GPS routes couple to a snow-bound 2-day ordeal

John Rhoads and Starry Bush-Rhoads
Starry Bush-Rhoads and John Rhoads

Many of us are abandoning paper maps in favor of GPS receivers. But sometimes, to a GPS unit, a road is a road.

A couple attempting to drive from Portland to Reno relied on their new GPS receiver and became stuck in 18 inches of of snow on a U. S. Forest Service road in the Fremont-Winema National Forest near Thompson Reservoir outside the small town of Silver Lake, Oregon (map).

John Rhoads, 65, and Starry Bush-Rhoads, 67, allowed the GPS unit to select the “shortest route”. But the shortest route is not always the quickest or the safest route.

On Christmas day near Silver Lake, Oregon the GPS directed them to turn right onto USFS road 28. They followed that road and some other spur roads for about 35 miles until they got stuck in the snow after trying to turn around and retrace their route.

For two and a half days they tried to summon rescuers on their cell phones but had no service. They stayed warm by putting on extra clothes they had packed for their trip and by starting the engine and running the heater on their Toyota Sequoia SUV every few hours. They also had plenty of water and food, including lunch meat, salami, and nuts.

On Sunday, December 27, after two and a half days, atmospheric conditions changed, and they had a weak signal on their cell phones. When they finally talked to a Klamath County 911 dispatcher, their GPS-enabled cell phones relayed their location. A deputy Sheriff found them and pulled out their Toyota with a winch.

Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger said:

GPS almost did ’em in and GPS saved ’em.

HERE is a link to a video segment from ABC’s Good Morning America about the couple’s ordeal.

UPDATE at 1:55 p.m. December 29

The same thing has happened to another couple, this time with a baby, also in Oregon and also on a USFS road.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

Our Christmas wish is for all of our Wildfire Today readers to have a GREAT Christmas and a wonderful 2010.

Here is a little Christmas gift for you. It is Darlene Love making her annual Christmas appearance on David Letterman singing Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), first recorded by her in 1963. Make yourself a hot toddy, then enjoy the drink and the music.

HERE is a YouTube version of the original 1963 45-rpm recording.

And……. THANKS for visiting Wildfire Today!

Man says group started the “Old” fire because they were too stoned to rob his godfather

Old fire
Old fire

Rickie Lee Fowler, 28, has admitted to being with a group of men who threw a lit highway flare into some vegetation which started the Old fire on October 25, 2003 in southern California. The fire burned for nine days, charred 91,000 acres, destroyed 1,003 homes, and is linked to six deaths.

In some recently released transcripts, it was revealed that Mr. Fowler has said he and three men in a van had intended to rob John Aylward, a person he identified as his godfather, but realized they were too drunk or stoned to pull it off. Instead, they decided to start a fire, as one person testified before a grand jury, “to burn John’s house down”.

In an interview with investigators, Mr. Fowler said he struck the flare and threw it into the vegetation, but corrected himself and said one of the other men in the van struck the flare. In a later interview, he said he intended to strike and throw the flare, but Martin Valdez Jr. took it from him, struck it, and threw it into the brush. This latest revelation from Mr. Fowler came after Valdez Jr. had been shot and killed in Muscoy.

In October, a grand jury returned an indictment of five counts of murder and two counts of arson. Mr. Fowler has pleaded not guilty.

UPDATE December 24 @ 12:31:

Mr. Fowler could be sentenced to death since there were six fatalities associated with the fire. The San Bernardino Sun has the details from the grand jury testimony about those fatalities HERE.

Neptune Aviation gives $22,000 to homeless shelter

Neptune Aviation Services, based in Missoula, Montana, has been supplying P2V air tankers to the wildland fire community for 17 years. Despite having lost two air tankers and six of their employees in crashes over a 7-month period in 2008 and 2009, they still think of others and routinely donate to charities.

This year is no exception. The company has given $22,000 to the Poverello Center in Missoula, an organization that provides “food, shelter, help, and hope” for the homeless and at-risk families and children.

Here is an excerpt from an article by Jamie Kelly in the Missoulian:

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Each month, Ellie Hill opens up the Pov’s NorthWestern Energy bill like everyone else in Missoula, but it’s a good bet that the check she writes is bigger than yours.

Those 12 heating bills this year added up to $22,000.

Poverello Center, Ryman St. facility
Poverello Center, Ryman St. facility

That is a large stack of money, especially during a recession, for an agency that relies heavily on donations. In last Saturday’s Missoulian, Hill mentioned the Pov’s need in the newspaper’s “We Care” column.

Neptune Aviation saw it. And got out the checkbook. And made out the check for $22,000.

“This donation literally comes at no better time for the Pov,” said Hill, who was taken aback by the gesture. “As you know, with the economic crisis, the demand on our services is totally unprecedented, but financial contributions are down.”

The board of Neptune Aviation, which annually gives thousands to local charities, quickly agreed that the Poverello

Center’s need would be fulfilled.

“We’re just so touched by this community and what they’ve done for us personally and professionally,” said Neptune president Kristen Nicolarsen.

The donation is being made in memory of Nicolarsen’s mother, Jo Rainbolt, who died three years ago and all her life “never turned anyone away,” said Nicolarsen.

Rainbolt, a former Missoulian reporter, was also a philanthropist, artist and lover of nature.

It has not been the easiest year for Neptune Aviation. Last April, Neptune, which employs around 90 people, lost three of its crew members in a plane crash in Utah. Seven months earlier, three others were killed in a crash in Nevada.

Neptune provides air tankers to battle wildfires across the nation.

Four years ago, the federal government grounded Neptune planes, and it was the Missoula community and Montana’s congressional delegation who came to the company’s defense.

“The community is the reason we’re still here,” said Nicolarsen. “We feel like we can’t do enough for this state and especially this community.”

“Their generosity epitomized the spirit of Christmas,” said Hill. “It’ll keep the heat and the lights on for the elderly, poor and out-of-work families, and the homeless.”

Thanks Dick