Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Fourth of July: Local fire danger remains high

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – For those who were worried a week ago about the prospect of Fourth of July fireworks danger in light of the unusually parched state of grasses, shrubs, trees and other plant life, the outlook has not gotten any better.

The mercury hit 95 degrees in Chehalis today, and temperatures will continue to be well above normal through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

The combination of heat, low humidity levels and dry vegetation with its risk for potential wildfires prompted even the Gifford Pinchot National Forest at mid-week to issue restrictions on campfires.

The lowlands have already seen outdoor burn bans put into place, as well as bans on campfires in state parks.

Early this week, as the governor and the commissioner of public lands strongly urged people not to use fireworks this year, the Lewis County Fire Chiefs Association had not taken a position on the matter.

However, the group’s president Gregg Peterson, who is chief of Newaukum Valley Fire and Rescue, said he was very concerned going into the Fourth of July weekend.

“Have a garden hose, shovel and water handy for extinguishing any fire,” Peterson said. “We’re probably going to be very busy, so, any fire that starts, we may no get there right away.”

Also on Wednesday, the Lewis County Board of Commissioners and the county Fire Marshal’s Office issued a statement asking citizens to refrain from personal discharge of all fireworks this year, and to celebrate in other ways, including partaking in professional public fireworks displays instead.

They indicated in a news release they heard the request from some members of the public to ban them, but wouldn’t have been able to do so for this holiday, even if they’d have taken immediate action.

“The current state law leaves this office with only the option to ask for assistance from the citizens to prevent fireworks related tragedy,” they wrote in the joint news release.

Fireworks are never allowed in the national forests in the Pacific Northwest.

Gifford Pinchot and Mount Hood National Forests’ Fire Management Staff Officer Deb Roy gave the details for campers and visitors.

Open campfires, including charcoal briquettes, cooking fires and warming fires are prohibited until further notice, according to Roy. Wood or charcoal fires are only allowed in developed campgrounds, picnic areas and group campgrounds that have established metal fire pits or rings, Roy stated in a news release.

Even smoking in the Gifford Pinchot is allowed only within enclosed vehicles, buildings and developed recreation sites. Violators can be fined up to $5,000 and/ or imprisoned up to six months in jail.

The state fire marshal’s office has been issuing news releases almost daily for more than a week, advising on various safety concerns involving the use of fireworks.

Yesterday, they focused on the lingering risk after the sparklers, cones and whatever else have sputtered out.

State Fire Marshal Charles M. Duffy reminds residents that used fireworks can leave behind a great deal of debris.

Some extra attention during the disposal of what’s left behind can help reduce the likelihood of unwanted fire or injury.

Here’s what Duffy says:

• Clean up all fireworks debris.

• Submerge used fireworks in a bucket of water for fifteen minutes to ensure they are cooled down and there are no smoldering embers that can start a fire.

• Double wrap the soaked fireworks in plastic bags for disposal in your household trash.

• It is best to dump the remaining water on the ground, selecting an area where it will not produce surface runoff into the municipal water system.

• Do not put used fireworks that have not been soaked into a paper or plastic bag, as this could lead to a fire starting within the bag.

• Return to your fireworks discharge area the next morning to clean up any remaining firework debris – things can be easily overlooked in the dark.

Prosecutor not ruling out other arrests in Vader toddler’s death

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Danny Wing, right, appears before a judge today with a request to get a tooth pulled and be able to communicate with his wife who is also in the Lewis County Jail.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County prosecutors could end up charging more than Danny and Brenda Wing in the death of 3-year-old Jasper Henderling-Warner, the little boy who died while in the Vader couple’s care last fall.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said today part of the reason their sentencings have been put off until  August is both defendants still have obligations, to fulfill their end of the bargain in their plea agreement.

One of those is undergoing polygraph tests, Meyer said this afternoon.

There is an additional investigation going on, and other charges may be filed against others, Meyer revealed during an afternoon hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

The Wings, both 27, have each pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and third-degree child assault. The toddler died from what the coroner labeled chronic battered child syndrome last Oct. 5.

Jasper’s  21-year-old mother had given them temporary custody last summer while she was homeless and looked for work out of state.

Danny Wing was in court today, when his lawyer asked for a ruling on a motion to allow him to be medically furloughed from the jail, for oral surgery.

“My client’s been suffering dental pain since January to the present,” defense attorney Todd Pascoe said.

After some discussion, during which Pascoe said Wing’s mother planned to pay the bill and the trip, or trips to the local dentist would be handled by jail staff, the judge agreed.

However, Judge Nelson Hunt said, it shouldn’t be called a furlough, as the defendant would still be in the custody of jail staff and if something happened, the label could make a difference.

Other motions had been filed ahead of the hearing, including Danny Wing’s request for treatment, which the lawyers said could be better dealt with at sentencing.

The topic of other individuals possibly facing criminal charges came up as Meyer and Pascoe spoke about Danny Wing’s request to be able to have contact with his wife.

Pascoe said the couple are going to go off to prison for as much as a decade, and have issues to take care of including community property and also their three children.

“I’m not asking for a conjugal visit,” he said. “I’m merely asking for written and verbal communication.”

That’s when the judge asked Meyer to explain why the sentencing had been set so far in the future, and Meyer spoke about the ongoing investigation.

Judge Hunt agreed with Meyer the request for communication between the couple could be revisited later, after the polygraphs.

Outside the courtroom, Meyer spoke just a little more about the continuing investigation into the little boy’s death.

“We’re looking at anybody that had contact with the child,” he said. “We want to know the child’s movements, we’re making a timeline.”

Meyer indicated the investigation didn’t exclude Jasper’s mother.

Prosecutors want to hold all responsible, who are responsible for it, he said.

For background, read, “Vader toddler: Few answers about death, after second guilty plea” from Thursday May 7, 2015, here

FBI, federal prosecutors considering pursuing Chase Bank robbery case

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Larry G. Bailey, right, listens as his lawyer addresses the judge in Lewis County Superior Court about a delay in his case.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The upcoming trial for the suspected bicycling bank robber was postponed today, after lawyers told a judge federal authorities may want to take a crack at prosecuting the case.

Larry G. Bailey was arrested on the morning of Jan. 26, after ditching a BMX-style bicycle on Chehalis’s West Street overpass, with a deputy in pursuit, about 45 minutes after an individual with a similar description implied to the manager of Chase Bank at the other end of town he had a gun and was taken into the bank’s vault.

The 52-year-old had $36,000 tucked inside a floral print cloth bag in his backpack, according to police.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead told Judge Richard Brosey this morning he just spoke to federal authorities about a week and a half ago.

“I know the probation officer was aware of it, but I don’t think the FBI or the (Assistant United States Attorney) was,” Halstead said.

Bailey has several previous federal bank robbery convictions and was on probation at the time of the incident, according to prosecutors.

Halstead, Bailey and defense attorney Chris Baum appeared in Lewis County Superior Court, scheduled for a pre-trial hearing.

Baum joined Halstead in suggesting they postpone both the hearing, and the trial that was on the court calendar for the week of Aug. 3.

“We need to get a response from the feds as to whether or not they’re going to take it,” Baum said.

Police said Bailey had just arrived in the area few months earlier and showed an address on the 1500 block of Bishop Road, at an address for a church near an encampment.

Bailey has pleaded not guilty to first-degree robbery and possession of methamphetamine.

If convicted and the state can confirm the prior robbery convictions, it could be a third strike, making him subject to mandatory life imprisonment without parole

He remains held in the Lewis County Jail on t $250,000 bail.

For background, read:

• “Suspected Chase Bank robber believed to have numerous similar convictions” from Tuesday January 27, 2015, here

• “Chase bank robbery suspect facing possible third strike, pleads not guilty” from Thursday January 29, 2015, here

News brief: UPS truck fire north of Grand Mound closes one lane of I-5

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Flames from possible brake fire spread into cargo hold of UPS truck. / Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Crews were still on the scene this morning dealing with a fire that engulfed a UPS truck just south of the Maytown Rest Area on Interstate 5.

Firefighters were called out just after 1 a.m. to the southbound lanes near milepost 92 to find the closed box trailer well involved in flames, according to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.

They managed to cut the box away from the tractor itself and remained on the scene as of 9 a.m. extinguishing hot spots, Fire Chief Robert Scott said.

Nobody was hurt.

The rig was hauling 19,000 pounds of cargo, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Scott said it wasn’t individual packages for delivery, but was pallets of bulk items. The pallets he saw were things like children’s toys, speaker systems and computer boards, he said.

The area is down to one lane and traffic is congested, the chief said.

A fire crew is assisting contractors, who have a dump truck to take away the remains of the load, and a tow truck was working to right the trailer which had tipped onto its side, he said.

They believe it may have been a brake fire on the truck itself that spread to the trailer, Scott said.

Fourth of July: Get out your garden hoses now

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Today’s so-called red flag warning for fire danger covers most of Western Washington. / Image from the National Weather Service

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – People are nervous.

Ongoing high temperatures and very dry conditions, with forecasts of more of the same have prompted outdoor burning restrictions, a ban on even campfires in state parks and for private timberland owners to close their gates to public recreation in recent days.

Unstable air over much of Western Washington with the risk of scattered lightning added to the fire danger threat today.

And, sales of consumer fireworks from state-licensed stands began at noon today. They are already being sold on reservations.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statement strongly urging people not to use fireworks this year.

“The fire danger now is unlike any we’ve seen in a long time, if ever,” Inslee said in a press release. “We need to be prepared for the possibility of an unprecedented fire season.”

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza is asking the public to be careful, be responsible and to take their neighbors and their neighbor’s property into consideration when lighting off fireworks.

The Lewis County Public Fire Educators Group is strongly urging area residents and their families to consider enjoying a professional display, such as the one at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds the evening of the Fourth of July.

Forecasters predict temperatures in the 80s and 90s in the coming days, and although there is a slight chance of showers tomorrow, unseasonably warm weather is anticipated well into the week, according to the National Weather Service.

The sheriff wants this year’s celebrating to be as fun and festive as any, but points out there are criminal penalties for possessing and using illegal fireworks.

“If you choose to use or have illegal fireworks in your possession you may be cited and charged with a gross misdemeanor, punishable up to a year in jail and a fine up to $5,000,” Snaza stated.

State officials had a more ominous warning to consider:

A person found responsible for starting a wildland fire with fireworks can be required to pay restitution for the fire suppression costs and damages caused by the fire. This could be in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, the state fire marshal’s office noted in a press release late last week.

Fireworks are not allowed in Lewis County parks. Fireworks are illegal on all state properties protected by the Department of Natural Resources. They are prohibited in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Last year, there were 155 suspected fireworks-related fires around the state. This year, the wildfire season has begun earlier and with greater intensity.

However, for those who choose to celebrate our nation’s independence in the customary way, local public safety officials offer numerous tips to help prevent tragic accidents, especially regarding youngsters.

“First, set family boundaries―only adults should light fireworks. Supervision is paramount in keeping children safe,” Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Rick Mack and Newaukum Valley Fire and Rescue’s Lt. Laura Hanson stated in their list of tips.

From local and state public safety officials:

• Purchase only legal fireworks, only in the quantity you will use.
• M80’s, M100’s, or Cherry Bombs are not fireworks – they are illegal explosive devices and can cause severe injuries. Sparkler bombs are considered improvised explosive devices, and are illegal.
•  Never consume alcohol or drugs and use fireworks at the same time.
• Never use fireworks inside your home.
• Always set them off outdoors on a driveway or sidewalk.
• Clear a level area, away from combustible materials.
• Have a fire extinguisher or hose handy.
• Keep a bucket of water nearby for discarding all used fireworks.
• Have a responsible adult present to supervise their use.
• Do not allow young children to discharge fireworks.
• Keep spectators at a safe distance.
• The shooter should wear eye protection.
• Light only one device at a time and move away quickly.
• Never attempt to re-ignite a “dud” firework device.
• Follow the directions on the package label carefully.
• Never point or throw a firework in the direction of anyone.
• Never hold or throw a firework – light it and back away to a safe distance.
• If a firework comes into contact with a vegetated area, use a hose or a bucket of water to heavily soak the area, making sure that there are not any hot spots that could rekindle later.
• Clean up all debris when finished.
• Completely soak used fireworks overnight, then place soaked fireworks in a garbage bag and place in an outdoor trash can or take them to your local waste facility.

Teen driver for ecstasy drug deal-turned robbery booked

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Kayla A.S. Littlejohn, in red jail garb, awaits her turn to go in front of a judge in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A police undercover attempt to buy $1,000 worth of ecstasy in the parking lot of the Safeway store in Centralia didn’t turn out as planned, but one teenager is jailed and a man with her who allegedly pulled a gun on a confidential informant remains at large.

It happened inside a tan-colored Pontiac on Wednesday evening, with Centralia police engaging in surveillance of the expected transaction, according to authorities.

Once the Pontiac left the grocery store lot, and the informant was observed getting out of the car, the informant phoned the officer and said they’d been robbed, according to court documents.

A brief summary of the incident from police the following morning described the robbery victim as a male, however court documents avoid using any gender specific pronouns in reference to the informant.

Law enforcement officers pursued the vehicle for a short time, but gave up the chase for safety reasons, according to police.

According to charging documents, when law enforcement searched the area around the residence of the male they say was behind the wheel, they spoke with an 18-year-old woman at a nearby house; they were told she’d been with him the previous couple of days.

Kayla A.S. Littlejohn, 18, of Olympia, was arrested on Thursday, and booked into the Lewis County Jail.

According to charging documents in her case, she said she was asked by McRae Armstrong to drive him to Safeway.

She said he told her he was going to sell fake MDMA, which was really salt, to someone for $1,000.

The informant told police the male with the gun wasn’t the target of the so-called controlled buy.

According to Littlejohn and the informant, during the drug deal, after Littlejohn counted the money, Armstrong showed a bag of drugs, then reached under the passenger seat, grabbed a small caliber handgun and pointed it at the informant. The informant got out, and the two drove away.

The Centralia Police Department had provided the money.

Centralia Officer Adam Haggerty reported when he first saw the Pontiac, a female was in the driver’s seat, but when officers attempted to catch the car, a male was driving. The Pontiac has been located in Olympia, according to police.

Littlejohn was brought before a judge yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court where she was charged with one count of first-degree robbery and one count of possession with intent to deliver an imitation controlled substance.

The 18-year-old has no criminal history, was cooperative and her father was in the courtroom for the hearing, lawyers told the judge.

“It’s very clear Ms. Littlejohn was not the principle actor in this event,” defense attorney Joely O’Rourke told the judge.

First-degree robbery has a maximum penalty of life in prison. The other offense has a top lockup time of five years.

Judge James Lawler ordered her held on $25,000 bail.

Centralia police did not return phone calls seeking comment about Wednesday’ incident.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead informed the judge someone from the Pacific County Prosecutor’s Office would be handling the case, because of a potential appearance of a conflict.

The co-defendant’s father is Jim Armstrong, a private investigator who works for defense attorneys in Lewis County cases, Halstead said.

McRae Armstrong doesn’t appear to have been arrested, or at least not booked into the Lewis County Jail, as of this afternoon.

Littlejohn’s opportunity to make a plea in the case will come on Thursday, in Lewis County Superior Court.

For background, read “Centralia: Suspect in armed robbery at large” from Thursday June 25, 2015, here

Saying goodbye to Officer Silva

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Many came to Chehalis today to pay tribute to Officer Rick Silva.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It began with a procession of pipes and drums and ended with the mournful bugle call of taps.

And in between, the ceremony was attended to by an honor guard of innumerable law enforcement officers.


Rick Silva
1954 – 2015

The main sections of bleachers on both sides of the W.F. West High School gym were mostly filled, as were row upon row of chairs holding family, friends, police officers and others mourners today for Chehalis Police Department Officer Rick Silva.

Silva, 61, of Chehalis, died last week after complications from surgery for an on-the-job injury. His line-of-duty death memorial service followed a 27-year career.

Among the speakers were his chief, the Lewis County sheriff and the Chehalis mayor, who told those gathered of a respected and well-liked officer who treated others with dignity.

“And one thing I’ll always remember is that ever-ready and completely genuine smile Rick had,” Chehalis Mayor Dennis Dawes said.

Dawes was deputy chief of police when he hired Silva in 2002, from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office where Silva started in 1988.

Attendees at the reception that followed were able to watch a video presentation, some with partially tear-filled eyes, even Chehalis Police Chief Glenn Schaffer.

“We’ll miss him,’ Schaffer said.

For background, read “Chehalis police mourn loss of veteran officer” from Friday June 19, 2015, here

One dead and one critically injured after attempt to push car off freeway south of Chehalis

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Interstate 5 is closed for hours and traffic diverted as responders deal with multiple injuries and a death on the roadway in Napavine today. / Courtesy photo by Alicia Meehan

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

One person was killed, one seriously injured and four others hospitalized after a Ford Explorer struck a disabled car being pushed across Interstate 5 at Napavine today.

Troopers, firefighters and medics called at 12:40 p.m. to the northbound lanes found the disabled blue Mustang had come to rest in the ditch facing the wrong way, and the entire roadway blocked. The freeway was not reopened for three and half hours.

According to the Washington State Patrol, the 1988 Mustang driven by a 23-year-old man from Redmond experienced mechanical issues and stopped on the left shoulder, but was partially blocking the fast lane.

A yellow Ford Mustang pulled over in front of the car to help. The good samaritan – traveling with his family – and the 23-year-old were attempting to push the car to the right shoulder when the northbound Explorer struck the good samaritan and the back of the car, according to the state patrol.

Members of Lewis County Fire District 5, District 6 and AMR responded to treat and transport patients, District 5 Firefighter Brad Bozarth said.

Deceased at the scene was Miguel A. Melendez, 39, from Everson, according to the state patrol.

Bozarth said the victim’s wife, while not directly involved in the collision, needed to be evaluated and was among those taken to Providence Centralia Hospital.

One critical patient, the driver of the disabled Mustang, was transported there as well, Bozarth said. He is Ezekiel T. Smith, 23, of Redmond, the investigating trooper reports.

The state patrol states the driver of the Explorer, 68-year-old Dale R. Demarais, of Marysville, was unhurt. However, three of his passengers, one of whom is an infant, were taken to Providence with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Bozarth.

No charges are expected, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Both vehicles were declared totaled. It happened just south of the milepost 72 interchange.

Update on Friday June 26, 2015 at 9 a.m.: Smith was treated and has been released from the hospital.

Victim, impostor from Centralia driver’s test escapade meet in court

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – He lost part of one leg and underwent skin grafts, but Edward Jerns survived the September explosion of his camper in Napavine.

He lost his mother on Christmas Day, was unable to return to his job at Chehalis Sheet Metal, but the 60-year-old was determined he would do what he could to regain the life he had.

After treatment at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for months, and more time convalescing in Seattle and then a Centralia nursing home, Jerns told his doctor he planned to drive again.


Daniel L. Norby

He said the doctor refused to release him unless he took a driver’s test to renew his license.

Because of the prosthetic leg, he could only operate a vehicle with an automatic transmission. When he went to the Department of Licensing office on Kresky Avenue in Centralia on April 23, he was told to wait outside and an examiner would be right out to take him on the driving test.

Jerns had the misfortune to be the victim of a 47-year-old Chehalis man behind him in line who, for whatever reason, followed him outside, got into the passenger seat and impersonated a driving examiner.

Daniel L. Norby managed to direct Jerns to the Lucky Eagle Casino, talk him into trading him coats and steal some 1,000 to $1,200 cash from the pocket before Jerns realized something was very wrong.

“I just want you to know how it feels to rob a poor old crippled man,” Jerns said today as he faced Norby in a courtroom.

The 60-year-old had wheeled his new walker right up to the judge, and then turned sideways to speak to the defendant.

Jerns had just cashed his social security check that day, and the cash was every cent he had, he said.

“I had to go to ask friends, for help,” he said. “I hope you have a long time to think about this; don’t do it ever again.”

Norby pleaded guilty earlier this month to criminal impersonation and second-degree theft, as well as second-degree burglary from another incident that was combined for a plea agreement.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler could have sentenced him to as much as 68 months in prison, but the deputy prosecutor and defense attorney asked for 29 months. And they asked it be served as what’s called a prison-based drug alternative sentencing option.

Defense attorney David Arcuri went to great lengths to persuade the judge to go along.

His client first started abusing drugs at age 9, with his father, Arcuri said.

“It’s truly not an excuse, but if you look at Mr. Norby’s history, it’s all theft and drugs,” Arcuri said. He called his client’s actions an incredibly stupid way to commit a crime.

Norby would get roughly 29 months, but would be eligible for release after about 20 months, and then would be closely supervised afterward, with treatment and a chance to get clean, according to Arcuri.

“Residential prison DOSA’s, they monitor people,” Arcuri told the judge. “I think it’s the best thing DOC does.”

Norby took up the judge on his offer to speak on his own behalf, and apologized to Jerns.

“I’ve got grandkids now, this is my last chance,” he told the judge.

Judge Lawler reluctantly agreed, but warned Norby if he came back before him with another crime, the result would be as much time as he could possibly give him.

Lawler made a finding that chemical dependency contributed to the crimes, and he ordered Norby to pay $2,400 in fines and fees, at a rate of $25 per month. He would have to repay the victim for the money he took too.

Jerns was smiling when the hearing was over, as he described how he wasn’t scared by the ordeal, and how it fit in with the rest of the challenges he’s faced the past several months.

“I’m Catholic, you know,” he said. “God only puts on your shoulders what you can handle. He’s pushing a load.”

Jerns’ new driver’s license was issued on May 1, and he’s back at his home on West Branch Street in Napavine.


For background, read, “Police: Impostor arrested after driving test includes stop at Lucky Eagle” from Wednesday April 29, 2015, here

Heat wave: Emergency responders want us to avoid getting over-heated

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Drink up. Water, that is.

That’s the message from local fire departments who want members of the public to stay well as temperatures are expected to climb into the 90s.

“During hot weather it is important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water,” members of Lewis County FIre District 6 offer as their number one hot weather health tip.



Adults should plan to drink 10 to 15 eight ounce glasses of water to remain well hydrated, not including soda pop, according to the Lewis County Public Fire Educators Group.

Getting, and retaining, plenty of fluid can be your first and best defense against the affects of prolonged heat exposure, the group says.

The National Weather Service this afternoon warns that hot weather is expected Friday and into early next week in Western Washington. Saturday is likely to be the hottest day, they say. Even overnight temperatures are expected to remain warm.

The weather service issued an excessive heat watch today for counties south of us and in the eastern portion of  Pacific County, potentially hitting 100 degrees.

Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Rick Mack and Newaukum Valley Fire and Rescue’s Lt. Laura Hanson remind residents that staying cool – by avoiding heavy exertion and by remaining inside an air conditioned area – will help the body retain its needed fluid.

And don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, they recommend.

These are steps people can take to allow their body’s natural cooling mechanism, sweat, to work, they say.

The Lewis County Public Fire Educators Group is newly formed by the Lewis County Fire Chief’s Association and working to educate as many Lewis County citizens as possible on common themes of fire and life safety prevention, according to Mack.

They suggest folks check on at-risk family members and friends frequently during the heat wave.

Firefighters of District 6 today additionally remind the public that temperatures inside parked cars can rise very quickly to deadly levels, so people should avoid leaving children and pets unattended in vehicles.

They all recommend wearing sunscreen outside.

It’s a health issue.

The Public Fire Educators want individuals to be able to enjoy the summer weather without the harmful effects of heat-related illnesses.

Here’s what they say to watch for:

Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
• Heavy sweating
• Weakness
• Cold, pale, clammy skin
• Rapid, weak pulse
• Nausea, vomiting
• Fainting

Heat exhaustion may require medical attention, but, if recognized early, can be reversed with hydration and cooling.

Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include:
• High body temperature above 103 degrees
• Hot, red, dry or moist skin
• Rapid strong pulse
• Possible unconsciousness

Heat stroke is a true medical emergency that will most often require hospitalization.

Child killed when ATV wrecks on Salkum area trail

Monday, June 22nd, 2015


By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporte

An 11-year-old girl is dead after an ATV driven by her step-sister flipped on a trail at a private campground near Salkum.

She was a passenger on the quad, and after it wrecked, the sister ran back to camp as much as a mile away to get help, according to responders.

It happened around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Cowlitz Timber Trails on the 1900 block of Spencer Road along the Cowlitz River, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said the 11-year-old driver said they had come to a sharp corner, and though they weren’t going very fast, she knew the ATV was going to flip and told her sister to jump. She didn’t jump and the ATV ended up on its side with the passenger’s head pinned beneath one tire, fender and rail, Brown said.

The 11-year-old driver ran back to the campground to get help and when a resident of the campground arrived to the victim, the child wasn’t breathing, according to Brown.

Both had been wearing helmets, Brown said.

Multiple members of Lewis County Fire District 8 responded to the 5:08 p.m. call to the scene, found adults performing CPR on the girl and took over, transporting her to Morton General Hospital.

Fire Chief Duran McDaniel said they called for airlift, while other responders retrieved the 11-year-old driver from the camp for her suspected injuries.

Both girls ended up at the Morton Hospital. Airlift wasn’t needed. Brown said the driver’s injuries were very minor.

The girls are from Graham, according to Brown.

Chehalis police mourn loss of veteran officer

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Chehalis Police Officer Rick Silva

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Chehalis Police Officer Rick Silva died last night, after complications from surgery for an on-the-job injury.

“Officer Silva’s passing leaves us all without his infectious smile, his playful sense of humor, his passion for justice, and his generosity, as he was always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone in need,” the department announced today. “Our lives have been enriched just through the joy of knowing him.”

The veteran officer died at Providence Centralia Hospital one day shy of his 13th anniversary with the department, according to department public information Officer Linda Bailey.

Silva sustained a hip injury on duty and this past February the injury was exacerbated when he made contact with a retail theft suspect who resisted arrest, according to Bailey.

Bailey stated Silva was beloved not just by his family, fellow officers and co-workers, but also by the many, many people in the community whose lives he touched.

His law enforcement career began in 1988 at the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and in 2002, he went to work for Chehalis.

At the Chehalis Police Department, he served in multiple capacities over the years, including field training officer, emergency vehicle operations course instructor and detective.

His body was escorted at 3 o’clock this morning from the hospital to a local funeral home by a motorcade that included officers from Chehalis and other local law enforcement agencies as well as fire department and aid crew personnel, according to Bailey.

Details regarding a traditional, public line of-duty death funeral service to honor Officer Silva will be released next week as soon as they are available.

The Chehalis Police Department thanks those who have reached out.

“We are so grateful for the support already shown to us by nearby first responders and the Chehalis community at large,” Bailey wrote. “We will miss our brother in blue. 117.”

The department notes that United Way has set aside a Fallen Hero’s Memorial Fund at Security State Bank for those wishing to make contributions in honor of Officer Silva.

Memorial: ‘Our boy Kenny’

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Kenneth Hamilton

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – More than 100 people gathered together at a Centralia park to remember the 9-year-old boy who died unexpectedly last week.

Kenneth Hamilton was described as an always happy, always smiling child.

“He was just a joy to be around, all the children felt it,” his second-grade teacher Jane King said.

King, and one of Kenneth’s other teachers at Jefferson Lincoln Elementary School, Wendy Gates, were among those who paid tribute to the son of Piper Young and Tom Hamilton at Schaeffer Park late yesterday afternoon.

“What do we know about our boy Kenny?” the minister asked after offering words of comfort and prayers.

He didn’t like naps when he was little, would have played in his neighbor’s pool indefinitely if allowed and was honest to a fault, family members and neighbors shared.

What caused his death is unknown.

Firefighters and police responded to an approximately 10:20 a.m. 911 call last Wednesday to a home on the 300 block of North Diamond Street regarding the child who was found unresponsive in bed by his mother. He was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Centralia Police Department Detective Patti Finch noted he’d undergone a recent medical procedure. Nothing was obviously suspicious at the scene, but anytime a child dies unexpectedly, police will get involved and investigate the circumstances, according to Finch.

He wasn’t sick, his mother said, but still home recovering from having his tonsils taken out six days earlier.

“He was up and about, the swelling was pretty much gone, and his voice was starting to come back,” she said.

Kenneth leaves behind five siblings.

Jefferson Lincoln Elementary School Principal David Eacker was among those present to honor the 9-year-old’s memory at the north Centralia park.

Informing Kenny’s classmates was difficult, Eacker said. There are just almost no words to explain it, he said.

Former neighbor Heather Bodin addressed the group, on behalf of her 8-year-old granddaughter, a third-grader at the same school.

“She can’t understand how someone her age could have to go to heaven,” she said.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said yesterday it will be weeks before he knows the cause of Kenneth’s death, because he is waiting for the results of various tests from the autopsy.

For background, read “News brief: Police investigating death of little boy in Centralia” from Wednesday June 10, 2015, here

Wildfire burning about two miles from Pe Ell

Monday, June 15th, 2015

A helicopter drops water off Katula Road outside Pe Ell yesterday. / Courtesy photo by DNR

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Firefighters are working to extinguish a wildfire that broke out on a timber company’s land near Pe Ell, with roughly 80 people on the ground today.

A Doty firefighter who happened to be up on a hill spotted it and contacted the state Department of Natural Resources about 9 o’clock yesterday morning.

It was initially estimated at 40 acres but is more like 25 acres, and it’s mostly debris leftover from previous logging that is burning, according to Nick Cronquist, a DNR spokesperson..

It went a little bit into the timber, burning the salal and other vegetation on the ground, Cronquist said.

The area is roughly halfway between Pe Ell and Doty.

Cronquist said this morning the fire is 70 percent contained.

“The helicopters were working pretty hard last night, but we don’t think we’ll use them again,” he said. They have them on standby, he said.

The property belongs to Green Diamond Resource Co. and is off Katula Road.

Local firefighters have been supporting the efforts, hauling water with tenders, according to Lewis County Fire District 16 Chief Greg Feuchter.

Cronquist said they had 50 personnel working the fire yesterday and expected they will be out there for the next couple of days.

It started sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning, he said, and its cause is under investigation.

It’s among the first sizable wildfires in Western Washington this season, following an early in the weekend fire in Clark County, according to Cronquist.


The state Department of Natural Resources expects personnel to be working for the next couple of days to extinguish the fire. / Courtesy photo by DNR

Toledo veteran enters plea of not guilty by reason of insanity

Friday, June 12th, 2015


By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Toledo man arrested after a bizarre series of events that left employees at a Centralia motel hiding and ended in a fight with police officers inside the nearby sandwich shop remains jailed as his lawyer makes plans to delve into his mental state.

Defense attorney Shane O’Rourke described the situation on Alder Street the morning of May 26 as a sort of manic scenario.

“All the witnesses indicated he thought something was happening that was not happening,” O’Rourke said.

Mitchell K. Davis, 27, was a gunner on active duty in Iraq in 2009 who had significant combat and had significant issues afterwards, O’Rourke said.

“We believe he had been brought by Toledo police to Providence Centralia Hospital who dropped him off there,” he said. “I believe he was discharged within a matter of hours before this.”

Officers were called about 11:15 a.m. that day to the Peppermill Inn having been told Davis grabbed an employee, pushed her to the floor and took her phone, according to police. As police arrived, they got a call from a man at the Shell station next door – where Davis allegedly took his phone – and were directed to the Subway shop, according to a police account.

Police said he was hiding in the bathroom, and as he dashed out, knocked a worker to the ground. Davis was subdued with a Taser, but during a struggle, reportedly struck one officer in the face.

Davis yesterday pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

He remains in the Lewis County Jail, and O’Rourke is preparing for an extensive evaluation of his client.

The Centralia defense attorney said he expected within the next couple of days he would seek authorization from a judge to engage an expert psychiatrist.

Davis is charged with two counts of second-degree robbery, one count of third-degree assault, two counts of fourth-degree assault, malicious mischief and possession of methamphetamine. His trial is on the Lewis County Superior Court calendar for July 20.

Getting acquitted by reason of insanity can be a long and complex process, according to O’Rourke.

It’s different, in that the defendant acknowledges the acts, but, then a judge or jury has to find one of two things are true, he said.

“A, I did not understand what I was doing because of some kind of mental defect or delusion,” O’Rourke said. “Or B, because of my mental state, I had no ability to appreciate right from wrong.”

It’s a difficult standard to meet, he said.

If it happens, the case then shifts into determining what to do next with the person, he said.

“If it’s a bad enough crime, you’re probably going to be committed the rest of your life, he said.

O’Rourke said one of the allegations is police found a residual amount of methamphetamine, so an issue he expects to come up is an allegation of intoxication.

For background, read “Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup – POLICE: ‘SPUN UP OUT OF HIS MIND’ ” from Wednesday May 27, 2015, here

Chehalis carjacking suspect denies involvement

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

The man named in court documents as Huber Juarez-Arellano approaches the defense table for his bail hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The individual accused of stealing a pickup truck from a Chehalis dealership during a test drive – by brandishing a toy gun – and leading law enforcement officers on a wild chase into Cowlitz County appeared before a judge this afternoon where lawyers discussed his bail.

But first, Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler asked if his name was indeed Huber Juarez-Arellano.

“I don’t know who was messing with my ID,” the young man replied.

Lawler told him all he wanted to know at that point, was if that was his name.

“Yes,” he said.

A Lewis County Sheriff’s Office commander yesterday identified the arrestee as Huber (no middle initial) Juarez-Arellano, 21, from Vancouver, Washington. A different spokesperson from the office this morning said he was Huber J. Arellano. The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office reported he is Huber Juarez-Vasques, 22, of Kelso.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke told the judge her temporary client lives and works in the Salem, Oregon area.

When Lawler asked him did understood the charges, his rights and the potential penalties, long pauses followed before the heavily tattooed man responded affirmatively to each query.

“He does have some mental health issues he wants the court to consider,” O’Rourke told the judge.

Juarez-Arellano – as he is named in court documents, based on the identification left at I-5 Toyota – is charged with  first-degree robbery, attempting to elude and first-degree malicious mischief.

The sheriff’s office says when he and a sales associate took a 2011 Ford F150 pickup for a drive yesterday morning, he pulled out what looked like a pistol and ordered the 46-year-old man out of the vehicle near Hamilton and Labree roads south of Chehalis. And then took off.

An Airsoft gun he allegedly threw out a window was recovered.

Charging documents speak of deputies and troopers pursuing on a backroad at 30 to 40 mph above the speed limit, with the suspect vehicle swerving into oncoming lanes and ignoring stop signs and other traffic warnings.

The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office reported the truck ran through a fence near a weigh station south of Castle Rock. Charging documents describe part of the journey as cutting across the northbound lanes of Interstate 5, crossing the median and heading into the southbound lanes before driving through a barricade onto a frontage road.

“Frankly, everyone’s lucky someone did not die,” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told the judge.

Meyer asked for bail of $750,000, based in part on juvenile convictions of second-degree assault and harassment. O’Rourke asked for $50,000, telling the judge Juarez-Arellano works multiple jobs and supports his wife, three young children, his mother and his brother.

She also said he receives disability payments and appeared to qualify for a court-appointed attorney.

“He is denying he is the alleged suspect in the probable cause statement,” O’Rourke said.

Bail was set at $500,000. His arraignment was scheduled for next Thursday morning with Centralia lawyer David Arcuri to represent him.

For background, read “Chehalis salesman carjacked during test drive” from Wednesday June 10, 2015, here

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, June 11th, 2015



• A 50-year-old Chehalis man contacted police about 4:30 p.m. yesterday to report he’d accidentally left his credit card at the library and although within a couple of hours realized it was not with him, discovered it had already been used twice at local businesses and someone was attempting to use it at an ATM. The third transaction didn’t go through, according to the Chehalis Police Department.


• A car reported stolen yesterday from the 300 block of East Magnolia Street in Centralia turned up at the 300 block of Pine Street and a relative of the owner was arrested. Corey R. Aldrich, 28, was located at a nearby apartment and booked into the Lewis County Jail for taking a motor vehicle without permission,  according to the Centralia Police Department. A search of his person incident to the arrest turned up suspected methamphetamine, so the Centralia man was booked for that too, according to police. That offense is the one cited if a person is related to the owner, has been allowed to use the vehicle at least one time before and didn’t intend to permanently deprive the owner of their property,  according to police.


• Centralia police were contacted yesterday by an individual who said someone tried to steal gasoline from their parked vehicle during the night at the 1000 block of F Street.


• Chehalis police were called about 8:20 p.m. yesterday about a vehicle prowl on the 300 block of Southwest James Street.


• It appeared someone set a fire in an alley next to a garage in Chehalis yesterday evening but a neighbor who was quick with a garden hose got it put out before it spread, according to the Chehalis Fire Department. Firefighters were called to the area behind the 300 block of Southwest James Street about 6:30 p.m. and found brush and grass covering an area approximately three feet by six feet had burned, Capt. Rob Gebhart said. A small scorched spot was found in front of the house as well, Gebhart said. Nobody was home at the residence, he said. Firefighters and police spoke with some kids across the street, but nobody saw anything, Gebhart said.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, underage drinking, malicious mischief, driving under the influence; responses for alarm, dispute, hit and run, suspicious circumstances, collision on city street … and more.

Chehalis salesman carjacked during test drive

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015


By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Chehalis automobile salesman was carjacked during a test drive this morning, with what turned out to be a toy gun.

A 21-year-old man is in custody, after a high-speed chase that ended in Cowlitz County.

The red 2011 Ford F150 pickup sustained some damage when the suspect drove it through a fence near a weigh station about five miles south of Castle Rock, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Dusty Breen said it began at I-5 Toyota on Northwest Louisiana Avenue where the supposed customer and the sales person departed for a test drive.

They were traveling on Hamilton Road south of Chehalis when the 21-year-old ordered the man out at gunpoint, Breen said, or, with what appeared to be a handgun.

“The salesman is able to flag somebody down for help,” he said. “Deputies were dispatched.”

That was around 11:20 a.m.

The sheriff’s office and the state patrol began a pursuit that took Interstate 5 as well as some backroads at speeds of 80 and 90 mph, and ended when the driver ran through the fence and bailed out, he said. They were joined by Cowlitz deputies as well.

They got a call from a woman who said there was a man inside her house, out of breath and asking for water, and he borrowed a pair of sunglasses from a person there, put them on and hid under a porch, according to the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office.

That was on Pleasant Hill Road, and that’s where law enforcement officers took him into custody.

Cmdr. Breen said Huber Juarez-Arellano, 21, is from Vancouver, Washington. Cowlitz County identifies him as Huber Juarez-Vasques, 22, of Kelso.

Breen said the suspect tossed the weapon out along Barnes Road, and when it was recovered, it turned out to be a painted Airsoft gun.

Nobody got hurt in the incident, he said. The sales associate is a 46-year-old Centralia resident, according to the sheriff’s office.

The suspect was transported back to Lewis County to be booked into the jail for first-degree robbery and felony eluding, Breen said.

The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office reports it will be considering charges of eluding and trespass.

The suspect had left his identification at the dealership before the test drive, according to Chief Deputy Stacy Brown.