Tue09162014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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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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