Friday, October 24, 2008

10-24-08 -- Gas drops below $3 per gallon

By David Kennard
Morning News

It’s a sight drivers haven’t seen in almost a year: gasoline selling for less than $3 per gallon.

Stations in Blackfoot have been dropping during the past few weeks, but Wednesday was the first time they fell below the $3 mark. The lowest observed prices in Blackfoot were $2.97 at Flying J was selling, $2.95 at Maverick, $2.99 at Chevron and $3.09 at Tesoro. Flying J Relief Manager Bobbie Santmyer said the station received a lot of customers Wednesday, and the customers are happier too.

The price has dropped up to twice per day for the past week and a half to two weeks, said Santmyer, and customers are telling her they’re happy about the change.

Gas was $3.05 Tuesday but dropped to $2.99 before Santmyer arrived Wednesday, and it continued dropping to $2.97 by 5 p.m. She expects the trend to continue.

The corporate office determines gas prices, said Santmyer, and the manager working every morning goes around to other stations to compare rates, aiming for Flying J to be equal to or less than its competition.

Santmyer recommended as a money-saving strategy for customers to buy a little gas in the morning and return later in the day to fill up.

Maverick tied Flying J for the $2.97 price and reported similar increases to business.

According to the user-supported, Boise prices within the previous 48 hours ranged from $3.13 to $3.29. Salt Lake City prices ranged from $2.94 to $3.05, placing Blackfoot between the larger

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

09-23-08 -- Nampa man shot after standoff with police early Tuesday morning


A Nampa man was shot by police early Tuesday morning after a short standoff at a home in the 100 block of 16th Avenue South.

Nampa police said Lance D. Warr, 24, was taken to a Boise hospital after police shot him about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Police went to the address about 11:30 p.m. Monday during an investigation of an armed robbery at a Nampa payday loan store on Monday afternoon.

When police arrived at the home they determined the suspect was inside and called Nampa’s Tactical Response Team and Crisis Negotiation Team to help.

Several people were taken out of the building, and negotiators attempted to make contact with Warr for about an hour.

After attempts to get the man to exit the home on his own, the tactical team went in using tear gas in the room where the man was thought to be hiding.

Police said the man then came out of a closet and pointed a handgun at officers. Officers fired at the suspect, hitting him several times.

“The suspect was able to then follow further commands by the officers,” Nampa Police Department deputy chief LeRoy Forsman said in a prepared statement. “He was taken into custody without further incident.”

Police said they would not release the names of the officers involved, but said no officers were hurt in the shooting.

The incident began when Nampa police responded to the EZ Money store in the 1000 block of 12th Avenue South about 4:30 p.m. Monday to investigate a report of an armed robbery.

Police said Warr was later identified as the suspect in the robbery.

They said the man was armed with a handgun, and took an undisclosed amount of cash before he fled the area in a large, black SUV.

No one was hurt in the robbery.

“As is standard procedure in a case of this nature, the Critical Incident Task Force was called in to investigate this incident,” Forsman said. “The Idaho State Police will be the lead agency in the case.”

David Kennard: 377-6436

Sunday, September 21, 2008

09-21-09 -- Golden Age Games bring vets together

Provided by Boise Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Bob Schaney bowls in competition in the Golden Age Games that took place in August in Indianapolis.


A team of military veterans from Boise brought home a collection of medals recently after competing in the 22nd annual Golden Age Games in Indianapolis.

And while the event focused on competition, everyone who went said the camaraderie with teammates and those from other states is what they will remember most.

Bob Schaney just missed taking home the bronze medal in horseshoes after overthrowing the stake. What appeared to be an error allowed his competitor — who is visually impaired — to take home the medal in a very close competition.

"He was so happy. He never medaled before," Schaney said. "His coach came up to me after the match and said, 'you did that on purpose, didn't you.' But I’ll tell you seeing the smile on his face, that was better than winning."

Schaney has been to the Golden Age Games almost every year since it began.

Next year the games take place in Birmingham, Ala., where several thousand competitors, coaches and family members will come together to celebrate the spirit of competition among military veterans.

Unlike the Olympic games, the Golden Age Games feature less athletic competition, although the skill levels remain high.

Bennie Yows of Boise has been shooting pool ever since he was a young boy growing up in Harlem.

His skills at Nine Ball earned him a silver medal.

"When we're playing we play to win," Yows said. "But win or lose we all get together afterward. It’s a friendly atmosphere."

Schaney and Yows were among the 13 members of the "Spudinators" that brought home 26 medals.

Coach Valerie Duffy also earned the "Coach of the Year" award at the games.

Duffy was nominated for the honor by Dewayne Vaughan, director of the games.

"She is very caring and supportive of her veterans, always keeping up with all of them to make sure they have what they need," Vaughan said. "Her veterans know they can always count on her to go above and beyond for them."

Duffy and her Spudinators have become notorious at the games, each year handing out thousands of tiny potato-shaped pins similar to Olympic games trading pins.

And when they walked through the airport in their bright orange shirts and their heavy medals jingling around their necks, they introduced others to their winning spirit.

The Spudinators conduct fundraising events through the year to help fund the nearly $1,000 expense for each veteran to compete.

Golden Age Games competitions are open to all U.S. military veterans age 55 or older who receive care at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility.

Support from local veterans groups as well as staff from the Boise VA Medical Center make the event possible, but funds are all raised locally.

Events include swimming, bicycling, bowling, croquet, air rifle, golf, shuffleboard, horseshoes, discus and shot put.

"Staying active and healthy through sports and fitness is important to all our nation’s veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "We are proud to offer the Golden Age Games as a premier sporting event for our senior veterans."

David Kennard: 377-6436

Friday, September 19, 2008

09-19-08 -- Kuna man, 20, arrested after break-in at Kuna Middle School


A Kuna man was arrested Friday in connection to several burglaries, including one at Kuna Middle School and another at Kuna High School last week.

Police arrested Derek Thomas, 20, after responding early Friday morning to an alarm at the middle school.

He was found wearing a mask and gloves and taken into custody.

Police said they believe Thomas also is one of two suspects connected to several other robberies at local churches and other public buildings.

Last week police released a surveillance video showing two men inside Kuna High School. Aldrich said Thomas is one of the men in the picture and expect to make other arrests in the case soon.

"These look like primetime burglaries," said Lt. Kody Aldrich, chief of police in Kuna. "They went after vacant buildings where nobody was around."

Aldrich said a search of Thomas's home yielded "a number of stolen items."

"We've been calling people all morning to come in," Aldrich said. He said people who believe they were victims of the burglaries should contact police at 922-5743 to recover their property.

David Kennard: 377-6436

Thursday, September 18, 2008

09-18-08 -- More than 7,000 marijuana plants uncovered in Owyhee County


A three-month investigation by Idaho State Police, Owyhee County Sheriff's Office and other state and federal authorities yielded more than 7,000 mature marijuana plants Wednesday growing in a remote part of Owyhee County.

The large grow is the third major marijuana growing operation found on public land in recent months.

Wednesday's action began Monday night when Idaho State Police pulled over Jose Santoyo-Villa Monday near Marsing. He was found carrying 25 pounds of marijuana bud in his truck.

Police began investigating Santoyo-Villa three months ago. Their surveillance of his activities led to Monday's arrest.

"When we found the buds on him we knew that they were beginning to harvest," said Lt. Jack Catlin with the ISP.

Catlin said their investigation lead to a stash house in Nampa containing even more processed marijuana.

"We collected about 125 pounds of pot there," Catlin said.

Catlin said Santoyo-Villa would be charged in connection to the growing operation on state charges, but likely will face federal charges as well.

The grow was on National Forest land in a remote area off Idaho 78 near Silver City.

The only access to the area is by foot on a long trail or by helicopter.

Catlin described the growing operation as very organized, using irrigation pipes that fed off a natural spring.

"In the grow it was planted like crops, in rows," Catlin said.

He said the operation would have to have to use several people to cultivate that much marijuana. He estimated that it had been producing the drug for about three years.

Catlin said other arrests are pending.

Authorities have broken up at least three other similar operations recently.

Two in the Boise National Forest and another in Elmore County have yielded tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana plants this summer, Catlin said.

"And I'm sure now with hunting season and hunters going into the area, we'll find one or two more," Catlin said.

He said marijuana growers look for very remote areas such as the Owyhee County location.

"They'll get onto national forest land up behind some private land where nobody will be -- way back in the middle of nowhere," Catlin said.

He said two or three workers will usually tend the field for weeks or even months, while someone else brings in supplies to a drop point.

"When harvest time comes," Catlin said. "They carry it out on their backs."

Officials estimate the street value of the drugs harvested Wednesday at about $10 million.

David Kennard: 377-6436

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

09-10-08 -- Treasure Valley's cooler weather drives spiders indoors

Yellow Sac Spider


Spiders are our friends.

That's the message Anju Lucas wants to get out.

They're creepy. They're crawly. They can make grown men jump. But as long as they stay where they belong, Lucas says, they can be a big help.

Still, as summer comes to a close, spiders are hard to ignore.

This is the time of year people start to notice spiders more, said Charles Baker, an entomologist and professor emeritus with the department of biology at Boise State University.

"Some are going into their breeding season now," Baker said.

And while a lot of attention is given to the three most poisonous spiders in the Valley - the hobos, black widows and yellow sacs - most spider species you'll see in your home and yard are harmless and are beneficial because they can help control pesky insects.

At home and at work at Edwards Greenhouse in Boise, Lucas has her share of run-ins with spiders.

"I live in a log house," Lucas said. "They're everywhere. But they eat insects and I leave them alone."

Spider webs in the eaves or entry of a house are common around the Treasure Valley, especially this time of year when spider families are on the move.

Wait - spiders have families?

Female hobo spiders carry their hatched young on their back, so when you smush one on your doorstep, you might notice a dozen or so tiny specks scattering in all directions.

Hobos - those are the really creepy ones you can find in your tub or crawling along the baseboards of your home - have increased in numbers in Idaho over the last 20 years, Baker said.

"In August they start making their appearance," Baker said. "The females don't usually go inside, but the males wander everywhere."

The infamous black widow spider, like the hobo, has a painful bite that can debilitate a human with nausea and headaches. The spider, with its recognizable red hourglass markings, likes cramped, dark spaces.

If you're doing any kind of yard work around woodpiles or damp areas such as inside your irrigation system box, a good pair of leather gloves is the first line of defense from these arachnids.

But perhaps the yuckiest of the batch is the yellow sac spider.

These stealthy critters are known for more bites than any other kind of venomous spider, experts say. They also have necrotic venom, which means when they bite, they actually kill skin cells.

And of Idaho's venomous trio, yellow sacs are the most comfortable living in your house and will thrive in homes with lots of insects.

Another venomous spider, the brown recluse, doesn't live in Idaho, although it can be carried in from other areas, Baker said.

"While some may get transported to the state once in a while, they don't stay here long," he said.

Jim Martin, a manager at Zamzows on State Street in Boise, said he gets lots of spider questions in August and September. He doesn't think there are any more spiders, just that people become more aware of them this time of year.

"I like most spiders," Martin said. "They catch mosquitoes and everything else."

He said people who want to keep spiders outside could use a perimeter spray outside the house or spider traps inside.

"Spider traps are good for catching hobo spiders because they prowl around a home's baseboards," Martin said.

David Kennard: 377-6436

HOBO SPIDERS Scientific name: Tegenaria agrestis

Size: About as big as the end of your thumb.

Habitat: Fields, gardens, woodpiles.

History: First appeared in the United States in the 1930s in the shipping district in Seattle.

If you are bitten: Hobos don't always inject venom. If they do, you'll know by the itching and redness. Use an ice pack to reduce swelling.

BLACK WIDOW SPIDERS Scientific name: Latrodectus mactans

Size: Can be as large as your big toe.

Habitat: Almost always in protected areas such as woodpiles or sprinkler valve boxes.

History: Native to North America.

If you're bitten: Widow bites cause severe pain at the bite and can cause cramping and body pain. Treat with ice packs at the wound and over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.


YELLOW SAC SPIDERS Scientific name: Chiracanthium

Size: About as big as your pinky fingernail.

Habitat: Mostly outside, but common inside houses as well.

History: First appeared in the United States in the early 20th century in the Northeast.

If you are bitten: Yellow sacs are blamed for more bites than any other spider. Their venom kills skin cells. Treat the wound with antibiotics to prevent infection.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

09-09-08 -- Boise hikers survive overnight ordeal on Mount Borah

Photo courtesy Nate Wheeler
Nate Wheeler stands next to the Idaho state flag atop Borah Peak moments before his descent.


A day hike to the top of Idaho's highest peak could have turned deadly for two Boise men Sunday.

Nathan Wheeler, 34, and Mike Thornton, 68, survived a frigid night on Idaho's highest mountain before walking out to anxious wives and other searchers Monday morning.

Wheeler, a Boise real estate agent, said calm attitudes helped them make it through the subfreezing night.

"Even though we're looking at the sun setting and it's getting cold - and I'm just in shorts - the power of positive thinking and prayer helped a lot," he said.

The Mount Borah trail is only 3.5 miles long, but it gains nearly 5,000 feet in elevation over very challenging terrain above the timber line.

The hike is considered one of the most challenging in the state and has claimed the lives of three hikers since 1977.

This was Thornton's third attempt at the summit. Twice before he had been forced back by poor weather on the mountain.

When the two hikers left the trailhead early Sunday morning, heavy clouds obscured the summit and for a time threatened to thwart yet another try at the peak, Wheeler said Monday.

But as the morning wore on, the clouds thinned to reveal the jagged rocks - known as Chicken-out Ridge - that would take them to their destination.

By noon, Wheeler said, they found themselves at the summit. The clouds peeled off, the sun shone down, and the two men took in the view as a stiff northwest wind blew across the broken granite boulders.

The parking area at the trailhead below is nearly visible from the top of the barren mountain, a fact that makes the hike down seem almost too easy.

But Wheeler said the return was more difficult than coming up. Loose rocks and large boulders made the trek difficult.

And the two friends decided to take an unfamiliar route down the mountain.

"Some hikers we talked to ... said that going left instead of right around Chicken-out Ridge was an easier way down," Wheeler said.

The route took them farther south than they had anticipated, and by the time they realized how far away from the trail they were, they had already lost precious elevation.

"We saw how far down we were and didn't want to climb back up (to get back on the trail)," Wheeler said.

By the time they made their way into the trees they were at least a mile away from the trail they had taken on their ascent.

Wheeler said he considered his hiking companion a much more experienced hiker and turned to him frequently for advice.

"Mike was getting tired and I began to wonder if we should stop," Wheeler said. "He suggested we stop hiking, and I said, 'You know better than me, and that's the right thing to do.' "

As night fell, the temperature began dropping, and the two men had come prepared only for a day hike up the mountain.

Asked how they kept warm, Wheeler said most of the night was spent huddled together to conserve body heat.

A member of the search-and-rescue team later estimated that the temperature reached down to the 20s Sunday night.

Both men had brought cell phones, but neither had reception.

"We thought our wives would be absolutely frantic," Wheeler said.

In fact, the families of both men reported them missing late Sunday after they failed to come home.

Wheeler said his dad and other family members arrived at the trailhead at about 5 a.m. in preparation for a hike up the mountain in search of the two men.

About four hours after the two men began hiking again Monday morning, they arrived at the parking area to learn that their ordeal had sparked a full-scale search.

"When I saw my parents' car there I knew this was serious, but we couldn't call anyone to tell them we were OK," Wheeler said. "So we both yelled out really loud."

A Custer County search team had already set out up the trail but were called back when the two men made contact with one of the searchers near the trailhead.

Wheeler said other than a few minor scratches, sore legs and mild dehydration, they felt fine.

In 1977, two climbers were swept off the face of Mount Borah by an avalanche. Another man died in 1987 when he slid on a snowy face over a rocky ledge during a descent.

David Kennard: 377-6436


- Map: GPS units are great, but there's no substitute for a USGS topographical map. You can find Mount Borah on the Borah Peak Quadrangle map.

- Compass: North declination in Idaho is about 14 degrees east.

- Flashlight or headlamp: Even if you plan to be back by nightfall, you never know.

- Extra food: A Snickers bar can help power you through a cold night.

- Extra clothes: Adding a sweatshirt under your windbreaker can help if it cools down.

- Sunglasses: Besides being cool, they'll save your eyes when you're bushwhacking or making your way across a glacier.

- First-aid kit: Complete with antibiotic ointment, sports tape and pain killers.

- Pocket knife: Anything with a decent blade is great.

- Waterproof/windproof matches: Above the timber line, you can burn a roll of toilet paper.

- Firestarter: Paraffin and sawdust are great, but even a candle is better than nothing.

- Water and water filter: Plan to drink at least a gallon per day.

- Whistle: Blowing loud and long in sets of three means, "I need help."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

09-06-08 -- Idaho jobless rate hits 4-year high


A rise in Idaho's jobless rate is tied directly to high fuel prices and continuing fallout from the housing slump and tight credit, experts said Friday.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to a four-year high of 4.6 percent in August, according to the Idaho Department of Labor. In Ada County, 4.3 percent of workers were unemployed, and in Canyon County 6.1 percent were jobless.

Department spokesman Bob Fick said employers like consumers alike are pumping more of their dollars into their gas tanks, and they're spending less on wages.

"When people make only so much money, they have much less to spend on other things," Fick said.

That translates into fewer goods leaving warehouse shelves.

"When people aren't buying, there is no need to move goods," Fick said.

Boise economist John Church said Friday's announcement confirms a trend suspected for some time - that the slowdown in the state's economy is accelerating.

"I think gas prices affect (the economy) across the country," Church said. "People are being squeezed by gas prices, and travel, tourism, even the trucking industry, are really getting hammered."

While jobless numbers are up in Idaho, they fall below the national average. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to a five-year high of 6.1 percent from 5.7 percent. Economists had expected it to inch up to 5.8 percent from July's 5.7 percent,

The rate is likely to go even higher in the months ahead, possibly throwing the economy into a tailspin as Americans pick a new president. So far this year, 605,000 jobs have vanished - slightly less than the population of Alaska.

The unemployment increase means many companies will feel pressure to reduce their business investments - either in capital projects or hiring - for the rest of the year, experts say.

"Mix business caution with consumer exhaustion and you have a recipe for a real recession," said Terry Connelly, dean of Golden Gate University's Ageno School of Business.

August was the 83rd straight month that Idaho has been below the national rate, but the sixth straight month unemployment has risen.

Employment in Idaho peaked during the first nine months of 2007, with the jobless rate a mere 2.7 percent.

Church said he expects Idaho unemployment to remain high but it is hard to say for how long.

He said Idaho's employment diversity helps insulate workers to some degree, but the state has become less diverse over the last few years, and that could make it more vulnerable to national economic downturns.

Although Idaho's labor force has grown substantially in the past two decades, more Idaho workers were off the job in August - 34,600 - than during any other month since August 1987, when the state was finally pulling out of the recession of the mid-1980s.

"The last time, we came out of it a little slower than the rest of the nation," Church said.

Fick said that overall, 16,400 fewer people were working in Idaho in August than in August 2007, and two of every three of that number were in the Boise-Nampa metropolitan area.

He said 29 of the 44 counties saw employment drop from the year-earlier level as total employment fell to 720,200.

Fick said manufacturing and construction job losses were the biggest contributors, with more than 4,500 each since August 2007. The service sector gained just 1,500, a fraction of its typical performance.

"The construction thing is the biggest contributor to this," Fick said. "Those guys made pretty good wages. And to lose more than 4,000 jobs is a big impact."

David Kennard: 377-6436 The Associated Press contributed.

Idaho's jobless rate increase to 4.6 percent - a four-year high - was the second time this year Idaho's unemployment rate jumped a half point, as employment continued a steady decline that begun in February.

The last half-point jump was in May, when the rate rose from 3.1 percent to 3.6 percent.

Here's why the number is so high:

- Idaho's economy failed to generate the seasonal increase in nonfarm jobs normally expected in August ahead of students returning to school.

- Decline in manufacturing came as food processors staged seasonal shutdowns in advance of the new harvest.

- Retail trade, which typically adds jobs in August, shed more than 500 jobs statewide.

- Construction added a little more than 100 jobs in August, a third of what typically occurs.

Source: Idaho Department of Labor

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

08-28-08 -- Want to help Southeast Boise fire victims? There are lots of opportunities


What do you give to a person who has lost everything?

Work gloves, gift cards and restaurant certificates top the list of items needed by victims of Monday’s fire in Southeast Boise.

“Kitchen supplies and food are good ideas, but then you think, they have no kitchen,” said Patti Wagstaff who has been working with families in the Oregon Trail Heights neighborhood.

Wagstaff said men are asking for tools to replace the things lost when their garages went up in smoke.

“They’ve been asking for gloves and shovels to dig through the ash. Trash bags,” Wagstaff said. “Just basic needs.”

Volunteers are needed, but coordination is being handled through the Boise Fire Department’s Burnout Fund. Volunteers who would like to help are asked to call Charlie Ruffing at Fire Station 14 at 590-1437.

“We gave out $500 cash and gift cards to all the families yesterday,” Ruffing said. “And we hope to be able to do that again today.”

Ruffing said community support has been overwhelming.

Acorn Storage in Meridian has donated a storage unit to everyone who suffered damage from the fire.

“This will give us a place to store things until the families have a place to put them,” Ruffing said.

Ruffing said the best way to help is to give gift cards or certificates, especially from home improvement stores and restaurants.

“I know people want to bring food, but we’ve gotten some canned food and these people just have no way to use it,” Ruffing said.

He said disposable food such as granola bars and other sack lunch items that can be consumed at the work sites are good to give.

Most victims are staying in hotels or with friends, Ruffing said.

“The Grove Hotel has been great,” Ruffing said. “They offered lodging for everyone for a week.”

Help has poured in “from the business side to neighbors down the street,” Ruffing said. “I’m used to dealing with one house or at most with a four-plex. To deal with 20 houses is overwhelming”

The things needed most:

• Disposable gloves

• Booties to go over shoes at the worksite

• Toothbrushes and toothpaste

• Toiletry items

• Disposable coveralls

• Gift cards

• Money cards

• Cell phones

• Computer access

• Cash

• Transportation

• Food items

• Pet care

• Medical supplies


There are several efforts under way to help residents impacted by the Oregon Trail Fire. They are:

Red Cross of Greater Idaho Disaster Relief Fund: Money only. Clothing, blankets or other items cannot be accepted. Info: 800-853-2570.

Boise Burn Out Fund: Members of the Boise Firefighters Local 149 will be at Alive After Five from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, to raise money for the Burn Out Fund to help victims of the Southeast Boise fire.

Boise State University: Counseling is available by calling 426-1601. Financial donations made on campus will go to the Red Cross of Greater Idaho Disaster Relief Fund

Donation canisters: Student Union information desk, registrar's office on the first floor of the Administration Building and the parking and transportation offices until Sept. 3.

Clothing, blanket and linen collection: Student Union information desk, Administration Building first floor and the parking and transportation offices until Sept. 3. Items will be given to the Boise Burn Out Fund.

Textbook replacement: Students who may have lost their Boise State textbooks due to the fire should call 426-1418.

The Columbia Village Homeowners Association donation site: 10 a.m. Saturday, Columbia Village recreation center, for donations of clothing and household items.

The Grove Hotel, 248 S. Capitol Blvd., is offering complimentary one-week stays for those who lost their homes. Call 333-8000.

Bed, Bath and Beyond: Families who have lost their homes are asked to go to the store at 3615 S. Federal Way between 8 a.m. and noon on Thursday morning to register to have their valuables replaced. The registry will then be available to the public, who can buy the items for families at a 20 percent discount. Info: 344-8886.

Citadel Broadcasting (Magic 93.1): Accepting donations of clothing, money, gift cards and free services for the fire victims at its office at 15th and Bannock streets in Boise.

Riverside Elementary: Raising money and taking donations at 2100 E. Victory Road for teacher Brooke Linville, who lost her home in the fire. Linville, a resource room teacher whose first day at the school was Monday, is 33 weeks pregnant and lost everything, including baby shower gifts.

Sizzler restaurants: Drop off clothing or household items at any Sizzler and get a $5 coupon.

The UPS Store #4172: The UPS Store in the Columbia Village Shopping Center (338-9979) is offering to have all mail, packages, and any courier correspondence for displaced residents delivered directly to the 6568 S. Federal Way store at no charge. This includes regular mail as well as anything donated to them (either dropped off or shipped). For more information, call owner Chris Wyatt at 830-5634.

Idaho Department of Insurance: Personnel are available to answer coverage questions and assist homeowners in contacting insurance companies. The department also has tips for consumers regarding homeowners insurance, including a household inventory form, at For more information, call 334-4250 in Boise, or 800-721-3272 toll free statewide.

Gold’s Gym Treasure Valley: Accepting donations of clothing, cash and gift cards starting Thursday, Aug. 28. Donate at any of the four Treasure Valley locations; each donor will receive a two-week Gym pass: ParkCenter -- 801 E. ParkCenter Blvd.; Downtown Boise (Grove Hotel) -- 245 S. Capitol Blvd.; Cole & Fairview -- 7316 W. Fairview; Meridian -- 1455 Country Terrace Court. Call 389-GOLD.

Buck’s 4x4 Off-road Center: Lunch and dinner is being offered to anyone who makes a donation to benefit the Red Cross which in turn will benefit the families that were affected by the fire. This offer is from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. through Friday, Aug. 29. Buck’s 4x4 Off-road Center is at 4500 W Chinden Blvd. in Garden City. For more information, call general manager Steve Dance at 343-2061.

Boise Moose Lodge Spaghetti Feed: Donations of money, food, clothing and school supplies will be accepted from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday at 8931 W. Ardene St.

Jensen Eye Associates: The Nampa business is donating contact lens cases and solution, and they are offering replacement contacts and glasses at their cost. Jensen Eye Associates is at 1615 12th Ave. Road, Suite A, in Nampa. For more information, call Jan Clark at 467-3271.

96.9 The Eagle: The radio station is collecting funds and items for the Boise Burnout Fund. K.O.P.E.G (Keep Our Planet Earth Green) is recycling old cell phones, mp3 players, ink cartridges, etc., and the money will be donated to the Burnout Fund. Items may be dropped off at the radio station 1419 W. Bannock in Downtown Boise from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays (excluding Labor Day); at any Boise Fire Station; or where ever 96.9 The Eagle may be broadcasting live in the Treasure Valley.

Quality Heating & Cooling: Working with the Boise Fire Department Burnout Fund in creating specific care packages for each of the families. Quality Heating & Cooling is collecting gift cards, clothing, toiletries, school supplies, baby items, etc. and putting them together for the families. They will be collecting through Sept. 2. For more information, call Ashley Van Cleave at 377-3555.

Market Real Estate: Real estate agents from Market Real Estate in Meridian will accept donations for the Boise Fire Department’s Burnout Fund from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30, at 1857 W. Millennium Way. The event will feature balloon sculpting, a bounce house and cookies from the Idaho Mom’s Network. For more information, call 409-8892.

Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Disaster Relief: Non-profit, volunteer organization can provide ash and debris removal for those whose homes and contents are considered a total loss from fire damage. For more information, call Kathe Rhodes at 208-756-4216.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

08-24-08 -- Star native known for service, love of roses


On most days, a light breeze barely moves the branches of the giant box elder trees at the Star Cemetery.

The solid headstones below contain names, dates, sometimes poetry. But they provide only a glimpse of the lives of those like Joy Ayres who lie buried beneath the carefully groomed lawn.

The land for the cemetery was donated by Joy's grandparents in 1900, and his grandmother planted and nurtured the box elder trees that once lined the cemetery. Two remain.

Across the cemetery from his grandparent's marker, two small American flags have been pushed into the dirt next to Joy's headstone.

A treble clef and a rose are carved into the granite next to his name and the date of his death - Independence Day, 2008.

Many people attending the Aug. 2 funeral service expected little more than a simple ceremony for a simple man who moved away from home to serve in World War II.

But after taps was played and the flag that draped the casket was given to Waldtraut "Val" Ayres, his wife of 48 years, word began to spread about the man who served his country in three wars.

Joy, known by most people as a gentle man who loved to grow roses and listen to fine music, was born in Star in 1914.

Ayres was a soldier who in 1970 retired at age 56 after 24 years with the Army.

He worked as a medic and later in the finance corps.

Among the ribbons he wore on his uniform was a red ribbon with a single blue stripe, signifying he was decorated by the Army with a Bronze Star for heroic or meritorious action in conflict.

An oak leaf cluster he wore with his medal showed that it was the second time during his service in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam that he had been decorated with the honor.

An Army Commendation Medal, again with an oak leaf cluster, shows his sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service.

Val said besides his medals and some handwritten journals, she has only limited information about his service.

"He never talked about it," Val said.

The two met and married soon after the end of the Korean War while Joy was stationed in Berlin.

Another assignment took the couple back to America for a short time, but war soon took him to the other side of the world again.

Joy served in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive in 1968 when the North Vietnamese army made a massive surge in an attempt to crush the South Vietnamese army and its allies.

A simple journal entry in his personal papers reads, "3 Jan. '68 "The Year of TET" - 4 Feb. '69, U.S. Army, Pacific (Vietnam).

More medals - including the Vietnam Gallantry Cross given by South Vietnam to soldiers honoring deeds of valor in battle - recognize his service there.

Joy came home from war for the last time in January 1970 and went to work for a library district in Olympia, Wash.

His focus turned to Val, who sang opera as a young woman before the war destroyed Berlin.

"He loved good music. And we attended the opera often," said Val. She chuckled and then said, "I wouldn't have married him if he didn't."

Val also said Joy loved to play the piano. "It was his second hobby," she said.

The two started growing roses and became well known for their work with the Centennial Rose Garden in downtown Olympia.

Joy and his wife raised the money for the garden, which today contains a collection of about 100 varieties of roses.

Although his 93 years took him around the world many times, Joy was returned home to be buried among the dozens of family members representing six generations of Ayres in the Star Cemetery.

David Kennard: 377-6436

In Remembrance is a weekly profile on a Treasure Valley resident who has recently passed away. To recommend a friend or loved one for an In Remembrance, e-mail

Sunday, August 17, 2008

08-07-08 -- FAA will honor veteran pilot for a half-century of safe flying


Don Taylor of Emmett began flying his dad's BT13 when he was 12 years old. That was in 1945.

On Friday, Taylor will receive the FAA's prestigious Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. He'll be one of only 1,218 pilots who have received the award since its introduction in 2003.

It will be a surprise. He thinks his family is gathering to celebrate his upcoming 75th birthday. (They plan to hide this article and are asking his pals not to give away the secret.)

The award honors pilots for maintaining safe flight operations for 50 or more consecutive years of piloting aircraft.

That's not to say Taylor's never crashed his plane. He has. Plenty of times. But so did Orville and Wilbur Wright.

"The ability to crash is a talent in its own right," said Charlene Taylor, who has been in love with her crop-dusting husband since they were children.

"We've been married for 54 years, and I've never regretted it," she said. She doesn't hold a pilot's license herself but often flies with Taylor.

"The last time he went down he had spray in the hopper and he knew he had to take it down," she said.

The way his wife tells it, Taylor simply said, "OK, let's get this over with."

"He knew (the plane) was going (to flip) over on its back because the field he hit was freshly corrugated," Charlene Taylor said.

"You've probably seen bumper stickers that say 'God is my co-pilot.' Well, Don always said, 'I'm the co-pilot. God's the one flying this plane.' "

Taylor walked away from that crash as he had before.


Taylor retired from crop-dusting at age 73.

"He told me he'd retire when he turned 70. When he tuned 70 he said he'd retire when he was 71. When he finally did quit he said, 'I thought it was time I kept my promise,' " Charlene Taylor said.

Taylor still flies though, but now he does it mostly for fun. He's also a flight instructor and he holds licenses to inspect and certify planes, which he does regularly.

Taylor earned his commercial pilot's license in the 1950s and he got his first crop-dusting job soon after that when a friend saw him doing touch-and-go's and convinced him to join his company.

"He loved it," his wife said. "It suited him well. But it wasn't as fun for me as it was for him."

She said she remembers the pain he went through one year while the family was living in Modesto, Calif., when three close friends - two of them fellow crop-dusters - lost their lives in plane crashes.

"Most people think it was work, and it was. It was very hard work," she said. "But he was blessed to work at something he enjoyed."


Today, Taylor regularly flies his Piper PA14, a plane made in the 1940s. His wife doesn't join him much, though. She prefers the couple's other plane, a Cessna 182 that is more comfortable

"I can get us through the sky." she said. "I can take off, but I've told him I don't think I could land it. But he always tells me, 'You don't need to worry about that. They've never left one up there yet.' "

Charlene Taylor credits her husband's safety record to long hours of practice, and said she remembers last week watching as he practiced landing and taking off near the home.

"He told me he wished it was a little more windy because he needed practice flying in a crosswind," she said.

"He tells all his students you're never too good that you don't have to practice," she said.

David Kennard: 377-6436

Thursday, August 14, 2008

08-14-08 -- Eagle horseman killed in motorcycle crash


A well-known member of the equestrian community died Wednesday when a car hit his motorcycle head-on on Idaho 44 west of Eagle.

Jared Higginson, 53, of Eagle was a manager of Flynn's Saddle Shop on State Street in Boise for many years.

Family friend Lynn Hightower said Jared was known as a dedicated husband and father of four, ages 5, 7, 11 and 17.

"This is just a shock to anyone who knew him," Hightower said. "He was absolutely a dedicated father who tried to be a huge part of his children's life."

Hightower normally talks to the news media in her role as the Boise Police Department's spokeswoman. But on Wednesday, she spoke for herself and others who knew Higginson well.

Higginson was an active part of the Chickasaw Choctaw 4-H Club, of which his 11-year-old daughter was a member. Club members begin competition at the Western Idaho Fair Thursday, Aug. 14.

"This is tough," said Hightower, who also has a daughter in the club. "But you know, I think they are just going to pull it together and support the family as they show throughout the fair."

Higginson was well regarded as the authority on Western tack and reining in the Valley.

"There are a lot of horses around here that are a lot better off because horse owners trusted him," Hightower said.

Higginson, a lifelong resident of Eagle, also was active in his LDS ward, Hightower said.

According to the Ada County sheriff's office, Higginson, who was wearing a helmet, was on his way to work when the driver of a 1995 Oldsmobile Cutlass veered from a westbound lane across three lanes of traffic into the path of Higginson's 1990 Triumph.

Investigators don't yet know what caused the driver to cross into oncoming traffic.

The driver of the car was taken to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

No charges have been filed, and officials said the name of the driver, a Garden City man believed to be in his 60s, will be released only if charges are filed.

David Kennard: 377-6436

Saturday, August 9, 2008

08-09-08 -- Wind, lightning heat up Idaho's fire season



Are structures threatened? No, most of the fires are burning in remote areas. Firefighters have extinguished or otherwise protected nearby buildings.

Are campgrounds open? Yes. No evacuations have been ordered.

Is this a good fire year? The fire season began later this year because of high moisture content in forest vegetation. Over the past five years, an average of 45,000 were already burned in the Boise National Forest by Aug. 1st. This year, just 24 acres had been.


The Rattlesnake fire was burning 1,000 acres in the Nez Perce National Forest about 30 miles west of Darby, Mont. The fire is zero percent contained.

The Cabin Creek fire was burning 5,494 acres in the Payette National Forest about 35 miles west of Cobalt. The fire is zero percent contained.

The Rush Creek fire was burning 1,435 acres six miles southwest of Taylor Ranch.


Cascade Ranger District, (208) 382-7400

Emmett Ranger District, (208) 365-7000

Idaho City Ranger District, (208) 392-6681

Lowman Ranger District, (208) 259-3361

Mountain Home Ranger District, (208) 587-7961

25 small blazes are reported after overnight storms. Check for updates before visiting forests

Fire danger is high in the Boise and Payette national forests, and visitors should check where fires are before heading out.

Fire managers sent small teams of three and four firefighters to 25 new fires Friday morning as numerous lightning strikes ignited dry grass and timber from Idaho City to Atlanta.

The number of fires reported from overnight thunderstorms grew to 25 in the Boise National Forest on Friday.

Lightning late Thursday night and Friday ignited 11 new fires on the Payette National Forest, all less than an acre in size, officials said.

But fire experts said it could be worse.

This time last year, nearly 200,000 acres of Boise National Forest were in flames. As of Aug. 1 this year, just 24 acres had burned. And most of the fires ignited by the most recent storm were less than an acre.

Both ground vegetation and trees have higher moisture content this year, and that has helped push the fire season later, Olsen said.

He also said rain from passing storms has kept fires small enough to give crews time to get to the scene.

The most recent fires were scattered across the Idaho City and Mountain Home ranger districts. Firefighters were on the scene of one fire near Atlanta Thursday night.

Olson said fires are staffed based on their threat to people and property, but at least three of the new fires were in remote locations where fire managers are considering allowing them to burn to help maintain forest health.

But hikers, fishermen and other adventure seekers should be cautious this month.

"August is a critical fire month, and the forest has 40 percent of its fires in that month," Olson said. "The public is encouraged to be careful with campfires and other flammable material during this high fire-frequency month."

Backcountry travelers are advised to check in with local ranger districts for updated fire status and conditions.

David Kennard: 377-6436

Sunday, July 27, 2008

07-27-08 -- In Remembrance: ’Tish’ Koto always had friends in mind


Born near Salem, Ore., Tsuchi "Tish" Koto grew up during a confusing time in U.S. history.

The Fruitland resident died May 9 from complications related to cancer.

At the end of 1941, when Tish was 20 years old, the nation changed forever.

Japan declared war on America by bombing Hawaii in December 1941. Young men flocked to recruiting stations to sign up for the military.

By the beginning of 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the evacuation of more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese heritage.

Tish and her family were among those affected by the growing anti-Japanese sentiment and growing fear, especially on the West Coast, that anyone of Japanese descent could be a spy. More than two-thirds of those put in the camps - officially called relocation centers - were U.S. citizens and about 10 percent were in the military.

Around the same time Earnest Koto, a young man living in Ontario, enlisted in the military.

While waiting for deployment orders to France, he signed on with Morrison-Knudson to build barracks and facilities to house those who were moved to 33,000 acres of arid south Idaho desert.

Tish and her family arrived at the relocation camp of Minidoka on Sept. 7, 1942.

"What a town!" Tish says in the journal she kept during her train ride from the lush Oregon Coast. "Only one depot just recently made."

Mike Koto, Tish's son, said he's not sure how his mother and father met. But he said internees were often allowed to attend social events involving those from outside the camp.

"She looked at it as an adventure," Mike said.

Her travel log supports that as she writes about the "Special Train Ride" and places the train stopped or passed along the way.

"Multnomah Falls, 4:50 p.m.; Horsetail Falls, 4:53 1/2 p.m.; Bonneville 5 p.m.; They sure fixed the roads nicely (Eagle Creek Forest)," she wrote.

Earnest and Tish were married after the war in 1947 and made their home in Shoshone where Ernie and his brother, Tom Koto, owned the Boston Cafe.

After Tish's seven-year battle with tuberculosis beginning in 1949, Tish and Earnest moved their small family to Twin Falls, where the brothers opened Koto's Cafe. Tish worked in the kitchen at the cafe until she retired in 1977.

In her later years, Tish moved in with her oldest son.

"That is part of the family tradition," Mike said. "To care for older family members."

Keeping family close was part of who she was, Mike said.

"When we were sorting her things after she died we found hundreds of cards she was planning to send out to friends," he said. "They were just notes to say, 'Hello. I'm thinking about you.'

"That's how she was."

Childhood memories of the Oregon Coast prompted trips as often as she could get away. Her last visit was just months before she died.

Family and friends said Tish never mined talking about her stay at Minidoka, but her life was known for much more than what many consider a dark part of American history.

She was well known for service through her church, especially coordinating and cooking meals for various functions.

Tish also enjoyed her garden, providing flowers to friends and church members.

The things she treasured in life most were her faith, family and friends.

David Kennard: 377-6436

In Remembrance is a weekly profile on a Treasure Valley resident who has recently passed away. To recommend a friend or loved one for an In Remembrance, e-mail

Sunday, July 13, 2008

07-13-08 -- Surveyor met the love of his life in Thailand, settled in Idaho

Doug Kimmel, a young man serving in the Air Force in Thailand during the Vietnam War, looked forward to his regular trips across the shared base to the office of a pretty young Thai girl named Kathy.

She was suspicious of the handsome young American "because he was always trying to talk to her," said Dara Kimmel, Doug's daughter, who now lives in Seattle.

Then one day he came in and told her that it was a special day in America and asked if she would like to have dinner with him.

Kathy had learned a little English in school, but not enough to carry on a conversation with her suitor, certainly not enough to speak to him during a date.

"It was Christmas," Dara said. "And she said she would go, but her brother came along to translate."

She said that during that first "date," Kathy mostly sat quietly while her brother and her future husband chatted.

Not long after that, Doug came across the base to see Kathy again; this time he was in his full uniform. He shook her hand and then asked if he could write to her. He was going back to America.

During the next few months, he would write letters to her and she would occasionally write back.

Then came the letter from America with a marriage proposal. Kathy ignored it.

The letter was followed by a visit by officials from the U.S. Embassy in Thailand telling her that a man in America had asked her to marry him.

She didn't know what to tell them at the time, but she soon found her answer in a drug store window while shopping in Bangkok.

The answer was written on the face of a picture postcard. It showed a gypsy looking into a crystal ball with the word yes displayed on it. She had her answer, bought the card and sent it to Kimmel in America, Dara said.

While making arrangements to fly to the United States, Kathy's mother gave her some gold jewelry and told her daughter that if Kimmel didn't show up or if he treated her poorly, she was to sell the jewelry and come home.

Doug and Kathy were married for 32 years before Doug died of brain cancer at age 61 on June 20 at their home in Boise.

After college, Doug spent two years in Nepal with the Peace Corps. He joined the Air Force in 1972. Later, Doug went to work for the Bureau of Land Management as a surveyor and worked in Oregon and then Idaho, where he and Kathy raised their daughter.

"We had a great family. I feel closer because it was just the three of us," Dara said, explaining that she saw extended family only occasionally.

"He loved being outdoors," Dara said. "He was super fit. He liked to hike and take us to places where he had surveyed."

She said she and her dad enjoyed high adventure hikes that took them to Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington, as well as hikes closer to home.

Kathy never had to sell her mother's jewelry, and the family returned to Thailand many times to visit her family, Dara said.

"He loved Thailand," she said. "And mom's family loved my dad."

David Kennard: 377-6436

In Remembrance is a weekly profile on a Treasure Valley resident who has recently passed away. To recommend a friend or loved one for an In Remembrance, e-mail

July 13, 2008 -- Surveyor met the love of his life in Thailand, settled in Idaho

By David Kennard, The Idaho Statesman

Doug Kimmel, a young man serving in the Air Force in Thailand during
the Vietnam War, looked forward to his regular trips across the shared
base to the office of a pretty young Thai girl named Kathy.
She was suspicious of the handsome young American "because he was
always trying to talk to her," said Dara Kimmel, Doug's daughter, who
now lives in Seattle.
Then one day he came in and told her that it was a special day in
America and asked if she would like to have dinner with him.
Kathy had learned a little English in school, but not enough to carry
on a conversation with her suitor, certainly not enough to speak to
him during a date.
"It was Christmas," Dara said. "And she said she would go, but her
brother came along to translate." She said that during that first
"date," Kathy mostly sat quietly while her brother and her future
husband chatted.
Not long after that, Doug came across the base to see Kathy again;
this time he was in his full uniform. He shook her hand and then asked
if he could write to her. He was going back to America. During the
next few months, he would write letters to her and she would
occasionally write back.
Then came the letter from America with a marriage proposal. Kathy
ignored it. The letter was followed by a visit by officials from the
U.S. Embassy in Thailand telling her that a man in America had asked
her to marry him.

She didn't know what to tell them at the time, but she soon found her
answer in a drug store window while shopping in Bangkok. The answer
was written on the face of a picture postcard. It showed a gypsy
looking into a crystal ball with the word yes displayed on it. She had
her answer, bought the card and sent it to Kimmel in America, Dara
While making arrangements to fly to the United States, Kathy's mother
gave her some gold jewelry and told her daughter that if Kimmel didn't
show up or if he treated her poorly, she was to sell the jewelry and
come home.
Doug and Kathy were married for 32 years before Doug died of brain
cancer at age 61 on June 20 at their home in Boise. After college,
Doug spent two years in Nepal with the Peace Corps. He joined the Air
Force in 1972. Later, Doug went to work for the Bureau of Land
Management as a surveyor and worked in Oregon and then Idaho, where he
and Kathy raised their daughter.
"We had a great family. I feel closer because it was just the three of
us," Dara said, explaining that she saw extended family only
occasionally. "He loved being outdoors," Dara said. "He was super fit.
He liked to hike and take us to places where he had surveyed."
She said she and her dad enjoyed high adventure hikes that took them
to Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington, as well as hikes
closer to home.
Kathy never had to sell her mother's jewelry, and the family returned
to Thailand many times to visit her family, Dara said. "He loved
Thailand," she said. "And mom's family loved my dad."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

07-12-08 -- Travelers lose four ExpressJet flights to California


Boise travelers will lose four daily nonstop flights to Southern California in September because ExpressJet plans to cease commercial flights.

ExpressJet Airlines says rising fuel costs forced its decision to suspend flying under several lines after Sept. 2.

The carrier has two nonstop flights from Boise to San Diego and two to Los Angeles/Ontario.

"We regret losing their service," said Larissa Stouffer, a spokesman for the Boise Airport.

ExpressJet says it agreed to terminate its agreements with Delta Air Lines effective Sept. 1 and will cease its branded commercial passenger flight operations on Sept. 2.

"On behalf of everyone at ExpressJet Airlines, I would like to express our gratitude to the communities that provided such a warm welcome and were always supportive of our branded service," said Jim Ream, president and chief executive officer. "If we had any other choice, we would not take this difficult action. However, rising fuel prices has made the operation impossible to sustain."

Boise travelers planning a trip to San Diego and Los Angeles can find flights on other airlines, but none offer nonstop service.

"They represented a small percentage of our passenger service and daily flights, but other carriers will accommodate passengers going to those destinations," Stouffer said.

Tickets on ExpressJet Airlines for travel before Sept. 2 will not be affected, the airline said. The company will continue selling tickets for any customers who want to travel before Sept. 2.

Customers holding tickets for a flight after Sept. 1 should contact ExpressJet Reservations at 888-958-XJET (9538) to request a refund.

David Kennard: 377-6436

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

07-08-08 -- 2 people hurt in plane crash northeast of Yellow Pine

Photo provided by LA Gordon
A small plane sits on the wreckage of a pickup truck on the airstrip in Big Creek.


Two people were hurt Monday after a small plane crashed at a mountain resort north of Yellow Pine.

According to a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, one person sustained serious injuries and the other person had minor injuries after the plane came to rest about 75 feet past the airstrip in Big Creek.

Both people were flown by air ambulance to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for treatment. Officials have not released the names of the injured.

Cascade Rural Ambulance and the Valley County Sheriff's Department responded to the crash site in the Payette National Forest on the edge of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, according to a sheriff's spokesman.

Officials did not say whether the plane was taking off or landing at the time of the crash.

According to Allen Kenitzer with the FAA, the owner of the Mooney single-engine plane, which was built in 1965, is Kjell W. Nielsen of San Diego.

According to National Transportation Safety Board records, the plane was involved in another crash in 1967 when the pilot failed to deploy the landing gear while landing at an airstrip in Chico, Calif.

An investigation by the NTSB will begin as soon as an investigator arrives at the crash scene, Kenitzer.

"He'll begin by talking to the people in the airplane, who, thankfully, survived," Kenitzer said. He said a preliminary report will be released in about two weeks.

Two crashes have taken place recently at the Big Creek airstrip. In both cases, everyone involved survived.

In August 2007, a pilot was hurt when his two-engine Piper overran the departure end of the runway and slid down an embankment.

In July 2006, a pilot was hurt when his single-engine Cessna collided with trees during takeoff at the airstrip. The pilot and two passengers received serious injuries.

David Kennard: 377-6436

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

07-01-08 -- Treasure Valley setting up for perfect heat storm


Forecasters say the heat will remain in the high 90s through Thursday.

Friday, Independence Day, is expected to drop to 93 degrees.

The holiday weekend also is expected to remain hot and dry with highs in the mid to high 90s.


A forecast of scorchingly hot weather, low relative humidity and wind is a recipe for grass and brush fires in the Foothills and other parts of the parched Valley.

And when you add the purchase of (often) illegal fireworks and Fourth of July rowdiness - well, fire officials are concerned.

It's not like nature needs any help starting fires.

Look at Sunday. A record high of 105 degrees, a blazing sun and a venting propane tank led to a disastrous fire that claimed two homes in East Boise.

And fire officials are still trying to figure out what started a brush fire that burned about 3 acres near Camel's Back Park and 8th Street, though they think it was human-caused.

With the Foothills pretty much dried out, a grass or brush fire started by a careless person is the kind of problem that Boise firefighters and wildland firefighters with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service desperately want to avoid this week. So they are urging people to be careful, especially if they choose to light off fireworks this weekend.

Firefighters also want to remind people that all fireworks are banned in the Foothills.

And if you are caught with illegal fireworks, you face the possibility of a $100 ticket, $40 in court costs and having your stash confiscated. Boise fire inspectors will likely have several patrols active Friday night after the city fireworks display at Ann Morrison Park.


Sunday's record-setting 105 degrees comes just 20 days after snow fell over the Treasure Valley.

"More extreme weather is expected as the climate changes," said Valerie Mills, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boise. "The so-called global warming has different changes for different places."

In Boise, that translates to hot, dry days at least through summer and fall and possibly into the winter months as well, Mills said.

The Pacific Ocean's La Nia that brought so much snow and rain to the Northwest during winter months may not be around to help us next winter.

And it will provide no relief from the heat during summer.

What we can expect is more hot days and very little rain, she said.

Escape from the heat may be difficult without going to some extreme - or running the air conditioner.

An escape to the high country is one option, but even with temperatures 10 to 15 degrees cooler than in the Treasure Valley, an 85- or 90-degree day in McCall is still very hot.

In most cases, the higher you climb, the cooler the temperatures will be. Ketchum and Stanley are forecasting highs in the mid to high 80s this week.

Temperatures along the Boise River may keep you cooler. Even a slight breeze blowing across the 55-degree water lowers the temperature along the shaded Boise Greenbelt 10 or 15 degrees.


For many people, especially those with breathing difficulties, spending time outside won't be an option.

The rising air quality index already has pushed the Treasure Valley into the moderate category, triggering a yellow air-quality alert.

Leonard Herr, regional air quality manager with the Department of Environmental Quality, said poor air alerts could come as soon as Tuesday if the air quality index rises above 60, which would spark a ban on open burning in the Valley.

On Monday, the index was forecast for 55. If it rises above 100, which could happen as smoke from California fires moves into the area, the DEQ would issue an orange alert, one level below a red alert, or "unhealthy" category.

Last Fourth of July, the DEQ issued a red alert when smoke from fireworks thickened the air.

When the air gets that bad, it makes it difficult for everyone - not just those sensitive to poor air quality - to experience health effects.

David Kennard: 377-6436

Sunday, June 29, 2008

06-29-08 -- In Remembrance: Johnne Miller loved enjoying Idaho’s outdoors in every season

Their picture hangs in the lodge at Bogus Basin.
Standing in their patch-covered ski jackets and wearing the leather boots and big sunglasses of the day, the five women smile in the bright sun on the side of the mountain high above Boise.
They are the first five women ski patrollers at Bogus to be admitted into the National Ski Patrol, an elite group of highly trained patrollers known for their skill and love of the sport.
The five became four on June 10 with the death of Johnne Miller of Boise.
The breast cancer she beat 12 years ago came back earlier this year and settled in her bones. Johnne would have been 77 on July 4.
The woman who would for the rest of her life embody the spirit of Idaho recreation, began her journey early when she met Boise High School track star Zee Miller. She married her high school sweetheart soon after graduating in 1949.
From that time on, the couple spent weekends and vacations either on the ski hill or behind a ski boat.
Mary Chapel, who was much younger than her older sister, remembers Johnne as a woman always looking forward to the next adventure.
"She always felt like she had to take one of us," she said of Johnne and her five siblings. "She'd pick us up and go waterskiing or four-wheeling."
After high school Johnne spent 11 years working for the Bureau of Land Management in Boise, giving her the chance to learn more about the places she loved.
Most folks remember Johnne and Zee as the owners of Miller's Marina, which they opened together in 1960.
For the next 35 years, the couple surrounded themselves and their three children with the tools they needed to get into the Idaho backcountry they loved.
"I remember as kids, Johnne and Zee would invite (us) to go water skiing. Ever patient, Johnne and Zee would pull us almost up and then we'd go down again," said Johnne's grandson, Adam Hunter of Nampa. "They kept circling and getting us started again and again until we could water ski. ... I will always remember how fun those days were."
Johnne quit snow skiing in the late '70s when thrombosis in her ankles prevented her from wearing ski boots. But she quickly switched to snowmobiling to get her up into the mountains.
Even after she was diagnosed, treated and recovered from breast cancer in 1995, she found herself back on the seat of four-wheelers and snowmobiles, riding into the backcountry.
Framed pictures cover the walls of Johnne and Zee's home, and photo albums, jammed with pictures of Johnne, Zee and their family are scattered throughout the home. The pictures are set against snow-covered peaks in the Trinities or the spray of water behind a ski boat at Lucky Peak. There are strings of fish caught at various trips to Red Fish Lake near Stanley or Warm Lake.
In many of the shots, you can see Johnne smiling from under the face shield of her helmet while sitting on her bright red snow machine.
It is the same smile of that young woman so many years ago standing on the side of a ski mountain with her friends on the Bogus Basin ski patrol.
David Kennard: 377-6436
In Remembrance is a weekly profile on a Treasure Valley resident who has recently passed away. To recommend a friend or loved one for an In Remembrance, e-mail

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

06-17-08 -- Cannons bring back sounds of Civil War era

A Boise man spearheaded restoration of the Napoleon howitzers now fired for a variety of occasions.

Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman
Specially trained members of The Idaho Civil War Volunteers fire the Napoleon cannon, an original Civil War cannon, during a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery.



THE NAME: Known as the workhorse of the Civil War, the 12-pound field gun first appeared in the 1850s in France and was named in honor of French Emperor Napoleon III. Generically, its name is the 1857 was gun howitzer.

WEIGHT: The tube weighs about 1,300 pounds. Together with the carriage, the cannon weighed almost one-and-half-tons. It was pulled by a team of six horses.

SEE THEM IN ACTION: The Napoleons will be fired again Oct. 4-5 at Freezeout Hill in Emmett.


The sound of 12-pound Napoleons echoing across the hills and valleys of Virginia, Pennsylvania and the battlefields of the Civil War once signaled the approach of war.

During their use in the 1850s and '60s, the two-and-a-half-ton cannons struck fear among troops ordered to fight within their range.

They could fire a 12-pound cast iron ball or exploding shot about a mile and were accurate up to almost a half a mile.

For close-range fighting, their gunners filled the cannons' bellies with shrapnel and fired them like giant shotguns, cutting down wide swaths of enemy forces.

By the end of the war, factories in New England had manufactured more than 1,100 of the Napoleons. Confederate troops reproduced about 600 for battle.

But after 1865, the roar of these feared giants fell silent. Many found their way to scrap yards; other were kept by collectors.


Two Napoleons turned up in Boise as sentinels at the entrance of the Old Soldiers Home built in 1893 west of Boise where Veterans Memorial Park now sits.

They remained resting silently on their massive wooden carriages as veterans of the Civil War passed away.

They later welcomed veterans from the Spanish American War and then World War I and World War II.

Sometime in the mid-1960s, 100 years after fire and smoke last belched from the solid bronze weapons, the Napoleons found a new home - presumably their final resting place - cast in cement as monuments on the Veterans Administration grounds in North Boise.

And there they sat for 30 more years. Waiting. Unnoticed. Silent.


Ken Swanson of Boise was a 13-year-old boy in 1963 when his family loaded up the family car for a summer trip to Gettysburg, Pa.

They didn't know it at the time, but the battleground, the bloodiest in Civil War history, was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Dressed in Union and Confederate colors, "soldiers" re-enacted the three-day battle credited as the turning point of the war.

The sound of drums and bugles competed over the drone of cicadas in the nearby locust trees. The smell of black powder from pistols and rifles hung in the muggy July air.

And cannons fired. Big ones, Napoleons.

Swanson grew up, served in the Vietnam War and came home with an appreciation for military history.

It wasn't long after he moved to Boise in 1978 that he first noticed the guns sitting in front of the veterans hospital.

Volunteer work frequently took him to the grounds and past the Napoleons, and he quietly began to hatch his idea.

It wasn't until 1999 that Swanson got permission from the state to break the cannons free from their cement home.

"They were green beyond green," Swanson said, describing the color of 150-year-old guns. "It didn't hurt them. They were filled with trash. Paper cups, bird's nests, bugs."

TNT Auto Salvage helped liberate the 1,300-pound guns and bring them into the possession of the Idaho Historical Society, where Swanson was working as special project manager.

State funding of about $20,000 paid for the replica wooden carriages made by Paulson Bros. Ordnance Corp. in Wisconsin.

With the tubes now back in place on top of authentic carriages, the guns looked as they did when they rolled out the factory.

From markings on the barrels, Swanson learned the guns were made in the late 1850s in Boston by Revere Copper Products, the manufacturing company founded by Paul Revere that is still in operation today.

Each gun was cast in solid bronze, and then the centers were milled to accept a 12-pound ball.

Each cannon carries a stamp with a manufacture date and the order in which the Army accepted them for use.

After Swanson had each gun X-rayed, he found no cracks or other imperfections in the casting work.

The guns could actually be fired.


On June 5, 2001, the city of Boise issued an official proclamation approving the firing of a weapon "by the participants in the Civil War Skirmish and Cannon Firing at Veterans Memorial Park."

Swanson finally had clearance to fire his Napoleons.

That was a Tuesday. Then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne was designated to pull the trigger on the following Saturday in front of the crowd gathered to watch the cannons roar.

On Friday Swanson and a small group of a folks from the Idaho Civil War Volunteers wrapped about one-and-a-half pounds of black powder in a bundle of tin foil and slid it down the throat of each cannon.

A priming wire pricked the package. The primer went into the vent at the rear of the canyon. And finally the gunner pulled the lanyard that sent a spark into the bowls of each cannon.

Fire and smoke shot from the muzzle of each gun.

"It was just a thrill to see them fire after 140 years," Swanson said.

The next day Kempthorne repeated the test, this time to the cheers of those watching the demonstration of the cannons that had once been almost forgotten.

Since that day, the Napoleons have become a regular part of Memorial Day ceremonies, school events and state celebrations.

"Nobody really appreciated them for what they were," Swanson said.

He said his goal with the cannons was always to let people experience them and relive history close up instead of in static displays or books.

"I'd rather see them like they were meant to be used," Swanson said.

David Kennard: 377-6436

Thursday, June 12, 2008

06-12-08 -- Accidents put trailer safety in spotlight

Unlike many states, Idaho doesn't require private trailers to have safety chains, secured loads or state inspections.


On Monday night, a big rig was hit by a runaway flatbed trailer on Interstate 84, closing the highway for several hours. Luckily, no one was injured.

In May, a father and two of his children died when a farm trailer swung into the path of their truck, which vaulted over the trailer and into Squaw Creek.

It is a scenario that repeats itself too often on Idaho roads, according to Idaho State Police.

"In Idaho, there are no regulations that deal with private individuals and towing," said ISP spokesman Rick Ohnsman.

But on Tuesday night, safety chains kept a camper trailer attached to a truck that rolled on Interstate 84 when the driver lost control. The driver and passenger were hurt, but the trailer was not sent hurtling toward other vehicles.

It is states like Idaho and simple solutions like safety chains that have a Virginia man on a personal crusade to pass towing laws to help make roads safer.

According to Idaho law, the only regulation that applies to towing a private trailer is that it must have working taillights, according to ISP officials.

Safety chains are not required. Loads are not required to be secured. And the state does not inspect trailers before they are registered.

The one law that seems to apply is that trailers more than 15,000 pounds are required to have working trailer brakes.

Lt. Bill Reese, deputy commander of the state's Commercial Safety Division, said some states - such as Colorado, Utah and Oregon - require safety chains.

"In other states, they require that (chains) be in good working order and usable," Reese said.

State Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said he plans to learn more about the crashes to decide whether new legislation is appropriate.

"We constantly look at ways to make our highways and freeways safer," he said.

Ron Melancon, who runs a Web site called, said it is for time all states to do something about the situation, not just think about it.

Melancon, an advocate for trailer safety, began lobbying lawmakers across the United States for stiffer trailer laws after he ran into the back of a trailer being pulled by a truck. He saw the truck but not the trailer until it was too late.

He turned that experience into a mission to make hauling trailers safer.

"In Idaho, you can go to the junkyard, pick up an axle, put a box on it and get it registered," Melancon said.

Based in Virginia, Melancon tracks accidents and laws involving trailers and said Idaho's regulations are among the loosest in the nation.

"No one checks welds. No one checks bearings. And no one checks wiring," Melancon said.

Drivers who do lose a trailer in Idaho can be cited for careless driving or littering a highway, Reese said.

"If it's my personal trailer, I'm not required to secure the load," Reese said, "although it's against the law to place debris on the highway."

"We're always blown away by how people carry things on their vehicles," Ohnsman said. "We'll find people in construction or lawn companies or smaller outfits, and we usually do load securement enforcement because they fall under commercial vehicle laws"

But Reese said most farm equipment, like the trailer involved in the fatal crash in Sweet, is exempt from the commercial rules.

Idaho police officers can apply a general equipment code to private vehicles pulling trailers, but Reese said the law is very nonspecific and hard to apply in most circumstances.

"The bottom line is crashes involving a trailer are difficult to address," Reese said.

David Kennard: 377-6436

Saturday, May 31, 2008

05-31-09 -- Boy who collapsed on Little League baseball field returns to the team


Justin McAfee, the 14-year-old boy who collapsed on a Little League baseball field May 12, Wednesday attended his first game since that event.

McAfee had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator placed inside his chest last week by specialists at Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City. The device, similar to a pacemaker, monitors McAfee's heart and delivers a shock when it detects an abnormal rhythm.

"It's been a roller coaster," said his father, Ken McAfee, talking about the family's emotions during the past few weeks.

He said doctors still are not certain why his son's heart failed, but determined it was a condition he's had since birth.

Justin McAfee was rounding second base during Little League practice when he suddenly collapsed.

Bystanders quickly rushed to his aid, and 14-year-old Jessica Moncrieff performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

"He's back to 99 percent Justin," Ken McAfee said. "He's got some stitches in his shoulder so he's still a little sore, and he can't swing a bat yet."

McAfee said his son didn't play Wednesday, and probably wouldn't for the rest of the season.

He said doctors were not sure yet if he would be able to play baseball next season.

David Kennard: 377-6436