Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

Madera County

Kerry Klein / KVPR

Drive through the pomegranate and pistachio orchards between highways 41 and 99 and you may stumble upon Valley Teen Ranch, a cluster of residential homes where juvenile offenders come to be rehabilitated.

Today, a few men are in their living room playing a basketball video game and making small talk with Connie Clendenan, the ranch’s CEO. “I'm for the Warriors, don't we have them?” asks Clendenan. “I'm from Oakland, so yeah,” one of the men laughs.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

In late April, we launched a series called “Contaminated” where our team explores communities in the region affected by water unsafe to drink. In our first story, we visited a Fresno County community that can’t afford to maintain the arsenic treatment plant the federal government funded 10 years ago. 

We continue today with a look at a Madera County mountain community where residents have been exposed to a different hazardous material in water for decades—but they could have clean water by the end of the year.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

Since the beginning of April, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has announced more than 350 arrests in raids from New York to Virginia to Texas. Presumably, they could happen anywhere at anytime.

But a new quid pro quo with the government has Madera County hoping it can both do away with raids and keep its residents safe.

In most of California, county jails are run by county sheriffs. Not so in Madera, where District Attorney David Linn explains the jail belongs to its own Department of Corrections.

Ezra David Romero

An explosion of building is ramping up just north of Fresno in Madera County. This area of rolling hills on the way to Yosemite could become a city the size of Clovis. All this development could be good for the county's finances, but as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports people who already live there say it could change their way of life.

Kimberly Gomes is a realtor who grew up in the Madera Ranchos. It’s an unincorporated community of less 10,000 people just minutes from Fresno.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

This weekend’s string of heavy rain has put a lot of pressure on families and local officials to respond to the threat of flooding, especially in mountains. Residents in some communities have even been forced to evacuate to escape the rising tide.

Many a normally small, peaceful mountain creek has now been transformed is now a broad fast moving river.

The days of heavy rains have caused the Madera County Sheriff to order mandatory evacuations in some of the low-lying areas of the town of North Fork south of Bass Lake.

http://www.noaustinquarry.org/map/

Drive north from Fresno along Highway 41 and you’ll see thousands of acres of rolling farmland. One day, those ranches, vineyards and orchards will become thousands of new homes.

It’s all part of an ambitious plan by developers and Madera County leaders to grow a major new city in the area. But building a city the size of Modesto takes a lot of materials, including things like gravel and concrete and asphalt.

401kcalculator.org/ flickr

Throughout the Central Valley, communities are grappling with how to keep their towns safe with enough cops and firefighters on the beat. Many have found that traditional revenue sources simply aren’t enough, and are turning to special taxes. But how they are doing so diverges down several different paths. Community reaction to tax increases seems to plays a big role in how local political leaders decide to act.

Kerry Klein/KVPR

In the Sierra Nevada, it’s estimated that tens of millions of trees have died as a result of drought, many of which succumbed to infestations from bark beetles. As a result, we’ve been told our risk of wildfire is far higher than normal, but FM89’s Kerry Klein says the science doesn’t necessarily agree.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Shipping containers have been used for everything from community gardens to pools and even homes. In rural Madera County one farmer is using these containers to help him save water on his sheep farm. He says a shipping container could actually be a solution to drought.

At Golden Valley Farm, about 10 miles northwest of Madera, Mario Daccarett’s employees are milking 500 sheep in rounds of 12. 

US Forest Service

In the last 24 hours the Willow Fire has grown by around 1,000 acres, fueled by dense brush, hot conditions and wind. As of Friday morning the fire has consumed around 4,300 acres and is 30 percent contained.  The blaze began Saturday near Bass Lake and is now 30 percent contained. 

Officials say the southern flank of the fire is now burning in the footprint of the 2001 North Fork fire, an area filled with dense brush, tree snags and dead woody material. On the north crews are making progress battling the fire around a large granite outcropping known as the 7 Rock. 

U.S. National Forest Service

The Willow Fire near Bass Lake in Madera County has grown to 1700 acres and is just 5% contained as of Tuesday afternoon. The fire has not brought activity at the lake to a stop, but it does have businesses and vacationers concerned.

Gordon Barker and his wife drove from Fresno to see the fire.

He pointed out the dead trees on the hillside killed by prolonged drought and beetle infestation turning the area into a tinder box.

Update: Friday June 19, 6:00 PM
The Corrine Fire has now grown to 1,000 acres is just 5 percent contained. Three outbuildings have been destroyed. Evacuations are in order for residents south of Corrin Road to Kerckoff Lake, and an advisory evacuation for residents of the community of Cascadel. Road 222 from Road 200 to Kerckhoff.

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U.S. Forest Service

A wildfire known as ‘The Sky Fire’ burning outside Oakhurst in Madera County has grown to over 500 acres.

The U.S. Forest Service says as of Friday morning that the fire is only 15% contained and likely to grow. Early projections indicate that the fire could grow to as much 600 to 1000 thousand acres.

 The most recent information on the fire is available here.

The brush fire began Thursday after a vehicle caught fire on Sky Ranch Road north of Oakhurst.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Reporters flocked to the Valley town of East Porterville last year where over 600 private wells went dry. This year many other towns are facing a similar plight, including the community of Fairmead. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero visits the community and finds an aging population with people whose basic needs are on the brink.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A study of traffic patterns between Fresno and Madera Counties is being expanded. The two counties are looking at the potential impacts of a new community just over the county line

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors approved expanding the study to cover traffic on highway 99 and consider adding a new bridge in addition to examining traffic on highway 41.

Rob Terry with the Fresno Council of Governments, which is performing the study, says it will give both counties a neutral starting point when considering possible new developments in south Madera County.

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