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Contributed by John Lindsey 

This time-lapse photo, circa 1983, was shot from the bridge of the USS Trippe. The focus of the photo is the USS McCandless, in the distance, being struck with multiple bolts of lightning while we moved through the Caribbean Sea.

Every second counts

HANFORD — A child woke up in the middle of the night to the piercing sound of a smoke detector. Knowing what to do, the child crawled along the floor to the door and felt the heat of a fire on the other side and decided the best exit was the window.

It was a drill, fortunately, and the child was not in imminent danger from a raging fire. However, the scenario could happen to anyone, which is why the Hanford Fire Department has been teaching students the ins and outs of fire safety during Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 8-14.

Friday, firefighters Jared Bracey and Matthew Martinez visited Lee Richmond Elementary to give a presentation and discussed smoke alarms, the dangers of fire, calling 9-1-1, escape plans and stop, drop, and roll at the school’s Health and Safety Day.

All of the Hanford Elementary School District sites host a Health and Safety Day every year. Along with the fire department presentation, students learn about stranger safety, healthy habits, hygiene, bully prevention, cyber safety, bus evacuation drills, nutrition, dental hygiene, pedestrian safety and suggested routes to school.

Sheila Kurtz, administrative secretary at the district’s office of special services, has helped coordinate Health and Safety Day for 11 years. She said students always have fun, but it’s even better because they’re learning important tips for their everyday lives.

“When these police officers and firefighters come on campus, they’re like rock stars,” Kurtz said. “Kids are just so excited to see them and talk to them and touch their uniforms and ask questions.”

Kurtz, whose son is a firefighter, commended the department for finding ways to interact with the students and teach them to be prepared during what would be a scary situation.

Martinez and Bracey said they both love to volunteer to do the presentations at the schools because they are fun and they want to teach the kids not to be afraid. They said they want to show the kids that the person underneath the fire gear is there to help them.

At one point, Martinez put on a full fire uniform and crawled along the aisles to show kids what they would see if a firefighter was searching for them in a house fire. The kids loved it, some even squealed with excitement.

The fire safety presentation was complete with a tiny mattress, door and window that the students used to practice fire scenarios.

“It seems like doing things hands-on where the kids can see it, it really clicks in their head a lot more and they understand it much better,” Martinez said. “At every school the kids get to go through all the drills and see what it actually feels like.”

Bracey said the intent is to get the kids excited about what they learn and take it home to share with their parents and hopefully start a conversation about fire safety plans.

This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme, “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” works to better educate the public about the critical importance of developing a home escape plan and practicing it.

HFD is working in coordination with the National Fire Protection Association, the official sponsor of the Fire Prevention Week for more than 90 years, to reinforce those potentially life-saving messages.

In support of Fire Prevention Week, Hanford Fire Chief Chris Ekk encouraged all Hanford households to develop a plan together and practice it.

“Developing and practicing a home escape plan is like building muscle memory,” Ekk said. “That planning is what everyone will draw upon to snap into action and escape as quickly as possible in the event of a fire.”

A home escape plan includes working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom and near all sleeping areas. It also includes two ways out of every room, usually a door and a window, with a clear path to an outside meeting place that’s a safe distance from the home.

“Home escape planning is one of the most basic but fundamental elements of home fire safety and can truly make the difference between life and death in a fire situation,” Ekk said.

Man arrested for multiple counts of lewd acts with minors

HANFORD — Hanford police arrested 57-year-old Freddie Wattenbarger on  suspicion of inappropriate sexual conduct with minors.

Hanford officers said on Oct. 7 they began investigating allegations against Wattenbarger of inappropriate sexual contact with multiple minors under the age of 18.

On Oct. 12, investigators said they served a search warrant where Wattenbarger lives and arrested him.

Police said he was booked into the Kings County Jail for 10 counts of a lewd act with a child, three counts of incest and two counts of sexual acts with a child 10 years old or younger. His bail was set at $1 million.

Investigators said they are still looking at evidence to identify additional charges and/or victims.

Anyone with information about this case should contact the Hanford Police Department at 585-2540 and ask for Investigator Tomey.

Hanford to discuss installation of water meters

HANFORD — The city is one step closer to installing automated water meters on the city’s flat rate accounts.

At the Hanford City Council meeting on Tuesday, council will discuss a project involving the installation of water meters and automated meter reading devices on the city's 2,586 flat rate accounts.

Improvement plans are near completion, so with council approval, staff will solicit bids for the project. If a bid is awarded, construction is anticipated to begin in January 2018.

The evening’s agenda is relatively light, but during the study session before the regular meeting, the public works department will review the updated infrastructure master plans for water, sewer and storm drainage.