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News

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Gregory Helfrich

Updated 11:28 a.m.:

Santa Clara Sheriff’s detectives have arrested a Los Altos Hills man they suspect repeatedly molested a child decades ago.

Detectives arrested Gregory Helfrich, 54, on a warrant at his Old Page Mill R...

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Schools

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students


Courtesy of Jessica Harell
Blach Intermediate School seventh-grader Paris Harrell, who loves science and animals, recently received a scholarship from the local branch of the AAUW to attend Tech Trek camp.

It’s not every day that a junior hig...

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Community

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner


Federici

Longtime Los Altos resident Mario Federici, who turned 98 Feb. 24, is a man of many languages. He shared his knowledge with thousands of students during his long career as a teacher.

Federici was born and raised in Italy, where he stud...

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Comment

Attend an event, get involved, have fun: Editorial

You don’t have to run for city council to get involved in the community. Sometimes it can be as simple as attending a Los Altos event. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the May and June calendars are bustling with activity.

The Dow...

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Special Sections

Racing around Monterey

Racing around Monterey


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The easy handling of the VW Golf R, above, makes for an ideal ride along the Big Sur coast.

 

When automotive journalists are asked to list their favorite places in the world to drive, Monterey alway...

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Business

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations


Courtesy of Eureka
Eureka, a new restaurant in downtown Mountain View, highlights local craft beer and whiskeys on a menu of food spanning from sea to farm.

Craft beer and fancy whiskeys headline the menu at Eureka, the new restaurant that opene...

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People

Stepping Out

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'


Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
The Baker’s Wife, left, and Cinderella’s erstwhile Prince stand out in the Palo Alto Players production of “Into the Woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood sets forth at the outset of “Into the...

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Spiritual Life

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International


Courtesy of Los ALtos United Methodist Church
Hidden Villa will bring some of its farm animals to Los Altos United Methodist Church Sunday to support the nonprofit Heifer International.

Los Altos United Methodist Church is scheduled to salute th...

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Local firefighters join Rim Fire strike teams


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Firefighters practice their wildland fire skills earlier this year at the El Monte Station in Los Altos Hills. Although there have been no major local fires in 2013, crew members dispatched to the Rim Fire and fires in Southern California over the summer.

As the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park raged out of control last month, firefighters from Los Altos Hills’ El Monte and Loyola fire stations were deployed to the field to assist.

“We had a totally different frame of mind for this fire,” said El Monte Station Battalion Chief Ron Vega, who served as a strike team leader trainee alongside other Santa Clara County Fire Department firefighters on Route 108, just west of the 385-square-mile fire. “The Stanislaus National Forest fire was moving so fast and was so large that we needed Type 1 (the best-equipped) fire engines.”

Vega is a member of one of several predesignated teams in Santa Clara County ready to respond to large emergencies “wherever and whenever.” There have not been any major local fires this year, Vega said, but a team from the county was mobilized to a wildland fire in Southern California in May, which prepared them for their role in fighting the Rim Fire, California’s third largest fire on record.

When his strike team, a collection of five engines under one leader, was called into action in the communities of Pinecrest and Tuolumne, they mobilized as they would for a fire in Los Altos or Los Altos Hills.

Although his team is trained and equipped with the tools to battle on the fire line, they were assigned the role of securing the safety of communities in the path of the expanding fire.

“When we arrived, (the fire) was two ridges over from the community,” Vega said of the threat the hovering fires posed to Tuolumne and other communities. “We had a boss to report to with basic objectives, and my job as strike team leader trainee was to put the plan in place.”

Instilling peace of mind

Working 24-hour cycles – one day on, one day off – his team quickly acclimated to local conditions, including the geography, topography, water systems and area roads, to assess the risk and determine the best procedures to protect structures and preempt fire growth. Prepared to defend the community should the fire reach them, Vega said his team also served as “peacekeepers” and “information keepers” in the communities.

“A lot of that was keeping the public informed, being out there and being seen,” he said.

While enforcing evacuation orders, his team often engaged concerned property owners and attempted to instill peace of mind during the stressful situation.

After one week, the fire risk diminished and Vega’s strike team was removed from the field. Vega is back on duty at the El Monte Station, but four team members from local stations with specialized skills in communications, map making, documentation and resource management are still assigned to the Rim Fire containment efforts.

As of Monday, the cost of fighting the Rim Fire, which burned more than 250,000 acres and injured six, was $84.8 million.

Vega said the experience would better prepare local teams to handle future fires closer to home.

“It’s an opportunity for some on the team to get experience where they might not have been on this type of assignment before,” he said. “It’s different when you have to mobilize in an unknown community, move on the fly and put together a plan to keep a community safe.”

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