demo tape as end-of-hour filler material and other program managers were considering airing the tape. Meanwhile, fires in the interface struck the Oakland hills, Novato, Woodside and the Santa Cruz mountains east of Morgan Hill, destroying dozens of expensive homes and costing millions of taxpayer dollars to control.
The POTENTIAL audience for the demo tape is arguably in the millions of households although Nielsen ratings for do-it-yourself community access cable TV would undoubtedly be in the cellar, at least when compared to network TV. The cost per impression, however, is very cheap, as people at home tune in to their favorite cable TV stations for locally produced programming. The demo tapes were copied, labeled, boxed and hand delivered by the author and only a few were mailed off, for an additional cost of $3.85 each. The author estimates his costs for producing demo tapes at about $3.99 apiece. Buying in bulk would cut that figure dramatically.
Anyway, the author takes a big gamble that this type of grass roots exposure can help in developing venues with homeowner groups for the finished video and in interesting other amateur video makers in the subject of suburban forest fires, fire safety and the environment. September 27th, 2002 The author attends two seminars at the Colorado Mitigation & Wildfire Conference in Longmont.
September 29th, 2002 The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Croy Fire has been declared contained by the CDF. The blaze blackened 3,150 acres, destroyed 31 homes and had cost $7.5 million dollars so far, not counting the erosion control and rehabilitation work to come.
September 30th, 2002 The author meets Ron Hodgson at his office at the Bureau of Land Management in Lakewood, Colorado and shows him the demo tape. Much of the discussion centers around the video as a tool for personal responsibility in the suburban-wildlands interface and rewriting the script for use in Front Range communities. Colorado was the recent scene of several huge and severe summer wildfires where vegetation management is now taken very seriously.
October 2002 The author rubs elbows with the Hollywood set at the 25 Annual Mill Valley Film Festival, in beautiful and balmy fall weather.
October 7th, 2002 The author requests a venue request letter from the Mill Valley City Council.
October 28th, 2002 The author requests a venue request letter from the Woodside Fire Department.
December 2002 The campaign to put the demo tape in the hands of programming managers at community access cable TV stations around the Bay Area pays off as Contra Costa Television indicates a willingness to fund production with franchise fees in the amount of $5,000. A sponsor is found in the Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture, which authorizes funding of the video. The search begins for matching funds and venues at which to show the video.
The fire season winds down as the first rains of winter blanket the Bay Area.
2003 Assembly MemberVargas introduces Assembly Bill 1216 to give the State Fire Marshal specific authority to prepare the developed fire safe building standards for adoption by the California Building Standards Commission.
February 1st, 2003 The author talks to North Hills Phoenix Association President, Barry Pilger re: a venue request letter and later sends him a copy of the demo tape.
February 24th, 2003 The author asks the Town of Woodside, Conservation & Environmental Health Committee for a venue request letter.
February 26th, 2003 The author introduces himself and the video project and asks the Berkeley Disaster Council for a venue request letter. Later in the meeting, the Council agreed to recommend to the City Manager, Weldon Rucker, several “priority program areas where funding should be preserved” including, “Furthering neighborhood-based preparedness presentations”. This list of Commission Budget Recommendations is formalized in a letter dated, March 17th, 2003 and signed by Margit Roos-Collins, Chair, Disaster Council.
March 11th, 2003 The author writes the San Mateo County Fire Chief’s Association President, Herb Jewell re: a venue request letter. Chief Jewell later tells the author that he has passed the demo tape on to the fire prevention staff, who will get back to me in a month or two.
March 27th, 2003 The author meets with City of Berkeley Fire Chief Reginald Garcia in his office at headquarters re: The Cannonball Express, culminating an out reach effort that began with Chief Garcia’s fire prevention staff in October of 2002.
April 2nd, 2003 The author meets with the Berkeley Fire Safety Commission to request a letter of invitation to return in October to show the members the completed video. This request is denied due to member fears of being swamped with requests for endorsements by manufacturers of fire safety products and a disinclination to “write a fundraising letter”. The author is not surprised, the minutes of the February 5th meeting miss spell the author’s web site address by a single digit, leading the members to a bogus web site with the text in Japanese characters.
April 3rd, 2003 The author applies for $1,250 in partial video production funds from the Santa Cruz County Fish & Game Advisory Commission.
May 8th The author’s request for a venue request letter is on the agenda for the meeting of the Santa Cruz County Fire Prevention Officer’s Association.
June 4th, 2003 The author’s video production funding proposal is scheduled for review by the Alameda County Fish & Game Advisory Commission.
October & November 2003 Eleven wildfires in five Southern California counties kill 20 people, destroy 3,495 homes and burn 745,950 acres. Twelve thousand firefighters battle walls of flame as high as 200 feet.Most of the fires were blamed on arson or carelessness although drought, insect damage and large buildups of fuel were also mentioned as contributing factors. Air quality throughout the LA Basin sank to its worst measurements in years.
December 25, '03 Mudslides and debris flows in
two different canyons, both denuded by the fires in the San Bernadino Mountains,
claim 16 lives as they crash through a church camp and a campground. Teams with
cadaver sniffing dogs slog through deep mud, searching for victims and soon find
several young victims buried in mud or wrapped around trees, miles downstream
from where they were last seen.
February 2004 The author contacts the Novato Fire District which tragically suffered the loss of one firefighter (Steven Rucker) in a wind whipped blow up on the Southern California Cedar Fire and in the same incident, nearly lost another (Captain Doug McDonald) to major burns to the skin and lungs. The workers compensation costs to the Novato Fire District at the latest report are at $1.7 million. The medical costs alone for the burned Fire Captain are already at $1 million and he still hasn't returned to work. The author sends a demo tape and letter to Fire Chief Meston requesting that an item be placed on the agenda under new business for consideration and approval of a request for the author to make a presentation around the video, when completed. Chief Meston forwards the demo tape to his Fire Prevention staff for consideration.
February 24th, 2004 In a telephone conversation, Novato Fire Marshal Forest Craig tells the author, the video is "not something that we can use".
March 3rd, 2004 The author attends part of a meeting of the Novato Fire District Board of Directors and listens to a presentation by Aaron Johnson, with Rohnert Park Public Safety, who presents commemorative plaques to the District and to the widow of Stephen Rucker. The author also speaks during the period reserved for Public Comment and in a direct appeal, asks that the Board place the author's offer and request on the agenda for consideration at the next Board meeting. Board President Steve Metcho accepts a copy of the demo tape and all four Board members get business cards containing the web site address. The author does his best to discourage the Board President from referring the matter to staff, explaining that he has been there and done that.
May 24th 2004: The Peppin Fire burns through the Lincoln National Forest, including the area where the original Smokey the Bear was discovered by firefighters on May 9th 1950, clinging to a tree with burned paws.
June 25th, 2004: A wind whipped grass fire destroys one home and damages several others in Martinez.
July 21st, 2004: The author speaks up during a meeting of the Contra Costa County Fish & Wildlife Committee, asking for support for a local version of The Cannonball Express. After some discussion, the author is informed that a recommendation for emergency funding will not be forthcoming. The County Supervisor representing that neighborhood, Gail Uilkema, later sends an email which supports their decision.
September 12th, 2004: An elite CDF helitack firefighter, Eva Schicke, 24, was killed and six other team mates were injured in a burnover on a fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near Yosemite.
October 10th, 15th and 16th, 2004 The author networks with other film makers at a panel discussion and meets actors and producers at various film showings during the Mill Valley Film Festival, including one about the art of editing film.
October 16th, 2004 The author has sent emails to Mark Horick but is still turned away by a female firefighter/security guard (who definitely does NOT feel the force) at the gates of Hollywood mega film maker George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch and so does not meet with the Skywalker Ranch's Assistant Fire Chief/Novato Fire District Board member, Mark Horick, re: the Cedar Fire tragedy and ways to mobilize the public with the goal of preventing a deadly firestorm in rural and suburban Marin County.
October 16th, 2004 The author attends a fundraiser held at a Palo Alto home in the suburban-wildlands zone for the benefit of California State 21st Assembly District candidate, Ira Ruskin, who spent his career in corporate film and video in Silicon Valley. The author briefly discusses the video project with Ira.
October 17th, 2004 The author attends another fundraiser for Ira Ruskin in Mountain View and promises to send him a copy of the demo tape.
October 12th, 19th and 26th. The author joins the phone bank efforts at the Machinist's hall in Burlingame to get out the Labor vote for Ira Ruskin. November 6th, 2004 The author meets the youth movement's environmental icon, Julia Butterfly Hill, at a book signing at the Green Festival in the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco and again on November 11th at the Lark Theater in Larkspur, CA, at a film screening to benefit the Winemem Wintu Tribe of Indians. The author buys a copy of her book and asks for a letter of endorsement for a video project which "will help demilitarize the management of our nation's forests". This handwritten letter of endorsement is received in late November of 2004. (Julia is reknowned for her two year long tree sit and very public high stakes showdown with Charles Hurwitz/Maxxam Corporation/Pacific Lumber over "Luna", a magnificent old growth redwood tree located high above the landslide threatened town of Stafford, CA.)
November 7th, 2004 The author attends the annual meeting of the Claremont Canyon Conservancy at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley.
November 13th, 2004 The author joins a Claremont Canyon Conservancy work crew which pulls weeds, applies herbicide to eucalyptus saplings and stumps and picks up trash at the upper end of Claremont Canyon on a piece of land managed under contract by Bill McClung's firm, Shelterbelt Builders.
November 17th, 2004 Martinez fire victim Sonja Snavely speaks at a meeting of the Contra Costa County Fish & Wildlife Committee in support of The Cannonball Express. The prior guest speaker is Sargeant Christopher Carmine, liasion to the Alameda County Fish & Game Commission, who discusses the similarities and differences in the assigned roles of the two advisory groups and the Commission's desire for additional ways in which they can cooperate across County lines, beyond the shared funding of the just completed brochure on suburban wildlife. Unfortunately, Chris has "urgent business" and leaves without hearing the testimony of Sonja Snavely, nor engaging in related social discussions with the Board members.
November 20th, 2004 The author meets residents of the Berkeley hills during a Claremont Canyon Conservancy work party at Garber Park. The author hands out a demo tape and several business cards, including one to the wealthy owner of a large home up the hill who proceeds to clean out a homeless encampment (including gardening tools, hard drives (?) and sleeping bags), citing health and fire safety concerns... and does so while completely ignoring her social responsibilities to the less fortunate members of society. (Heavy sigh! What is wrong with that picture?)
November 22nd, 2004 The Novato Fire District's Deputy Chief Dan Northern sends an email declining to support The Cannonball Express which cites District work on their own (video) production and programs relating to the Cedar Fire tragedy. Chief Northern states his desire to put the tragedy behind them and also requests that the author not again contact the Fire District or burn victim/Fire Captain Doug McDonald (whose Worker's Compensation claim for lost wages and medical treatment to the 18% of his burned body, airways and lungs, exceeds $1.5 million TAX dollars).
The Novato Fire District's Guiding Principles
We are committed to the protection of life, property and the environment.
We will be sensitive to the diverse and changing needs of the community.
We believe that all members of the community are entitled to our best efforts.
We will pursue safe, effective, timely and economical solutions.
We will provide professional, skilled and courteous customer service at all times.
will foster and sustain the trust of the community,
and will protect that confidence through our attitude, conduct, and actions.
December 21st, 2004 The author discusses support for The Cannonball Express with an aide to Ira Ruskin, the newly elected 21st District Assemblyman from the mid-Peninsula.
May 24th, 2005 The Marin Independent Journal reports that a backfire may have played a part in the death of Novato firefighter Steven Rucker in October 2003, according to a new state report. The same article quotes Novato Fire Engineer Shawn Kreps as saying that the approaching front of the fire sounded like, "a freight train coming".
article quotes Novato Fire Chief Jeff Meston as saying, "It time to change how
we do business and frankly I don't think the public will complain." e.g. The losses
to the taxpayers supporting the Novato Fire District were....
1) one highly trained urban firefighter lost in mid-career (Rucker)
2) one $500,000 dollar fire engine totally destroyed (#6162)
3) one workmen's compensation bill of over $1.5 million for medical care (McDonald) which cost MORE than the accidental death compensation paid to the family of Steven Rucker.
4) two workmen's compensation claims for medical care and recovery time off for the injured firefighter Barrett Smith and Engineer Shawn Kreps.
My totally unscientific and roughly estimated losses for the Novato Fire District due to the Cedar Fire incident (compared to staying in bed) reach as high as $4 million, (out of an annual budget of approximately $18 million) which is a staggering figure by any reckoning.
The article goes on to list the ten items in The Firefighter's Bill of Rights, which was written by the severely burned colleague of Rucker, Captain Doug McDonald and is apparently being widely distributed to firefighters statewide. Reform in the Novato Fire District thus stops short of an endorsement of vegetation management through "The Cannonball Express" and no request is made to see the completed video, despite a standing offer.
April 13th, 2006 The author tours Rana Creek Nursery in Carmel Valley and discusses "The Cannonball Express" with several botanists and nursery workers.
April 22nd, 2006 The author accepts an award for The Cannonball Express in the Open/Adult category at the "Best Of" Greenlight Earth Day Film Festival in Palo Alto.
May 8th, 2006 The author attends a Diablo Fire Safe Council meeting and watches a film containing an interview with Oakland Fire Lt. Eugene Dick which was conducted by a KTVU news crew at the point of origin, a few hours before the re-kindle which started the devastating 1991 Oakland-Berkeley hills fire. Although EBRPD Fire Chief Ken Blonski publicly promises a copy of the DVD to anyone who wants one, it takes the author four months to obtain a VHS copy of the DVD. The video contains one clip in which the firefighter, responding to a question from the reporter about a 1973 fire above the Caldecott Tunnel, describes its extreme behavior and compares the sound it made to "an oncoming freight train".
October 5-15, 2006 The author attends several seminars and film > screenings at the Mill Valley Film Festival.
October 21st, 2006 The author attends part of the 15th Anniversary Commemoration of the Oakland-Berkeley hills fire at the Rockridge Bart Station.
November 11th, 2006 The author
attends The Green Festival in San Francisco
and attends several environmentally oriented seminars. The author meets
several prominent environmentalists and hands a business card to prominent scientist, David Suzuki.
November 19th, 2006 The author hikes with chaparral expert Richard Halsey in Claremont Canyon and later attends the 5th Anniversary Celebration of the Claremont Canyon Conservancy which features a slide show presentation by author Richard Halsey. The author gives Richard a copy of the video and a business card and asks for feed back.
November 20th, 2006 The author attends a Sierra Club, Forest Protection Committee meeting at the Peninsula Conservation Center in Palo Alto to propose a venue to this group of stakeholders.
December 10th, 2006 The author presents the video to a ten person audience from the Habitat Restoration Team at a former ranch house on GGNRA property in Tennessee Valley in rural Marin County.
December 16th, 2006 The author attends a screening of Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth" at a private home in Boulder Creek and also makes an impromptu presentation around a screening of "The Cannonball Express" to a ten person audience.
December 18th, 2006 The author attends a Board meeting at the Woodside Fire Protection District to speak during Oral Communications. The author gives the Board and Fire Chief an update on recent progress with the video project including recent presentations and efforts to create a public-private partnership with the Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture for sponsorship and cable casting of the video by the cable TV channel in Martinez. The author requests an agenda item at the January meeting concerning the presence of the Fire Marshall at a joint presentation, if and when a suitable venue is lined up at a private home in the Woodside Fire District. The author gives Board chairman Peter Berger a copy of the video and several business cards. The Chief later returns the video saying that the Board will not support nor endorse the video project.
December 19th, 2006 The author holds a conference call with two bureaucrats with the Contra Costa County Resource Conservation District. The RCD declines to provide a venue for The Cannonball Express.
January 8th, 2007 Several beach front homes in the wealthy enclave of Malibu, including the home of actress Suzanne Somers, burn in a wind driven brush fire. Malibu Mayor Ken Kearsley was quoted as saying, "there is a constant tug of war between homeowners and the state over the need to protect the environment and also the need to protect property. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said, "We're going to have to find environmentally sensitive ways to cut brush without destroying the area."
March 2007 The rainy season winds down with a Sierra snow pack barely 30% of normal. The annual fire season begins early with big brush fires in Southern California. Other grass fires strike Dish Hill on the Stanford Campus and elsewhere in the Bay Area, particularly in Marin County.
April 13th, 2007 The author meets Deborah Koons-Garcia, a Mill Valley resident, film maker, activist and the widow of Gratefull Dead lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, after a panel discussion during the San Francisco Women's Film Festival.
May 12th, 2007 After a hard day of volunteer trail work at Mt. Diablo State Park, the author presents the video to six alumni of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) at the club house of the Concord Mt. Diablo Trail & Riding Club, including several who worked for the SCA's Fire Education Team in Reno and Winnemucca, Nevada. Ironically, the author's first visit to the club house was in August of 1977 while doing structure protection during the Mt. Diablo Fire with a CDF engine company. (See entry for August 1977).
June 26th, 2007 A long predicted wildfire near South Lake Tahoe burns 250 homes (worth $150 million) over the course of a week, forces the evacuation of 3,500 people, costs over $11 million to control and contributes to water pollution in the Upper Truckee River. Burned area recovery teams begin work immediately to control erosion and revegetate denuded slopes. How water clarity in the Lake will be effected by the surge of sediment will be carefully scrutinized by teams of scientists at the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center. The current rate of clarity loss is about one vertical foot per year, a rate that has held steady since the mid-1960's. As usual, Mother Nature will bat last and the volume and frequency of summer rainstorms and winter snowmelt will determine how much erosion takes place on the burned slopes of the fire zone.
July 8th & 9th, 2007 The author spends two days in the Tahoe Basin meeting with Fire Chiefs, Battalion Chiefs, Fire Marshals, researchers, environmentalists, botanists, homeowners, tree cutters and bureaucrats. The author also tours the devastated neighborhoods and talks with fire victims in their yards. The author spends the next several days re-working the video script for a Lake Tahoe version of The Cannonball Express and inviting stakeholders to be part of the video production effort.
July 28-30, 2007 The Author again tours Lake
Tahoe and Tahoe Paradise to meet with stakeholders and promote "The Cannonball
October 10-12, 2007 The Author attends a meeting of the La Hontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, takes a tour of a fuel reduction project with the Forest Service and attends a Fire Commission meeting at Granlibakken.
December 13-14, 2007 The author attends a meeting of the Wildlands Fuels Committee and the Tahoe Basin Fire Commission.
2008 The author attends meetings of the Tahoe Basin Fire Commission in Incline
Village and South Lake Tahoe. The author makes several requests for venues during
the period reserved for public comment but is rebuffed by the chair of the Commission,
Kate Dargan, who doesn't realize that we are in that pre-non-profit stage of film
making called, "Development Hell".
March 2008 The author submits proposals V-013 and V-014 to the Community Fire Safety Committee of the Tahoe Fire Commission but is turned down cold by Ruben Grijalva's Committee. (see entry of December 12th, 1996) Proposal V-013 is a suggestion that the Tahoe Film Festival open a new category for fire safety/environmental videos as a way of generating citizen input and public interest in fire safety through community participation. Proposal V-014 is a gap analysis survey of the video tool kits of fire marshals in the Tahoe Basin.
January-March, 2008 The author creates a promotional version of The Cannonball Express for use with stakeholders in the Tahoe Basin. The new introduction/preamble was created from video footage taken by film professionals, fire fighters and homeowners. The BEAR League provided a short video clip of a black bear. The TRPA contributed a short clip from a PR video produced by ImageSync, Inc. Tahoe area musician Darin Talbot provided the music.
April 13th, 2008 The author pitches The Cannonball Express to the staff at Camp Jones Gulch (his old alma mater) in the Santa Cruz Mountains at the fundraising BBQ & Open House. The author notices a whole hillside forest of oak trees above the archery range, dead from SODS, and asks himself how many fire safety videos mention SODS as a factor in home fire safety.
May 10th, 2008 The author chats with video project supporter, college fraternity brother and US Congressman Dennis Cardoza at a fundraiser in Modesto (and gives a copy of the latest version of The Cannonball Express to his aide).
May 13th, 2008 The author makes a pitch for funding and screens the first 9 minutes of the promo video for the members of the Alpine County Fish & Game Commission in the high Sierra town of Markeeville, CA, just south of Lake Tahoe.
March-June, 2008 The Schwarzennegger administration mulls over and begins to prioritize the billion dollars worth of recommendations, bureaucratic changes and forest thinning projects contained in the report sent by the Tahoe Basin Fire Commission. With a $15-20 billion budget deficit in the 2008 California budget (and a proportionally similar $1 billion dollar deficit in Governor Gibbons office in the State of Nevada), it remains to be seen whether the homeowners in the Tahoe basin will be any safer from suburban forest fires in 2008 than they were in 2007.
May 2008 The author meets Vincent Lowe, an educational consultant, at the Landmark Forum in San Jose and arranges a screening of the Tahoe Promo version of The Cannonball Express, at a bar called, "The Blue Rock Shoot" in Saratoga.
May 22nd, 2008 A major wildfire breaks out early in the fire season in the Santa Cruz Mountains, in warm and windy weather. Over 20 homes and many other structures are destroyed as the fire blackens over 4,000 acres. Three firefighters are injured. The smoke is visible from freeway overpasses in Palo Alto and inhaled by every resident in the southern Bay Area.
June 20th, 2008 An arson fire is started at several points along Highway 1 on an extraordinarily hot and dry afternoon. Eucalyptus trees soon blow their tops and multiple spot fires start down wind. Within minutes, the blaze has killed numerous pets and ranch animals and destroyed many houses in the Larkin Valley area, while traffic on the highway is quickly gridlocked, for over two hours! This new blaze is dubbed, the "Trabing Road Fire".
2008 The author presents the first and last scenes of The Cannonball Express
to an audience of independent film makers at an upscale bar and cafe in Saratoga
called, The Blue Rock Shoot .
June 30th, 2008 The author receives a letter of support from Santa Cruz County, Second District, Supervisor Ellen Pirie. Over the next three months the author also hands a copy of the video to Rachel Dann in Neal Coonerty's office and talks to Susan St. John Gliner, who works in Supervisor Mark Stone's office.
August 27th, 2008 The author attends a third meeting of the Highlands Recreation District in the San Mateo hills, which is seeking approval of the residents before accepting a free gift of a hundred acres of oak forest and canyon land from a developer. At this third community meeting, the author is finally inspired to ask the moderator, if "the benefits" of this land donation refer to active benefits to the residents or passive benefits. The moderator's congenial and open ended answer to this vexing question finally breaks a log jam of confusion and hesitation, sparking a lively debate among the final group of participants.
The author notices that the residents seem to have little familiarity with land management issues, botany and fire hazards and seem pre-occupied with legal liability and increased taxes. This makes the Recreation District members a prime audience for The Cannonball Express. The author shares the video with the management, including Margaret Glomstad, but his offers to present the video (at no charge) to the officers and members are ignored.
original setting for the San Mateo County version of this scene was Don Coyne's
backyard, which sits on the north side of the canyon. Don Coyne was the character
model for, The Naturalist.
August 27th, 2008 The author films scenes of nature, romance and recreation at Lake Tahoe so that ImageSync's stock footage can be removed and our DVD may be entered into film festivals as our own work (albeit with a small video "Buy-In" by TRPA).
4th, 2008 The author attends a meeting of the Santa Cruz County Fish &
Game Commission featuring a presentation by Rich Casale from the Natural Resources
Conservation Service. Rich talks about the environmental damage, mitigation and
recovery efforts from the recent wildfires and estimates their tally at $40,000
million, in fire suppression costs and property damage.
The author then screens the East Bay Hills version of The Cannonball Express and provides each Commissioner with a copy of the 1996 letter of support, from the Commission. The author then asks to be released from the pledge he made in 1995, a promise to refrain from asking for video production funding, as a precondition for that letter.
September 8th, 2008 The author receives an email with an attachment containing guidelines and an application for funding, from Santa Cruz County.
October, 2008 The author joins the San Francisco Film Society and submits a proposal for fiscal sponsorship. This proposal is soon rejected, according to Michele Turner-Sulleo (a sweet gal with an Australian accent) on the basis that The Cannonball Express is just "a step-by-step, educational film". (Less than six months later, massive wildfires in Victoria, Australia, become the deadliest natural disaster in Australian history.)
October 5th, 2008 The author meets with four Santa Cruz area film makers at Bad Ass Coffee in downtown Santa Cruz to discuss membership in the Vegetation Management Video Project Committee.
October 6th, 2008 The author and the newest members of the Video Committee make a presentation to the Santa Cruz County Fish & Game Commission to pitch the video project and answer questions from theCommissioners.
October 11th, 2008 The author attends the Mill Valley Film Festival to see Amy Redford's prize winning film,"The Guitar". While en route, the author sees a column of smoke arising from the hills above Tamalpais High School.The author later reads in the Marin Independent Journal that a music building at a private elementary school (Mount Tamalpais School) has been damaged by the fire, although the school director declines to offer neighbors of the school, a meeting place in which to watch the video. (The whole neighborhood is a disaster waiting to happen, with abundant wood shingle roofs, eucalyptus, juniper bushes, pine needles and narrow, winding roads, comparable to the Hiller Highlands in the Berkeley Hills, circa 1991.)
October 14th, 2008 The author attends a meeting of the Menlo Park Fire District Board to speak during Public Comment and advocate for the inclusion of dedicated public access design features, ie public phone use and public email, into the new Station 2 in East Palo Alto, which is currently in the preliminary design stage.
October 15th, 2008 The author tours the perimeter of Mt. Tamalpais School (where fire damaged the music building)and talks to the neighbors about fire safety and environmental issues. (School Director Kate Mecca again declines to address the neighborhood issues raised by the fire and declines to meet with the author.) The author also attends a Neighborhood Fire Protection Workshop at the Mill Valley Community Center and gives the workshop leader/CERT Commissioner Kate Randolf and Mill Valley Town Council member, Stephanie Moulton Peters, free copies of the video.
October 23rd, 2008 The author submits a $4,000 funding proposal by email to the Santa Cruz County Fish & Game Commission.
October 26th, 2008 The author hikes with UC Berkeley Professor Joe McBride in Gwin Canyon with members of the Claremont Canyon Conservancy. (Professor McBride endorsed the video project several years ago.)
February 6th, 2009 The author signs a Fiscal Sponsorship Agreementwith Cultural Media Services, Inc., a California non-profit, public benefit corporation. This means that donors to the video project can now write off some or all of their donations to their 2009 taxes and thus, for the first time, we are truly eligible to receive grants from individuals, corporations and foundations.
February 7th, 2009 Bush fires start in the Australian south in "worst case" weather including 117 degree heat and 50 mph winds. The country's "Stay 'n Defend" policy is put to the test as families panic at the sight of approaching 50 foot high walls of flame and are later found, burned alive in their cars on the road. Over two hundred and nine people are killed and entire towns wiped out. Read, "The Gallipoli Syndrome" a provocative article written by an Australian Fire Captain, which is in the web link entitled, "Nuts 'n Bolts".
February 10th, 2009 Linda Gallo screens "The Cannonball Express" for a small group of retirees at the Los Gatos Senior Center.
February 13th, 2009 The author submits a video production proposal to the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County.
January 29 - February 15th, 2009 The East Bay Hills version of The Cannonball Express is cablecast eight times to the 70,000 households that are wired for cable TV in Santa Cruz County. Viewers are urged to contact their Santa Cruz County Supevisors and weigh in with messages of support for a Santa Cruz County version of the video.
6th, 2009 The author screens the video for the crew during their lunch break
at UCSC's Fire Station in Santa Cruz
and leaves a copy behind for the Chief. Phone calls to Fire Chief Jeff Trapp are not returned.
March 2009 The author talks several times and sends a copy of the East Bay Hills version to Kris Cook at Husqvarna Corporation in Georgia. The discussions revolve around a tax deductable corporate donation in the form of a "product placement fee". The author verbally describes the video project and offers to film, "Teo the Brush Cutter" with the promotional dialogue of the corporation's choice, comprising a positive portrayal of his Husqvarna chain saw, in the Brushcutter's Scene, in the Santa Cruz County version of "The Cannonball Express".
April 18th, 2009 The author mans a booth in beautiful Spring weather at the Santa Cruz Earth Day Festival to pitch the video project to concerned environmentalists, renters, homeowners, fire survivors and potential supporters. The author hands out dozens of business cards and about a dozen copies of, "The Cannonball Express" to eager and interested people.
May 19th, 2009 The author attends a post Angora Fire, fire safety conference at Harrah's in South Lake Tahoe
June 2009 The author sends two copies of the video (with the Angora Fire Footage) to Truckee Tahoe Community Television for cablecasting to viewers in Truckee and the Tahoe Basin. The video is cablecast numerous times over the next three months.
August 2009 A major fire burned in the coastal hills between Swanton and Bonny Doon, an area with heavy fuel loads which had not seen fire since the 1940's. More than 2,400 residents were evacuated from the rural communities of Bonny Doon, Davenport and Swanton. Eventually growing to 7,800 acres, the fire destroyed 13 structures and consumed over $26 million precious tax dollars. The fire adversely impacted air quality all over Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties. The impact on Scott Creek and the hatchery near Swanton, which is run by the Monterrey Bay Salmon & Trout Education Project, remains to be seen.
September 3rd, 2009 The author makes a pitch for emergency video production funding to the Santa Cruz County Fish & Game Commission in an attempt to prevent or mitigate another big forest fire in the densely populated San Lorenzo Valley.
September 10th, 2009 The Santa Cruz County Fire Chief's Association watches the video and reconsiders their August, 2003 decision to decline to sponsor The Cannonball Express.
January 21, 2009 The author attends a community
meeting in Ben Lomond held by the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County.
In response to a question the author asks about an application for funding for The Cannonball Express that could be aubmitted under
either or both of of two different funding programs, the officer replies that the applicant (me) should "first get the approval of the Santa Cruz County Fire Chiefs Association", strongly indicating to the author that the Foundation is not truly an independent entity or perhaps aspires to be, a wholly owned subsidiary of the military industrial complex.
July 2012 The author recalls his 2007 efforts to interest people and organizations in Colorado in a Denver area version of the video, as literally hundreds of homes burn to the ground in the Waldo Canyon Fire, as high winds and triple digit heat bakes the Front Range.
2013 The author obtains a burn permit and burns a large pile of oak leaves,
brush, weeds, plum tree canes, grape vine cuttings and oak branches at his sweet
heart's place in La Honda, CA. This pile burn, like the one done in 2011 just
a few feet away, is completed during a steady drizzle with the help of an electric
leaf blower and some BBQ fluid. The radiant heat does not damage the oak tree
canopy, just a few feet above the flames and rising smoke. Another 150 square
feet of blackberry brambles on the hillside is soon converted to a shade dappled
and beautiful, native grass meadow, with high habitat value for native quail and
July 2013 Deja Vu all over again. The author again recalls his 2007 efforts to interest people and organizations in Colorado in a Denver area version of the The Cannonball Express, as another 500 homes burn to the ground during the Black Forest Fire, when high winds and triple digit heat, returns to bake the communities along the Front Range. Stay tuned for more forest follies along the Front Range of Colorado as the conceptual straight jacket gets cinched a little tighter. Some studies have indicated that losses of up to $10 billion in residential property (comparable to a major Gulf Coast Hurricane) can be expected from a single large wildfire in the Denver metropolitan area.
July 2013 Nineteen young Granite Mountain Hot Shot firefighters die battling the Yarnell Hill blaze after deploying their emergency shelters.
July-August 2013 The Rim Fire burns 250,000 acres in and around Yosemite National Park. Ninety thousand acres suffer a high intensity fire, meaning that a mature forest of native trees and shrubs won't be back for several human lifetimes. A study by Earth Economics estimates property value reductions of between $50 and $265 million dollars.
The City of Berkeley suffers the loss of the Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp when a crown fire blows through stands of tall and stately pines, completely erasing a camp beloved by generations of Berkeley residents, having been in existence since 1922.
Legal charges against the hunter believed to have started the Rim Fire with a neglected campfire are dropped in April 2015, following the deaths of two key witnesses.... One death attributed to a work place accident and the other to a heart attack.
August 2014. The King Fire creates a charscape across 100,000 acres in El Dorado County. A dozen homes and many outbuildings are destroyed. UC Berkeley's Blodgett Forest, a well managed working forest, is spared.
Severe drought follows the fire, minimizing soil erosion and nixing the possibility (for this year at least) of a severe "Pineapple Express", (prolonged, warm winter rains that could have melted a deep Sierra snowpack in as few as 3 days, conceivably causing flooding that would have topped levees and put downtown Sacramento, including the State Capitol, under 18 feet of muddy brown water.
This flooding actually happened (without a protective levee system) in 1862 when large portions of the Great Central Valley, including Sacramento, became an inland sea. This natural disaster created havoc for farmers, merchants and ranchers in the Valley. This economic disaster was compounded by environmental damage caused by wildfires, logging and debris filled river beds, raised by years of hydraulic mining in the gold country. The California State Legislature soon passed tough laws restricting hydraulic mining. This technique used powerful water cannons to tear down and move whole hillsides studded with the cobblestones of ancient stream beds, through sluice boxes liberally doused with mercury.
This toxic legacy is still with us today, from foothill streams where recreational gold panners like to pick out pieces of mercury amalgamated with gold dust, through the Delta and all the way down to sea level in San Pablo Bay and beyond. Biologists have recently discovered that high mercury levels in the Ano Nuevo area, an island where elephant seals haul out to shed their fur and give birth, can be attributed to mercury in the fish eaten by the seals. Elephant seals, being at the top of the food chain, concentrate the mercury in their bodies and hair and thus release it back into the environment when they molt. Another source of mercury is Chinese coal fired electrical power plants, which lack pollution controls.
January 26, 2015 An abnormally dry and warm winter creates the perfect conditions for a six alarm, wind driven, six acre brushfire in coastal Pacifica. Several homes are threatened along Fassler Avenue and below the fire in the Rockaway Beach neighborhood but no homes are destroyed
April 17th 2015. The author submits a video production funding proposal for 3 different versions of the video to the El Dorado County Fish & Game Commission through the County's Clerk of the Board, James Mitrisin.
April 29th, 2015. The author takes a shot in the dark and bets that the video funding proposal will be on the agenda at the meeting of the El Dorado County Fish & Game Commission in Placerville. To make a long story short, after the author drives for several hours in rush hour traffic, hears an update on the "King Fire recovery/restoration project" and gives a pitch for funding, the Commissioners agree to study the proposal, pass around the demo reel and read the script, in preparation for the next meeting.
In a perfectly conceived red herring designed to sow confusion and fear, doubts are raised by at least one Commissioner (usually famous for his courage in the great outdoors) about the possibility of their citizen's advisory group being de-commissioned/disbanded by the Supervisors as a cost cutting measure, allegedly disclosed to the public in a recent newspaper article.
This rumored radical cost cutting move makes the author wonder. ....without a County liaison (park ranger?) attending the Commission meetings on over time, what is the cost of administering the Commission? The author also wonders why the county would spend millions on post fire recovery efforts and flood damage control in the King Fire zone over the next decade and save pennies by eliminating the Commission that could begin the effort to mitigate the next megafire. Could the Board of Supervisors, in a year of historically unprecedented drought, in good conscience, disband the Commission, with a fire safety and environmental video (the same video proposed to the same Commission in 2007/2008, following the Angora Fire) actively under consideration? Go figure.
May 16, 2015 10AM - 2PM. A scheduled meeting of the Central Sierra Association of Fish & Game Commissions is held at the El Dorado Hills Fire Department. Although the author's Option C, Tri-county, project proposal is not on the agenda, the author introduces himself and the video project and chats with several members of the El Dorado County Fish & Game Commission and delivers 3 additional copies of the demo reel.
May 27, 2015 7PM. A scheduled meeting of the El Dorado County Fish & Game Commission is held at the United States Forest Service's "Emerald Bay Conference Room" in South Lake Tahoe. When the project comes up on the agenda (after 6 months of effort) the author expects to answer questions about the budget, the distribution plan and the video production team. Rather than discuss the many fish and wildlife related issues raised by the video, however, the Committee votes unanimously NOT to discuss the proposal.
June 6th, 2015. A lightning sparked wildfire in Alpine County, (The Washington Fire) burning through heavy timber fueled by thick layers of pine needles on the ground, quickly grows to 17,000 acres. The State of California is soon spending a million dollars a day on this fire. The historic town of Markleeville narrowly escapes a conflagration.
June 2015. The author submits a video funding proposal to the Alpine County Fish & Game Commission and invites the Commissioners to go it alone or partner with their colleagues in Amador and El Dorado County. The author also submits the demo reel with the Angora Fire footage, to supplement the video clips on the author's web site.
June 2, 2015. In a phone conversation with Alpine County F&G Commission Chairman Todd Sodarro, the Chair indicates his preference to continue spending every available dime from the fine money fund on the theory of put & take stocking of hatchery raised, pellet fed, sterile, triploid, genetically modified, McTrout. The Chair refuses to answer the question of cost per fish, delivered, but it is probably about 20 bucks, just slightly more than the $19.95 request for video production funding in the author's preliminary proposal.
July 8th, 2015 The Alpine County Fish & Game Commission meets in Markleeviille but does not place the author's request on the agenda. They do, however, feel at liberty to discuss "The Cannonball Express" according to the Chair, a clear violation of the Brown Act, if true. Due to work obligations, the author cannot attend this mid week, evening meeting.
Around this time, Alpine County splits 1,800 pounds of 3-pound average rainbows between the forks of the West Carson River and the East Carson, while the DFG dumped 1,000 pounds of catchables in each of the West Fork and East Fork, 500 pounds in Silver Creek, and 250 pounds in Markleeville Creek. The waters in Alpine County are thus literally loaded with hatchery raised, pellet fed, genetically modified, sterile, triploid, McTrout, despite the risk of high fish mortality in the event of a summer time flash flood, which could tumble boulders the size of refrigerators in water thick with ash and debris, due to a lack of tree cover in the burned over watershed.
The Chair of the Alpine County Fish & Game Commission runs the Carson River Resort on the East Fork of the Carson River, which promotes itself as a destination for fly fisherman. The Chair apparently voted to approve the dumping of 900 pounds of 3 pound rainbows in the East Fork of the Carson River to supplement the 1,000 pounds of catchable trout dumped by the State of California, in an apparent conflict of interest.
August 11th, 2015. The author sends an email to Michelle Beckwith, an aide to the Alpine County Board of Supervisors, to clarify the mandate of the County Fish & Game Commission under CA F&G Code 13103 and the parameters for use of the fine money fund. (The County Auditor reported $18,366.89 in the fund, which was established in 2010 and hasn't been touched since. Go figure.)
August 12th, 2015. The author attends a meeting of the Alpine County Fish & Game Commission in Markleeville, CA to speak during the period reserved for public comment and to introduce himself and the video project. Despite an email sent prior to the Washington Fire (which almost wiped out Markleeville) and several more sent during and after the Washington Fire, and several phone calls to member Don O'Connor and Chairman Todd Sodaro, sent during this time frame and at least two copies of the demo reel, their colleague are totally unprepared to discuss the proposal. After his chance to speak, the author is told that the funding request will be placed on the agenda for the September meeting.
July-August, 2015. The Rocky Fire and the Jerusalem Fire, burning through tinder dry brush and trees south of Clear Lake, merge together and scorch over 110 square miles of land in 3 counties and destroy over 50 houses and several dozen outbuildings. Fire Department dispatchers are swamped with callers reporting fires and the odor of smoke, as smoke can be seen and smelled all over the SF Bay Area.
September 9th, 2015 the authors request for $19.95 in funding is rejected unanimously by the Alpine County Fish & Game Commission after the Chairman denies that any money is available (other than that provided by the South Tahoe Public Utility District for fish stocking projects). A search at the County Building reveals that there is $18,563 available in the Fish/Wildlife Propagation Fund (which has apparently never been tapped by the Alpine County Fish & Game Commission) for wildlife enhancement projects under 13103 of the California Fish & Game Code.
September 10th, 2015 The author sends an email to Teola Tremayne, in the Alpine County Clerk's Office, containing a Package/Proposal with an Executive Summary and a formal request to establish an appropriation for a high Sierra version of "The Cannonball Express" at the public hearing on Tuesday, September 15th, in the amount of $8,562. This request for funding is never placed on the agenda under "New Business", so no action is taken. On September 18th, the author sends a follow up email email to the Chief Accounting Officer of Alpine County, Carol McElroy, asking to include this appropriation from Fund # 512 Fish/Wildlife Propagation under 13103 m) of the CA State Fish & Game Code, as an action item under new business, at the next meeting of the Board of Supervisors.
September 24th, 2015. A response is received from Carol McElroy & Alpine County inviting me to (drive a couple hundred miles) and attend the next meeting of the Board of Supervisors to address the Supervisors under public comment period to pursue an agenda item and Board member support.
Fall 2015. The extreme fire season of 2015 in California is notable for several fatalities and extreme fire behavior. For example, the extremely fast growth of the Valley Fire that ripped through the town of Middleton in Lake County destroyed over 1901 structures, becoming the third most destructive fire in California history. The fire which was reported at 1:30 PM on Saturday, September 12th, grew exponentially to 40,000 acres overnight, far beyond the predictions of CALFIRES's fire modeling program, called "Behave".
Outside of California, three USFS firefighters were killed when their truck crashed and fire overtook them on the Twisp Fire in Washington State.
From a national perspective, the U.S. Forest Service released a report in September about rising wildfire costs, saying that fighting fires would consume more than 50 percent of its budget this year and could be up to two thirds of it by the year 2025, based on current trends.
According to the Forest Service report, the U.S. spends $100 million per week when it is at wildfire preparedness level 5. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak said that, Fire seasons are growing longer, hotter, more unpredictable and more expensive every year, and there is no end in sight. Within just 10 years, two out of every three dollars the Forest Service gets from Congress will be spent on fire programs, which leaves much fewer resources for the very restoration projects that have been proven to reduce the risk of wildfire and improve forest health."
September 20th, 2015. The Tassajara Fire in the upper East end of the Carmel Valley exhibits extreme fire behavior while destroying 12 homes and 8 out buildings, killing one resident and charring over 1,000 acres.
September 2015. The Valley Fire and the Butte Fire, two of the largest wildfires burning in California at more than 70,000 acres each, collectively forced the evacuation of over 20,000 people, burned more than a thousand homes and killed at least 6 people.
Winter 2015. With a monster El Niño winter predicted by meteorologists, it remains to be seen how much flooding there will be, downstream of these huge burn zones. The City of Sacramento, protected by levees along the American River and downstream of the 100,000 acre King Fire zone, is among the largest U.S. Cities on the Federal government's "most likely to be damaged by major flooding" list.
November 2016. A very unusual, wind driven forest fire tears into the Dollywood theme park and neighboring towns in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. At least 7 people are killed and over a hundred homes and businesses are destroyed. The author then persuades NECAT, a community access cable TV station in Nashville, TN, to cablecast the video, in January of 2017.
October 8th, 2017. Wind driven fires in California's wine country kill at least 44 people, destroy thousands of homes, businesses, boats and cars and cause 100,000 people to evacuate. Insured losses from the worst fire in California history top $4 billion. Smoke from the fires can be smelled all over the Bay Area and as far south as San Jose, a hundred miles from the nearest fire.
October 11th, 2017. Afterr 23 years of non-stop effort, the author reluctantly takes "The Cannonball Express" out of mothballs and ponders strategy and the significance of this record setting firestorm.
October 17th, 2017. The Bear Fire burns 390 acres and 5 homes in unincorporated Boulder Creek in Santa Cruz County. A man with a long criminal record is taken into custody on multiple charges. Several firefighters are injured battling the blaze. The author considers this a near miss for Santa Cruz County.
October 21st, 2017. The author attends a Community Meeting in La Honda, CA to ask State Senator Jerry Hill to amend California State Fish & Game Code 13103 (a), such that funding from the errant sportsmen's fine money fund (penalties levied by the courts for fishing without a license, too many abalone in possession, deer hunting out of season etc ) is available for conservation related videos for adult audiences, OUTSIDE of the formal K-12 educational system. (Because kids in school typically don't yet own suburban homes and ranchettes.)
At this informal meeting with the voters, the author describes the incredible tally of death and destruction of the wine country fires to the 40 member audience, reminds Jerry of his 1999 letter of endorsement for the video project as a sitting San Mateo County Supervisor and asks that he sponsor legislation to amend the Code. Senator Hill responds that he will direct his legislative staff in Sacramento to look into the issue and refers the author to his Field Aide, Joan Dentler.
Jerry also mentions that legislation must be submitted by February to be considered in sub committee and reach the floor of the Senate for a vote. The author follows up with an email to Joan, containing a snarky interpretation of the existing Code to highlight its limitations to film makers and suggests legal language that creates a level playing field for film makers and others seeking to educate adults on important environmental issues and wildlife habitat enhancement and protection measures (while feeling pretty good about a quarter century head start on the competition with his environmental/fire safety video, "The Cannonball Express", despite opening a can of worms and being a member of a special interest group, as head of the Vegetation Management Video Project Committee).
State Senator Jerry Hill will miss the deadline to introduce legislation and chose NOT to introduce legislation to free up funding at the County level to create a level playing field for film makers offering to create conservation related videos.
Instead, he opts to join an effort to force insurance companies to pay 100% of insured value In a compressed time frame with minimal stress to already traumatized fire survivors. However, within weeks of the missed deadline to submit legislative packages, it will become apparent through cloud free, blue skies and near record warm temperatures, that Northern California is headed for a severe drought and terrible fire season.
October 27th, 2017. Fire crews are released as containment on the wine country fires is finally reached. Insured losses from the fires, top 4 billion dollars and losses to the local tourist industry, as hotel stays, excursions and vacations are cut short and cancelled, are reckoned at a hundred million. Losses to the grape growers are modest as most of the harvest has already been picked. The losses to infrastructure from heavy winter rains falling on thousands of acres of burned over hillsides, remain to be seen. President Trump, meanwhile, declares the area a Federal Disaster Area, freeing up funds for recovery.
November 2nd, 2017. The author submits an Executive Summary to the Sonoma Community Foundation and asks Kristin Nelson to collaborate with us, to educate the people who've been impacted by the fire. The author has doubts, however, that fire survivors struggling to rebuild their homes will be receptive to an educational video that preaches the benefits of fire resistant landscaping. Kristin will later tell the author that providing housing is the Foundation's most pressing need, whether the burned out families are U.S. citizens or undocumented aliens.
November 3rd, 2017. The first rains of winter fall on the Wine Country, tamping down the ash covering burned over foundations and sprouting regrowth on burned over hillsides.
November 4th, 2017. The author tours the devastated Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa to talk to fire survivors, their families and the curious, handing out several copies of the demo reel and encouraging people to write their State Senator to support Jerry Hill's effort to amend Fish & Game Code 13103 (a) to free up County dollars for adult conservation education.
November 6th, 2017. The author meets with a KQED staffer at the Starbucks across the street to brief her on the video project and the issue of suburban forest fires for an upcoming radio (?) program on the conflagration in the wine country.
November 9th, 2017. The first of several concerts are held to raise money for fire survivors and the rebuilding effort.
January 26th, 2018. The author attends a "Hearing of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Subcommittee on Gas, Electric and Transportation Safety at the Santa Rosa City Hall, chaired by State Senator Jerry Hill.
Co-chairing the meeting are Senators Dodd and McGuire and Assemblymembers Wood, Aguilar-Curry and Levine.
At this meeting "decision makers are urgently searching to apply the lessons from this recent wildfire season in hopes of preventing the same conditions in subsequent years." Unfortunately, these legislators are apparently handcuffed to forestry management policies etched in stone in 1910 and 1941 and so the more recently minted, "Cannonball Express" , does not show up in their search lights.
A small percentage of the people who line up to speak during the period reserved for public comment are allowed to do so.
One of the people who are given 2 minutes to speak is Brian Ling, Executive Director of the "Sonoma County Alliance", whose organization is concerned with the set back to the economic, social and environmental development of Sonoma County, caused by the Tubbs Fire.
The author later meets with Eric Ohlson at the Permaculture Skills Center in Sebastopol, CA to interview him as a character model for, "The Naturalist", in the Wine Country version of the video.
February 13th, 2018. The author meets with "Gypsy", a colorful character, empath and skilled musician in La Honda, CA with roots in the New Orleans music scene, to commission a theme song for the Sonoma County version of the video.
February 28th, 2018. The author attends a fire survivor's, home "Rebuilding Meeting" at Altamira School in Sonoma, that is hosted by fire survivor and County Supervisor Susan Gorin, getting assurance from the Supervisor that the Fish & Game Commission operates without oversight and without interference from the Supervisors. Esoteric nuts and bolts political questions as to the contents of Fish & Game Code 13103(a) and its implications for the possibility of video project funding, are left unanswered.
The author meets a young film maker recording video of the meeting and working on a film entitled, "After The Fire".
The author also meets with an old friend from Junior High who barely escaped the flames with his elderly father, and sees more of the devastation and heart break left in the wake of the Tubbs Fire.
March 15th, 2018. The author gives a "first reading" of the $5,000 video project proposal to the members of the Sonoma County Fish & Wildlife Commission.
The author answers questions, pledges to elaborate on the budget and the three conservation issues mentioned in the proposal and also investigate other sources of funding.
March 2018. Lawsuits are filed by Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino Counties against PG&E. The SF Chronicle estimates that the damage tally will exceed $12 billion.
The City of Santa Rosa estimates that the cost to repair the water system in Fountain Grove (contaminated by benzene during the fire) will cost $43 million and take two years.
March 24, 2018. The author attends the Sonoma International Film Festival to hobnob with film makers and gain political support. The author watches a screening of, "Wilder Than Wild" a film about fire, forests and the future (and two other good films).
March 25th, 2018. The author tours Fountain Grove, does a drive by of the devastated Journey's End mobile home park and meets property owners in Coffey Park.
March 31st, 2018. The author goes on a Wildfire Ecology Hike at Shiloh Ranch Park with members of the California Native Plant Society, Sonoma Chapter to witness the regrowth of an oak and fir forest.
April 6, 2018. The author attends a taping of KQED's radio program, "Forum" , a panel discussion on the Tubbs Fire 6 months after, hosted by Mina Kim, at the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa. After the taping ends, the author meets County Supervisor Susan Gorin and the Executive Director of Rebuild Northbay, Jennifer Gray Thompson.
April 6th, 2018. The author does some location scouting in the Napa Valley for "The Attention Getting Scene", enjoying a nice meal and photographing the Wine Train from his table, as it passes by, just beyond the backyard of Brix Restaurant.
The author also checks out the flow and turbidity of Porter Creek, between rain showers and notices it flowing fast and chocolate brown, as tons of ash and topsoil are washed off the denuded slopes and down stream.
The author spends the night at an Air B&B home just 2 blocks from Coffey Park and hears first hand stories of the ember storm and evacuation.
April 7th, 2018. The author mixes business and pleasure as he tours the Charles M. Schulz Museum in suburban Santa Rosa. The author notes the loss of Schulz's art studio in a 1966 fire in Sebastopol and laments the loss of the homes of Jean and Craig Schulz (the wife and son of the famous cartoonist), in the Tubbs Fire. The author leaves a business card with management and asks for a letter of endorsement from Jean and Craig Schulz.
The author also checks out plant nurseries, including a wholesale nursery, "California Flora" and a retail store, "Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery", that has all the artsy touches, that discerning shoppers like "Helen and Claudia" (in "The Botanist's Scene") would appreciate.
The author stops at the Graton Fire Department's "Disaster Preparedness Fair" to discuss joint appearances with Fire Marshal Bullard and a venue at next April's Fair, through the fair organizer, Jody James.
March 15, 2018. The author makes a presentation to the Sonoma County Fish & Game Commission (a citizens' advisory committee to the County Board of Supervisors) for a $5,000 proposal to make the ADULT-HOMEOWNER version of, "The Cannonball Express". The Commission requests local letters of support and a budget.
April 19, 2018 The author's proposal is quickly denied by the Commission after very little debate and only three questions. One question posed by a Commissioner was this;
Q "If we funded your video and you got it completed, if there was a huge wildfire in the County that burned a lot of homes, would you consider your video project to have been a failure?"
A) "Yes, I guess so but the Tubbs Fire cost billions of dollars."
(The young Fish & Game warden at the meeting refrained from commenting.)
The vote tally ironically included "No" votes by the two people appointed by County Supervisor Susan Gorin, who lost her home in the Nuns Fire.
May 7th & 8th, 2018. The author attends the California Fire Science Consortium at Sonoma State University, to seek endorsements from the K-12 educational community and venues at which to present the video. Featured speaker, Sonoma County Supervisor/Fish & Game Commissioner James Gore, is a "no show". The insurance industry and the local utility, are also remarkably absent.
July 16, 2018. The author meets with aides of State Senator Jerry Hill (Alex Kobayashi & Joan Dentler) in the District office in San Mateo, to discuss updating California State Fish & Game Code, Section 13103(a) to create a level playing for film makers interested in making conservation related, environmental education videos for adult audiences outside the current guidelines which limit video productions to those targeting a K-12 audience.
July 20, 2018. The author watches a well attended screening of, "Urban Inferno", in Santa Rosa, about the Tubbs Fire and its aftermath.
July 26, 2018. The author attends a "Java With Jerry" meeting with the constituents of State Senator Jerry Hill, at a coffee shop in Portola Valley, CA. The author speaks up to ask Senator Hill to sponsor legislation to update the California State Fish & Game Code, Section 1310(a).
August 9, 2018. The author meets State Assemblyman Marc Berman, County Supervisor Don Horsley and Coastside CERT leader, Heather, at a meet-the-voters "coffee" in the coastside, rural town of Pescadero. The author talks to all of the above re: letters of endorsement for the STUDENT version of, "The Cannonball Express".
August 13th & 14th, 2018. The author helps school teacher Erin Hebard McGauley at Bachrodt Elementary School in San Jose with classroom prep, moving books and boxes and asks for a letter of interest and referrals to other grade 4-8 school teachers at the school.
August 20, 2018. The author delivers several letters of endorsement (including then Sheriff Horsley's 1997 letter of support) to his aide, Ellie, at County Supervisor Horsley's office.
August 23, 2018. The author meets with Ellie at Supervisor Horsley's office to discuss support for the STUDENT version of the video and support for an update to California State Fish & Game Code 13103(a).
September 7, 2018. The author meets with a member of the Colorado State Film Commission at a restaurant in Denver, CO to discuss low budget film making and seeking support from the schools, for the STUDENT version of, "The Cannonball Express".
September 22, 2018. The author watches, "The Fire Tapes" and a panel discussion at the Festival Pavillion at Fort Mason in San Francisco.
September 28, 2018. The author attends a second, "Java With Jerry", at Las Palmas Cafe in Sunnyvale to discuss updating F&G Code 13103(a) and funding for the STUDENT version of, "The Cannonball Express".
October 9, 2018. The author attends the KQED "Forum" taping with producer/director Andre Deslauriers at the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa and, on the way out to his car in the parking lot, asks State Senator McGuire (one of the 5 panelists) if he will support legislation to update the F&G Code so that money is available for conservation related, environmental education for adults on vegetation management and fire safety.
October 10th & 11th, 2018. The author volunteers to help Diane Dealey Neal at the Santa Cruz Forestry Challenge at Redwood Christian Park in Boulder Creek, rotating teams of high school kids from learning station to station, at timed intervals.
October 20, 2018. The author attends State Assemblyman Marc Berman's birthday party at the British Bankers Club in Menlo Park as a representative from IBEW Local 617. The author meets Senate Aide Zack Ross and other notables and follows up with several emails.
October 30, 2018. The author listens to a pod cast entitled, "Wildland Fire: Teaching K-12 per NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) with featured speaker, Rob Wade, Outdoor Education Coordinator at the Plumas County Office of Education. Rob describes his blueprint for environmental literacy and methods for integrating wildland fire into the curriculum.
November 8, 2018. The Camp Fire destroys most of the City of Paradise, CA, burning 18,000 homes and killing at least 86 people in a massive suburban forest fire that blankets most of Northern California in unhealthy palls of smoke. Damage tallies approach $10 billion.
The elderly and infirm, unable to join the chaotic evacuation, represent a high percentage of the victims. Many victims are found in or near their cars. While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, PG&E transmission lines have been blamed.
To its credit, CalFire had warned that the town was at risk for an ember driven firestorm like the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley hills Fire (which prompted the author to begin work on "The Cannonball Express" in 1993.) The report stated that "the greatest risk to the ridge communities is from an East Wind driven fire that blows downhill through developed areas."
In June 2009, a Butte County civil grand jury report concluded that the roads leading down into Chico had "capacity limitations" that limited their use as an evacuation route. The report also recommended a moratorium on new housing starts in fire-prone areas. In September, 2009, the Butte County Board of Supervisors called the grand jury report "not reasonable", citing strict building codes and fire prevention requirements as evidence weighing against the moratorium.
December 18, 2018. The author succeeds in persuading the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, to approve and formally place, a request for a letter of endorsement for, "The Cannonball Express", on the January 2019 agenda of the Board. This approval of a discussion leading to consideration and possible approval of a letter of endorsement for this non-profit will be on the agenda at the January 15th, 2019 meeting and would be the first endorsement by a government entity/special district.
The decision by the Board may be informed by the experience of the MPFD strike team members that went North to fight the recent Camp Fire in Paradise, CA.
At a Board meeting in 2002, the author stepped outside his role as Board Member to request a letter of endorsement for the video project from his colleagues and failed to persuade his colleagues to even discuss the issue. (This was prior to the blowup on the 2003 Cedar Fire in Sand Diego that took the life of one Engineer on a crew with the Novato Fire District, severe burns to the face and lungs of the Engine Captain and minor burns to two firefighters - a $4 million disaster. The MPFD had a crew on a different fire near LA, so I considered this incident a near miss.)
The author later delivers copies of letters of endorsement in his portfolio from fire professionals and copies of the version of the video (the student version) that was not yet posted to the author's web site, to the MPFD administration office.
My formal request, (Meeting of 1/15/2019. Agenda item 12) to the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire District, for a letter of support for either or both versions, of his fire safety and environmental video projects, "The Cannonball Express" is declined. The earlier slide show which highlighted the District's commitment to ethics and integrity in government is apparently quickly forgotten, as Director Kiraly points out that support for this (Adult - Homeowner version of the fire safety video) leaves the District open to lawsuits following a wildfire. Thus, there are no questions directed to the author and little, if any, rational debate on the efficacy of the video in preparing for, preventing and mitigating suburban forest fires, like the one that just destroyed Paradise, CA.
Responsibility for supporting the video was thus passed to the San Mateo County Fire Safe Committee (where the author got the idea to create a video back in 1993) and which instead, opted to create a video called, "Bear Facts". which put Smokey the Bear in drag and apparently targeted 5 year old homeowners (of which, of course, there are none).
Only one Board member admits to having surfed through the author's extensive web site and having viewed the video clips. No Board member or District employee, had ever requested (in the last 30 days) to see the Student version of the script. No calls, emails or FaceBook messages were returned by the Board members during that same period.
Prior to the discussion, Fire Marshal Jon Johnson gave a slide show presentation describing the team which helped the search & rescue effort in Paradise, CA after the deadly Camp Fire, by photographing every inch of Paradise, Concow and Magalia and every burned over lot, using drones.
Chief Schapelhouman describes this (73,000 images seamlessly stitched together) as the largest and most successful team effort using drones in American history.
Later, Chief Schapelhouman gives a report which praised the efforts of the recon team and describes with dismay, the baffling directive by the Feds at FEMA to cease and desist in the use of drones for this purpose.
In a public aside to Chief Schapelhouman, the author describes how the pre-teen character, "Ingrid" , in the Student version of, "The Cannonball Express", buys a drone and points out that the District is missing a great public relations opportunity by declining to support the video project.
The Board, with little rational discussion, also declines the author's request to place on the agenda of the February Board meeting, a proposal to "release to the public" (meaning the author) the User Name and Password for the web based "dashboard" provided by SolarCraft, Inc., which would reveal solar PV yield data in real time, for the solar panel installation on the roof of Fire Station II in East Palo Alto.
A continuously updated, live streaming, "public document" like this, is not covered under the California Public Records Act and the author's efforts to update the law, through talks with State Senator Jerry Hill's staff, have been unsuccessful.
Without access to these continuously updated figures, including highest hourly kWh yield, kWh yields to date and dollar savings to date, a coherent newspaper article for the local newspaper, "East Palo Alto Today", (already 90% complete), which describes how the solar system dynamically responds to changing levels of sunlight due to clouds and shading caused by the antenna mast, becomes impossible to finish, without a tremendous amount of conjecture and thus cannot provide an accurate analysis of the cost benefits of this massive expenditure of the taxpayer's dollars.
Much of the Board discussion borders on paranoia, as apparently no one in the room has ever seen the solar dashboard in question nor understands how SolarCraft's proprietary monitoring system is generated by computers in Marin County, from data sent by the inverters at the Fire Station, into computers which are completely fire walled and separate from the District's accounting and payroll systems.
Again, the Fire Chief is the adult in the room as he describes an inverter failure which caused a prolonged slump in solar yield at Station II and was replaced under warranty. It remains to be seen if the inverter "failed safely" as it fried internally and whether there was a teachable moment for the Fire Marshal, or Fire Academy instructors, which bears on suburban and rural fire safety.
Thus, the District forfeited its role as a leader in the fight against climate change and rising CO2 levels, (which the Governor and PG&E blames for causing these massive wildfires) although Chief Schapelhouman did email the author three years of PV production data.
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