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Cooler temps, chance of rain in sight

Cooler temperatures and possibly more rain could be on the way next week for the Central Sierra.

The National Weather Service says unseasonably warm temperatures this weekend — hovering in the mid-80s — should give way to cooler temperatures starting Tuesday as a ridge of high pressure over the Pacific Ocean weakens.

School gardens recognized

Michelson Elementary School garden coordinator Tim Smith shows a miniature yellow pumpkin to first-graders (from left) Nataly Nava, 6, Angel Nava, 6, and second-grader Johanna Nava, 7, while on a garden tour Thursday afternoon. Maggie Beck / Union Democratm Copyright 2014.
Calaveras County’s school gardens got some national attention this month when they were used as one of the training grounds for the national organization FoodCorps, which will expand further into the area.

FoodCorps is a team under the nonprofit AmeriCorps that aims to provide healthy food to kids and teach them about it. 

Fire cause determined: Sparks from car blamed for fatal 311-acre blaze in park

The Dog Rock Fire is burning near the Highway 140 entrance to Yosemite National Park. Austen Thibault / Union Democrat, Copyright 2014.
Investigators said Thursday that sparks from a vehicle caused a wildfire in Yosemite National Park that led to the death of a firefighting air-tanker pilot.

Yosemite officials said the sparks were caused by metal parts — such as trailer safety chains dragging on the pavement, or rubbing vehicle brake parts — sending off sparks. 

TUD meeting cancelled

A special Friday meeting of the Tuolumne Utilities District Board of Directors has been canceled.

The board was scheduled to discuss a threatened lawsuit over it’s planned winter ditch maintenance.

Legacy Waterways Protection League claims the board violated environmental laws when it voted in September to bypass studies to determine if lining sections of the ditch system with concrete would harm plants and animals.

District spokeswoman Lisa Westbrook said the board is now scheduled to discuss the matter at its 2 p.m. Tuesday meeting.

Dog Rock Fire cause identified

Investigators this afternoon determined the Dog Rock Fire in Yosemite National Park was caused by hot metal fragments from a vehicle. 

Group sues to block Sonora High pool project

A group of Tuolumne County residents filed a lawsuit this week against Sonora Union High School District in an attempt to block the construction of a new swimming pool complex.

The plaintiffs, identified in the suit as Citizens Against School Bond Abuse, argue district officials misled the public about the district’s intentions when putting forward a $23 million bond measure, Measure J, in 2012.

Citizens say CCWD should wait on GM hire

A few members of the public questioned the Calaveras County Water District’s Board of Directors at a Wednesday meeting regarding why the board is proceeding with finding a new general manager ahead of the Nov. 4 general election.

Four of the district’s five director seats are up for election, and only two incumbents are seeking re-election. 

Fire at Dog Rock continues to grow

The Dog Fire, burning near the west gate to Yosemite National Park, grew to more than 250 acres by Wednesday evening and, in an overnight update, park fire officials said there was no containment estimate on the fire.

The town of Foresta, in the fire’s path, remained evacuated, and Highway 140, leading from the park entrance to Yosemite Valley, was closed overnight and this morning. The valley can still be accessed from highways 41 and 120 from the east and west. However, there was no electrical power in the valley.

A sad day in Yosemite: Pilot’s body recovered; NTSB launches crash investigation

An honorary procession for fallen pilot Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt was held Wednesday at the Highway 140 gate into Yosemite National Park. Austen Thibault / Union Democrat, Copyright 2014.
As federal aviation investigators began a probe into Tuesday’s fatal crash of a Cal Fire tanker plane fighting Yosemite’s Dog Rock Fire, search and rescue teams Wednesday morning solemnly recovered the body of the pilot identified as Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt, of San Jose.

A flag-draped litter carrying Hunt’s body was carefully loaded into an ambulance and then a black SUV, with an honor guard of Cal Fire and park employees standing by.

Semitruck blocks Highway 108 near Kennedy Meadows

Both lanes of traffic were blocked this morning on Highway 108 near Sonora Pass after a semitruck hit an embankment.

The accident happened about 8 a.m., according to California Highway Patrol reports, and the road was still blocked at 10:30 a.m.

Drivers can use a turnout on the road’s shoulder to get around the truck.

A tow truck was dispatched about 8:20 a.m.

The officer on scene was out of radio-contact range with the Jamestown CHP office and, limited information was available, said CHP Officer Ken Bruce.

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