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Contributed by the Tulare County Sheriff's Office 

A helicopter crashed Wednesday into a Tulare County almond orchard on Avenue 80, east of Road 176, near Pixley.

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Building good habits

HANFORD — A chorus of “I like firefighters,” “I like firefighters too” and “Firefighters are awesome” rang out on Wednesday at Lee Richmond Elementary School’s afternoon preschool class.

Hanford firefighter Scott Mellon was with the kids to teach them a little bit about what he does during Hanford Fire Department’s preschool burn safety program.

It was Mellon’s second year visiting preschools. He said he used to do the same thing at his kids’ daycare when they were younger.

“It’s a little program I designed trying to tailor just for this age,” Mellon said.

In all, Mellon visited 10 different preschools and talked to over 575 children in two weeks.

“If I leave and they have a good feeling about us as a fire department, then I’ve done my job,” Mellon said.

Every October, firefighters visit all the elementary students during Fire Prevention Week to give presentations and discuss smoke alarms, the dangers of fire, calling 9-1-1, escape plans and stop, drop, and roll.

However, with the preschool kids who are younger and haven’t had a chance to meet firefighters, Mellon said it’s all just about exposure. He said preschoolers are at the age where they get really nervous when they see somebody dressed up in fire gear.

“My goal going into the preschools is to make sure that the kids understand at that age that someone who is dressed like [a firefighter] is there to help,” Mellon said. “We don’t want people hiding from us or being afraid of us, because it makes the job of rescuing somebody that much harder.”

Mellon said he likes going to the preschool classrooms because he gets to go in the kids’ environment where they feel comfortable, and it’s usually a smaller-sized class so he can hold their attention and take more time with them.

After going over each part of his uniform and why he wears those items, Mellon put the items on one by one so the kids could see that it was still him under all the gear. Then, he took all the gear off again and bet the kids that he could change back into it in less than a minute.

It was all smiles from the kids and Mellon raced to put on his gear as they all chanted “beep, beep, beep,” pretending to be alarms.

After proving that he could change in less than a minute, Mellon sat with the kids and showed them flashcards with pictures and asked if the items pictured were hot or cold. He said he does this because February was Burn Prevention Awareness Month and wants to teach them that hot things shouldn’t be touched or played with.

“We talk about things that are hot and cold in the house to help the kids identify these things so they could watch out for them,” Mellon said. “Hopefully we can prevent some burns.”

Before he left, Mellon gave the kids coloring books and told them to talk about fire safety with their parents when they got home. The kids promised they would and all waved at Mellon as he left.

“This is all about making sure kids are being safe and then also starting the conversation at home,” Mellon said. “This way parents can start talking to kids about fire safety and that family’s plan if there ever is an emergency.”

Mellon advises parents to teach their children how to make an emergency call and to make sure they know their home address.

“If we can catch them young and get good habits going now, that’ll pay off down the road,” Mellon said.

Trump: 'Trade wars are good, and easy to win'

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday insisted "trade wars are good, and easy to win," a bold claim that prompted threats of retaliation against U.S. exports like blue jeans and motorcycles.

"Make no mistake: If the president goes through with this, it will kill American jobs — that's what every trade war ultimately does," said Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican.

Trump has declared that the U.S. will impose punishing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The move will likely raise steel and aluminum prices here. That's good for U.S. manufacturers. But it's bad for companies that use the metals, and it prompted red flags from industries ranging from tool and dye makers to beer distributors to manufacturers of air conditioners. The American International Automobile Dealers Association warned it would drive prices up "substantially."

Markets tumbled in Asia, where China had already expressed a "grave concern" about U.S. trade policy. And the European Union promised retaliation against American exports if Trump follows through. In the United States, the S&P 500 dropped as much as 1.1 percent before paring its decline.

"None of this is reasonable, but reason is a sentiment that's very unevenly distributed in the world," said Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU's executive body.

Asked if a trade war is brewing, he said: "I can't see how this isn't part of war-like behavior."

Early Friday, Trump took to Twitter to defend himself: "When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don't trade anymore-we win big. It's easy!"

He later tweeted: "Our steel industry is in bad shape. IF YOU DON'T HAVE STEEL, YOU DON'T HAVE A COUNTRY!"

Sen. Sasse echoed a sentiment of many U.S. lawmakers when he issued a statement in response: "Kooky 18th century protectionism will jack up prices on American families."

Trump's plan to slap taxes on steel and aluminum imports was branded Friday as "absolutely unacceptable" by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, the United States' biggest foreign source of both metals.

Trump hasn't sparked a trade war — yet. But his provocative action has raised the risk of an all-out conflict that could pit the United States against its friends and the entire global financial system that it helped create after World War II. When Trump announced Thursday he was imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum on national security grounds, he set into motion the possibility that trading partners would fight back with tariffs of their own.

The rebukes delivered on Friday suggested that some countries were prepared to retaliate if necessary.

Trudeau stressed in his comments he was prepared to "defend Canadian industry" and that the tariffs would also hurt U.S. consumers and businesses because prices could rise.

The 28 countries in the European Union could respond by taxing goods that are core to the American identity such as Bourbon whiskey, blue jeans and Harley Davidson motorcycles, Juncker said.

"I don't like using the word trade war, but I can't see how this isn't part of warlike behavior," Juncker told German media.

Roberto Azevedo, the director-general of the World Trade Organization, warned that a "trade war is in no one's interests."

Chinese leaders have threatened in the past to retaliate if Trump raises trade barriers, but now need to weigh whether to back up those threats with action and risk jeopardizing U.S. market access for smartphones and other exports that matter more to their economy than metals.

"China will definitely respond. It doesn't want to be seen as weak. But it will be relatively restrained," said economist Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics. "They don't want to be seen as a party that is wrecking the international trading system."

Doug Andres, an aide for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said that Ryan "is hoping the president will consider the unintended consequences of this idea."

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross downplayed the risk of rising prices from the steel and aluminum tariffs. He held up cans of Campbell's soup and Coca-Cola during a CNBC interview, noting that each would go up by less than a penny under the new taxes.

Even if Trump is itching for a trade war, it's not clear if one will materialize.

"It's too soon to tell for a whole host of reasons," said Scott Lincicome, a trade lawyer and adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute.

Trump's announcement came only after an intense internal White House debate.

"This is going to have fallout on our downstream suppliers, particularly in the automotive, machinery and aircraft sectors," said Wendy Cutler, a former U.S. trade official who is now vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute. "What benefits one industry can hurt another. What saves one job can jeopardize another."

Dog show returns to Hanford

HANFORD — They say that every dog has its day, but in Hanford, the dogs get their own weekend.

The Kings and Sequoia Kennel clubs will host their annual American Kennel Club-sanctioned dog shows next weekend at the Kings County Fairgrounds. The Sequoia club will be presenting the shows Thursday and Friday, while the Kings club will host the Saturday and Sunday shows.

“[Handlers] come in from all over the United States, and we even have handlers from overseas who come in to show their dogs,” Pat Noland, treasurer of both kennel clubs said.

Each day, dogs of all breeds and categories will compete and a Best in Show will be chosen by judges at the tail-end of each day, based on how well each dog displays characteristics of their particular breeds. Breed categories include sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, nonsporting and herding.

One special treat for dog fans this year is the appearance of a very rare breed — the Norwegian Lundehund. The dog, bred for hunting puffins — a penguin-like bird —  is the oldest of the Nordic breeds, possibly existing since before the Ice Age, but canine distemper outbreaks nearly sent the six-toed pooch to extinction around the time of World War II.

Only six dogs remained, but due to very careful breeding, there were nearly 1,400 of them in the world as of 2010. Only about 350 of those were in the United States.

“It’s a good thing for people to see — a new breed like that,” Noland said.

Proceeds from the show will be used for charitable causes, including donations to local animal shelters and scholarships for students to the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine. The kennel clubs also give to the canine programs of local law enforcement agencies.

Noland says that the most popular dogs at the shows are generally the classics — beagles, retrievers, dachshunds, Dobermans.

Noland used to show Kerry blue terriers, but gave it up due to the time and travel involved.

“You have to devote all your time to it. There’s a show every weekend,” she said.

In addition to the competition and show itself, the event will also host food vendors and dog-related items will be available as well.

The events run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Entry is free, parking is $5.

Council to get update on Veterans Memorial Building

HANFORD — The Hanford City Council will meet Tuesday to discuss the Veterans Memorial Building and several other projects the city has going on.

During the study session, Council will discuss a structural evaluation report on the condemned Veteran’s Memorial Building.

In November 2017, Council unanimously decided to close the building after information regarding the building’s roof was brought to light from the city’s public works department. It was later revealed that the building’s bowstring roof trusses were not operating properly and the roof was subject to failure.

This closure sent the organizations who occupied the building, including veterans and seniors, and the events held regularly in the building to find new locations.

The city, which leases the building from Kings County, has asked a structural engineer to provide a detailed analysis of the roof system and a construction solution with an estimated cost for work.

Council will also discuss water system issues and challenges during the study session portion of the meeting.

During the regular meeting, a public hearing to discuss a planned 26-lot gated community on a 4.19-acre parcel located at the southern intersection of Greenfield Avenue and Fitzgerald Lane is also on the agenda, but staff is recommending that issue be continued at the March 20 meeting.

In general business, council will discuss:

  • The corporation yard wash bay renovation project.
  • Awarding a contract for a pavement resurfacing project.
  • Advertising the single- and double-fiberized micro-surfacing project of street pavement.

Rain now, but not for long

HANFORD —While the Central Valley has gotten a much-needed dose of rain in the last few days, it’s nothing but sunshine in the foreseeable future.

Dan Harty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford, said we have been experiencing a storm system that has brought some rain to the Valley and snow to the mountains.

Varying amounts of clouds to mostly cloudy skies and isolated showers can be expected through today, but will be gone by Sunday. Harty said there’s a 70 percent chance of showers today that will taper off into a 40 percent chance by nightfall.

Today’s high temperature will be about 56 degrees and the low temperature tonight will be about 34 degrees. High temperatures for the next few days are forecasted to be 60 degrees on Sunday, 64 degrees on Monday and will jump to 70 degrees Tuesday, Harty said.

Low temperatures will be 34 degrees on Sunday night and 36 degrees on Monday night, he said.

Harty said normal high temperatures for this time are around 65 degrees, so current weather is not too far off normal.

“We’re a little below right now and then we’ll climb up to above [normal temperatures],” Harty said.

As far as rainfall, Scott Borgioli, CEO and chief meteorologist of WeatherAg, reports Hanford at about 2.47 inches of rain, which is 28 percent of the annual average of 8.94 inches of rain.

"Rainfall amounts across the Valley have been very impressive," Borgioli said in a weather update via email. "This storm has provided a boost to the snow pack and a small boost to the Valley rain deficits."

He said the rain - and snowfall are not huge, but it's worth celebrating that there has been some precipitation. 

He said most Valley stations are around 65-75 percent below average of where they should be this year and the snow pack is only about 24 percent of the year-to-date average.

Borgioli said around 2-3 feet of new snow has been reported in parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

While the rain is still here, Harty warns drivers to be careful while driving on the slick roads and to watch out for puddles in order to avoid hydroplaning.