Archive for the ‘Columns and commentary’ Category

Guest column: Mourning deaths of fellow officers with mixed emotions and a pledge

Friday, July 8th, 2016

By Rob Snaza
Lewis County Sheriff

As your sheriff, I can’t help but express my sadness for those who were injured and courageously lost their lives in the line of duty last night in Dallas.

What we do know is that these officers were killed and injured simply for the badges they pin over their hearts, doing what they swore to uphold, law and order and keeping their community safe.

2015.0500.Sheriff RobertSnaza.portrait

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza

We mourn the loss of our fellow officers and I am praying for their families, friends, and loved ones, and all the people of Dallas affected by this horrifically tragic event as they struggle to cope and understand.

Reflecting, I am truly overcome with mixed emotions, feelings of anger, bewilderment and disgust, to tears of sadness and helplessness, but most of all, emotions of what is next for us in public service.

It’s so very important for everyone to know just how proud I am of the men and women who work for the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and the phenomenally important work they do, day in and day out, protecting and serving our community. I am also proud of all those who put on the badge and commit themselves to serve their communities across this great nation, may we never forget who and why we serve.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office motto is, “Public Safety through Professional Service,” and our folks live that motto day in and day out, remaining committed to it without pause or fail.

These tragic events happening across the country cause me to think of where we are at in today’s society, what we can do better, and what needs to be collaboratively addressed.

I know that together we can and will continue to make a difference.

I believe in the freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest, but I refuse to condone any sort of violence associated with these rights we enjoy.

The First Amendment gives the freedom of speech, but nowhere does it say to cause violence, destruction of property, mayhem, or worse.

What I do believe in is, “All Lives Matter,” regardless of ethnicity, religion, or beliefs. We are sworn to protect and serve all citizens.

As a career law enforcement officer, some 25 years ago I took that oath and have never deviated from it.

As your sheriff, I pledge to you that the men and women of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office are and always will be committed to serving our communities and providing the very best we can in law enforcement as we strive to provide public safety through professional service.

Thank you for giving me the honor to serve as your sheriff, and I thank all the women and men of the sheriff’s office for choosing to serve our community.

Guest column: A bit of prevention advice as autumn settles in

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

By Gregg Peterson
Fire Chief, Newaukum Valley Fire and Rescue

My regular fall reminder to everyone, to take a walk around your home and see that all the hoses are disconnected from your faucets and exposed pipes are protected from freezing.


Chief Gregg Peterson

Remember to get the coolant in your car checked for protection against freezing. Check your tires for good tread depth to avoid hydroplaning and check the tire pressures as well.

Lots of repair shops would be more than glad to perform these checks if you cannot.

If you have chains, locate them now and check that they are in good repair. Throw in a cheap flashlight as well as well as a good pair of gloves in the trunk and an old blanket to lay on if you have to change a tire.

A little bit of prevention can save a lot of mess and expenses.

Be sure your furnace is in good working order. Check the filter to see that air moves well through the system. Dirty filters can cause furnaces to overheat and operate less efficiently costing you money.

Last but by no means least, check your smoke detector(s) and carbon monoxide detector(s).

Be prepared.

Gregg Peterson, Chief
Lewis County Fire District #5

Guest column: Volunteer chaplains bring calm to crisis

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

The new chaplains are front row, left to right: Theresia “Brook” Yri, Connie Densmore, John Anders, Victoria Erskine, Kim Thompson, Jane Anderson and Mike Griffee. In the back row from left to right are: Edgar Densmore, Thomas Walker, Matthew March and Louis Hopkins.

By Kevin Curfman
Lewis County Chaplaincy Services President

Across Lewis County, crisis strikes our communities every day. It may be a residential house fire, an elderly spouse experiencing a cardiac arrest or a tragic accident at a workplace.

Regardless of the event, it is traumatic for the individual, family members and friends that are involved. These types of calls also can have a heavy toll on the emergency responders who respond on a daily basis.

Responding alongside those emergency responders are dedicated chaplains from the Lewis County Chaplaincy Services (LCCS).


Kevin Curfman
Lewis County Chaplaincy Services President

These dedicated men and women are there to help to bring a calm to the scene and to assist all those involved during and immediately after the crisis.

They may explain to the family members the actions of the emergency responders and help to provide for their immediate needs. They are there to assist them through the event and will work to put together a support system of resources that will assist them with rebuilding their lives after a tragedy.

For the emergency responders, the chaplains are there to support them in their jobs and to be a “listening ear” when they need to talk about that especially bad call to which they recently responded. It is our goal that all emergency response agencies have a chaplain connected to their department that they can work with and consider to be their chaplain.

Emergency chaplaincy services began in Lewis County in 1989.

A program was started in the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and the Centralia Police Department at the same time a different one was started with the Chehalis Fire Department. In 1993, the two programs merged into the Lewis County Chaplaincy Services. It has since been available to serve all emergency agencies in the county including law enforcement, fire departments, the dispatch center and the coroner’s office.

Since the programs joined, I have had the privilege of serving as the director and president of the board of directors for the chaplaincy since that time. Over the years we have added more chaplains and expanded our services in various ways. Two years ago we were asked by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office to begin overseeing the volunteers who come into the jail to work with inmates and provide chaplain services to them. This has proven to be a great extension to the work of LCCS.

We have also had other exciting changes.

One is that we recently commissioned a total of 11 new chaplains to serve in Lewis County. Some of these chaplains will be working in emergency response and others in the jail ministry. This will give better and more efficient coverage for calls especially in the east end of the county. We are excited to have the new chaplains on-board and they are currently undergoing training to prepare them to respond.

With the recent growth, the board of directors saw the need to have someone to focus on the daily operation of LCCS. We are happy that Chaplain Betty Kitchen has accepted the position of executive director. I will continue to serve as president of the board of directors.

We also have expanded the board by adding two new positions. One is a board member to represent the jail ministry. The other is the position of community pastor which has been filled. This gives us six board members from the emergency agencies and the community that we serve.

I look forward to seeing the LCCS continue to grow and serve those responding to and in crisis situations across our community.


Kevin T. Curfman, President
Lewis County Chaplaincy Services

This just in: DB Cooper demands, just give me the music and no one gets hurt

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Man says he’s dropping in to Chehalis on Saturday.

CHEHALIS – His 1971 hijacking of a Northwest Airlines flight from Portland to Seattle remains the only unsolved aviation crime in the history of the United States.

The man popularly known as DB Cooper demanded and received $200,000 in a duffel bag, then parachuted from the Northwest Airlines plane somewhere over Southwest Washington and wasn’t heard from again.

But like many criminals, Cooper couldn’t resist returning to the scene of the crime, and on Saturday will present his Second Annual DB Cooper Music Festival at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds in Chehalis, the mid-point of his famed flight.

A special correspondent for Lewis County caught up with the notorious hijacker to talk about the upcoming festival.

“I feel kind of bad that the authorities have spent so much tax payer money trying to track me down over the years,” says Cooper (not his real name). “So bringing some smoking hot music to Southwest Washington is my way of giving back to the community.”


DB Cooper

Topping the three-stage, all-day musical lineup are names like Curtis Salgado, 2013’s worldwide Blues Entertainer of the Year; six-time Grammy nominee Maria Muldaur; finalist on season one of “The Voice” Vicci Martinez; blues pioneer Alice Stuart, and Capitol Records’ rising star Ethan Tucker.

But that’s just a sampling of the 22 acts that will be landing at the fairgrounds on the day after tomorrow, with gates opening at 11 a.m.

The festival is an expansion of the single-stage event held for the first time last year in Nisqually.

Cooper says he hopes to find a permanent home here in Lewis County, and if the event is successful, to expand it further to a full weekend of music.

“I’d like to see this become a destination event in the future, something that people will make people come from outside the area and stay for a while,” Cooper asserts. “I mean, if anyone knows how to drop some cash into Southwest Washington, it should be me. But this time, I’d like it to be unmarked bills. And I’d like to spread it around a little.”

Cooper says he’ll be at the festival all day, enjoying the music and kicking up his heels, and that he isn’t worried about authorities placing him under arrest during the party.

“People have been turning themselves in to the FBI and claiming to be me for over forty years,” he explains. “At this point, I could walk into any police station in the country and say I’m DB Cooper, and no one will believe me. They will refer me to a local therapist and send me on my way.”

Cooper says his musical vision for the festival is two fold – to bring well known talent to Southwest Washington, but also to turn the spotlight on some great talent from the Pacific Northwest.

“One of the great things about doing this festival is that I get to scout performers in the area,” says Cooper, who himself is an accomplished harmonica and penny whistle player. “And I find that there are a lot of musical treasures that the average person doesn’t even know about.

“I mean SweetKiss Momma? Those guys are some badass Southern Rockers. Sour Owl will rock your socks off with a piano player that’s older than Moses. And I’d be putting a ring on Brittany Kingery’s finger myself if I were forty years younger.

“Seriously, this musical lineup is worth jumping out of a plane for,” says Cooper. “But there will be plenty of parking, so I think it’s easier to just drive.”

The complete festival lineup and advance tickets for the event are available at Tickets for the full day of music are $35 in advance and $40 at the gate. Festival goers must be 21 or older to attend, and proof of age is required for entry.

DB Cooper Music Festival
When: Saturday, Aug 2, 2014
Where: Southwest Washington Fairgrounds, 2555 North National Avenue, Chehalis, Wash.
Parking: $5 per vehicle
Tickets sales online, here

Notes from behind the news: We want your DB Cooper look alike photos, of you and your pet

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Deadline is end of the day Monday to enter DB Cooper look alike contest, win tickets to Aug. 2 music festival.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Who would like a pair of free tickets to next week’s DB Cooper Music Festival?

The all day event has decided to touch down this year in Chehalis / Centralia, at the mid-point of the famed 1971 Portland to Seattle flight skyjacking.

It’s a full day of music on three stages, including performances by Curtis Salgado, Maria Muldaur, Vicci Martinez, Ethan Tucker, Bump Kitchen, Alice Stuart, The Brown Edition and many others. Blues, rock, jazz, bluegrass, soul, folk, funk, southern rock, beachy and more.

How to win a pair of tickets?

Between now and the end of the day on Monday, share with us your DB Cooper look alike photos of you and your pet.

Post on Lewis County Sirens Facebook page, or email it to me at and I will share on the Facebook group.

The best three will each find themselves with tickets to attend what promises to be a knock-your-socks-off-day.

It’s an $80 value. Tickets at the door are $40 apiece. Purchase in advance, and they are only $35.

It’s a 21 and over event, and no, I’m sorry, your pet can’t come, even if it’s part of the winning picture. joins the Weekly Volcano, KITI Live95 and numerous other sponsors in welcoming the the DB Cooper Music Festival on Saturday Aug. 2, at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds.

The event is an Exit 104 Media Inc. production.

DB Cooper Music Festival
Two dozen or so acts – enough for three different stages – featuring blues, folk, funk, soul, rock, jazz, bluegrass, southern rock, beachy and more.
When: Saturday, Aug 2, 2014 doors open at around 11 a.m.
Where: Southwest Washington Fairgrounds, 2555 North National Avenue, Chehalis, Wash.
Ticket Price: $35 if purchased in advance, otherwise $40
Restrictions: 21 & over, ID required
Parking: $5 per vehicle
For all the details:
Tickets sales online, here

Notes from behind the news: What did we do before there was Lewis County Sirens?

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Well, many of you know I really, really like gathering information and writing news stories about crime, cops, courts, fire, and what-have-you in greater Lewis County.

It’s something I’ve done here for more than a dozen years.

When I decided to launch an independent online-only news site, I was able to re-double my dedication to providing news that is accurate, timely, fair, balanced, and most of all, newsworthy.

I work hard to avoid disappointing my readers.

Sharyn L. Decker

Often that means I’m punching away at the keyboard at 9 o’clock at night. Sometimes it means I set my alarm for 5 a.m.

It always means I ask myself, what do readers want to know about this? And I reach out to get answers; and confirm the “facts” that I’m not certain about.

Well, it’s been four years now.

That’s right.

Lewis County Sirens celebrates its four-year-anniversary this month.

I still enjoy very much getting up each morning and digging up what no other news outlet has found.

Sometimes it’s just a snippet, or a snapshot of the previous 24 hours as in Sharyn’s Sirens Roundup where you can read about select calls and encounters involving local police and fire departments.

Sometimes it’s in-depth coverage over time of a significant event: think John Booth triple murder on Wings Way, or Ronda Reynolds suicide or homicide with court case and coroner’s inquest, or Ronald Brady and the intruders outside his Onalaska house.

And then other times, it’s every kind of thing in between.

I don’t know who said it first, but it stuck in my mind; that news reporters are the ones who bring us the first draft of history. What a tremendous responsibility that is.

It’s been rewarding for me, and I’m pretty sure its been a refreshing bit of reading for many who live in, work in or care about this area.

I actually had 1,000 readers the same month I launched, June 2010. By the end of that year, Lewis County was approaching the circulation of the local daily newspaper here.

Twelve months later, my number of readers had more than tripled.

Today, Lewis County has well over 50,000 readers. That’s huge in a county with a population of somewhere around 75,000 people.

That’s more than five times the number of people who subscribe to the newspaper here.

Really, it’s not surprising it has become wildly popular, because crime (and high school sports) are the most-read parts of any newspaper. Plus, and mainly, I think, my reputation as a trusted news source is solid.

Readers spend an average of about five minutes navigating around my news site during each visit. And best of all, what has really grown is how readers contribute through their comments.

It along with its companion Facebook page – which is a horse of a different color really, but is also a wealth of reader contributed information and commentary – have grown into something I wouldn’t quite have imagined four years ago.

Lewis County Sirens has found a bit of time to reach further out into the community, through an opportunity to support Centralia’s live theater, in a small way. And now, as co-media sponsor of the upcoming DB Cooper Music Festival. Doing my part to help give us all a break from the trauma, drama and disaster that comes with focusing on crime daily, and when it happens.

Will Lewis County Sirens be around four years from now?

It’s hard to say.

As many of you know, being an entrepreneur has its challenges. Me, I’m that and a dedicated news reporter. Those are two tall pairs of boots to fill at the same time.

And I’m just one human. I really do only have two feet.

So, as Lewis County Sirens celebrates four years, I’m going to suggest that any of you who find it a truly valuable resource in our community consider what, if anything, you might do to ensure its continued publication.

Feel free to simply keep reading and enjoying it for no charge. I grew up with the idea of free news, and I like that. In fact, absolutely do continue reading. The larger the number of readers, of visits, of page views, the more valuable the advertising space is to those who want to promote what they do.

And that’s what supports Lewis County Sirens when it comes right down to it, the advertising.

While I think I’m a pretty terrific news reporter, the one who fills the boots in the ad sales department hasn’t done a whole lot to make sure that area businesses, organizations and other enterprises know what an amazing opportunity exists with an ad on the news site.

There simply is nowhere else locally to reach so many people, for so little money. We get hundreds of thousands of page views each month.

So readers, I’m asking you, if you’re a fan, if you are someone who really wants to help, then think about your own business, or someone close to you, who could benefit from placing an ad on the most-read local news site. And then tell them about it.

I’m feeling so good on this fourth “birthday” that I’ve come up with a special pricing deal – a super good one, actually – for anyone who launches an ad before June 30. Ask me about it.

Also, there’s that little yellow “donate” button on the right hand side of the news site. This may sound like a public television pitch, but if you like what you are reading, and feel it’s worth paying for, and can afford to, consider making an ongoing small donation, or consider a one-time contribution.

Whatever suits you. Whatever feels right.

If money is too tight, but you still feel like you really want to contribute to the ongoing success of this resource, one way to do that, if you happen to be on Facebook, is whenever you read a particularly interesting news item, hit the share button and blast a link to all your friends.

That’s pretty much it for Lewis County Sirens’ birthday wish list.

Well, okay, there is one other thing, for anyone who may be feeling a bit of appreciation and can’t think of any other way to show it. Since you asked …

You could send me a Starbuck’s gift card, and consider the caffeine an investment in helping me get through one of the coming news cycles. 😉

Notes from behind the news: Sunday Sirens music break

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Vicci Martinez, a finalist on The Voice, is among the entertainers who will take to three different stages when the DB Cooper Music Festival touches down at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds on Aug. 2.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Ready for a Sunday sirens music break?

Last week, news of another drowning, this time a 17-year-old boy, and then a tragic and deadly explosion at a fireworks business … Let’s turn it off for a few.

I’m going to listen to Vicci Martinez, one of the performing artists who will take the main stage at the upcoming all-day party at the fairgrounds that is the DB Cooper Music Festival.

Lewis County is co-media sponsor of the event, in part because I think we all need a time out where we simply have fun.

I’m working my way up to be able to take a day-long break, by practicing five minutes at a time, periodically.

Described as a pop singer-songwriter grounded in acoustic rock, Martinez graduated from Stadium High School in Tacoma.

She was a finalist on NBC’s The Voice in its first season, and before that appeared on CBS’s Star Search and won the regional tryouts for the first season of American Idol.

The phantom writer for DB Cooper’s festival promotional materials says she’s the daughter of a Mexican plumber dad and an ESL teacher mom, who first took the stage at the age of 16.

She’s performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, had a hit that reached #12 on VH1, with more than 250,000 singles sold. Her latest single is called Otra Cancion.

She’s good, let’s just listen to her.

This is her song, “Come Along” featuring Cee-Lo Green, here

Hey, it looks like early bird ticket prices were extended to June 30.
DB Cooper Music Festival
Two dozen or so acts – enough for three different stages – featuring blues, folk, funk, soul, rock, jazz, bluegrass, southern rock, beachy and more.
When: Saturday, Aug 2, 2014 doors open at around 11 a.m.
Where: Southwest Washington Fairgrounds, 2555 North National Avenue, Chehalis, Wash.
Ticket Price: $25 – $40
Early Bird Tickets $25: – Price good until June 30, 2014
Show Type: Festival
Restrictions: 21 & over, ID required
Parking: $5 per vehicle
For all the details:
Tickets sales online, here


Coming to our town; early bird tickets still available.

Guest column: Coming vote on fire department levy explained

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

The following is a preview from the quarterly newsletter from Riverside Fire Authority sent to those in its district in and around Centralia.

By Chief Mike Kytta
Riverside Fire Authority

August maintenance and operations levy to determine number of firefighters on staff with the RFA

A great deal has happened since our last publication in March where Chief Jim Walkowski made mention of the financial challenges faced by the RFA. Since that time, several important changes have been made to meet those challenges.


Chief Mike Kytta

We have reduced the work force by one chief officer; one fire captain has retired and will not be replaced, and three firefighter paramedics have been laid off. We plan to lay off two more firefighters this summer which will leave approximately 20 firefighters to answer emergencies around the clock. The operations budget that funds our day-to-day activities has been reduced, leaving  limited funds to pay for vehicle repairs and basic facility maintenance. All planned firefighting equipment replacements are suspended.

Why is this occurring?

Declining home values and the rapid reduction of assessed value at TransAlta’s power plant since the plant closure announcement have combined to create a perfect storm.

The RFA is almost entirely funded by property taxes. When values go down, so do tax collections. Property tax revenue at the RFA has dropped approximately 18 percent, $700,000 in just two years, and the forecast for next year predicts even greater loss. Lower property values and tax revenues being diverted to other local government entities may reduce RFA funding by another $600,000, bringing the total RFA revenue reduction since 2013 to approximately $1.3 million dollars – approximately 30 percent of our total budget.

How will it affect service?

The direct impact to emergency services is reduced staffing. Last year at this time there were six firefighters between the Pearl Street and Harrison Avenue stations on duty around the clock; this year there are four. The 2014 budget cannot fund overtime to replace firefighters who are on leave so it is predictable that occasional station closures will be necessary this year when staffing drops to three firefighters on duty. The budget forecast for next year could routinely bring staffing down to only three on duty.

What is the proposed future action?

With this in mind, the RFA Board of Fire Commissioners has determined that the quality and reliability of fire and rescue services will be reduced to an unacceptable level before the end of 2014 and therefore the RFA must ask the citizens to consider a new maintenance and operations levy at the primary election in August. The new levy, if approved by the voters, will be collected in 2015 at the same time the next drop in property tax revenue is expected. The intent of the levy is to stabilize the budget at the current reduced funding level.

The levy will not return the RFA budget to the higher amount of taxes collected in 2013. Levy dollars will be used for fire protection and rescue services, facilities, maintenance, staffing and operations. The estimated levy rate is $0.49 cents per $1,000 of value, collecting $800,000 annually. For a $150,000 home and property, the estimated annual tax is $73, which comes out to just over $6 per month. By state law, maintenance and operation levies are limited to one year; all future levy requests will be subject to a vote of the people. We believe that with the combination of downsizing the RFA, utilizing cost saving strategies, and the addition of the annual maintenance and operations levy, an acceptable, but not optimal level of service can be provided.

Public meetings to discuss the proposed maintenance and operations levy are scheduled for:
July 9, 6:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Creek Grange
July 16, 6:30 p.m. at the Stillwater Estates Club House
July 23, 6:30 p.m. at the 1818 Harrison Avenue Fire Station.

I am available for your questions at 736-3975 and my office is located at the Harrison Avenue Fire Station.

Notes from behind the news: Sunday Sirens blues break

Sunday, June 1st, 2014
2014.0601.CutisLive2.720x480copy copy

Curtis Salgado, 2013 International Blues Entertainer of the Year, will take the big stage at the end of the night, when the DB Cooper Music Festival touches down at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – How about taking a Sunday sirens mini-break with me?

A week of watching and waiting for an east end river to give up the body of a 5-year-old, a super serious wreck in Centralia on Friday night that left two people critically hurt, and then news this morning that an arson investigation team is looking into a house fire that destroyed much of a family’s belongings …

I’m not waiting all the way to Aug. 2 for the sirens break, the all-day party at the fairgrounds that is the DB Cooper Music Festival.

Lewis County is co-media sponsor of the event, in part because I think we all need a time out where we simply have fun.

I’m taking five minutes right now to turn off the trauma, drama and disaster and listen to a tune, taking my mind elsewhere, at least briefly.

The 2013 International Blues Entertainer of the Year, Curtis Salgado, who inspired John Belushi to create The Blues Brothers, has some good ones.

Salgado will take the big stage at the end of the night, when the festival touches down at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds.

His people call him a harmonica icon who plays each and every show like it’s the most important gig of his career.

He’s been playing professionally since the late 1960s, his band touring with the likes of Santana and The Steve Miller Band. His bio describes some of his musical and vocal influences as Otis Redding, O.V. Wright, Johnnie Taylor and Muddy Waters.

Born in Everett, Wash., and raised in Eugene, Ore., one of his early groups called the Nighthawks toured the Northwest; next he was with The Robert Cray Band, and then it just kept getting better, his people say.

Check out Salgado’s “Born All Over” with me, now, for just a few moments.

We can listen to more from him on Aug. 2, in person, at the festival that is stacking up to be THE event of the summer for those from Seattle to Portland and beyond.

Tickets are available now, here. See the line up that will play three stages, here

P.S. If you’re a Blues Brothers fan, you can find out more about how the two met when Belushi was in Eugene filming Animal House, and how that all transpired, here

Notes from behind the news: Let’s take a time out, and have some real fun

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Coming to our town; early bird tickets until Friday.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – News reporting is a blast.

Chasing down stories of crimes, rescues, near misses and what-have-you and following how justice plays out can keep a person going, with an endless stream of intriguing stories.

But I have to confess, sometimes the cops, courts and fire beat gets seriously depressing. When you’re focused on the latest, looking for what’s new, it seems sometimes the trauma, drama and disaster will never end.

I even heard from one reader who took a little break from Lewis County, because the gloom got overwhelming. Heck, I’ve wanted to turn it off at times.


Saturday, Aug 2, 2014

So, in the interest of the well-being of all of us, I say, let’s take a time out. How about one day where we can turn our attention to something uplifting, even … fun?

It’s time for a party.

That’s why Lewis County is co-media sponsor for a music festival this summer that should knock your socks off.

The DB Cooper Music Festival has decided to touch down this year in Chehalis / Centralia with its all-day event, at the mid-point of the famed 1971 Portland to Seattle flight skyjacking.

The gathering made its debut last year, somewhere up north, with one stage and seven or eight musical groups in the lineup. But its organizers found this year’s two dozen or so acts – enough for three different stages – are best suited for the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds.

It’s blues, it’s folk, it’s funk and some other upbeat types I’m sure I don’t know. But I’ve led a sheltered musical life.

I’m told the acts are top notch.

They range from the 2013 International Blues Entertainer of the Year Curtis Salgado who inspired John Belushi to create The Blues Brothers to The Voice finalist Vicci Martinez, whose acoustic-rock music comes out of Tacoma.

They include six-time grammy nominee Maria Muldaur best known for her 1974 huge hit Midnight at the Oasis, and Brittany Kingery out of McCleary whose tropical acoustic sounds were among those at last year’s festival.

There’s more. Blues pioneer Alice Stewart; Independent Music Awards winners The Brown Edition; an Olympia band; Capitol Records Rising Star Ethan Tucker, a Washington born singer-songwriter; Puget Sounds masters of funk Bump Kitchen; Mudcat, an Aberdeen native; Rick Ranum whose band during its early days opened for performers like Joe Cocker and BB King.

Soul, rock, jazz, bluegrass, blues, folk, funk, southern rock, beachy and more all mixed up in one place. Singer-songwriters who live to entertain.

These are people who’ve toured the country, toured the world.

And they’re gonna play our town.

All day on a Saturday.

It’s a 21 and over event, with food, merriment and a suggestion by one artist that people should plan to dance their behinds off.

The day is brought to you by the local Exit 104 Media Inc.

Why is it named for the historic outlaw who vanished with a parachute and gobs of cash from an airplane more than four decades ago? I’m not certain, though it almost seems as though Cooper – or possibly some intermediary – is like a behind-the-scenes host.

We can plan on so much amazing music, there won’t be one moment to spare for thoughts about sirens. For one day.

Early bird ticket prices are available until Friday.

Get yours now. I’m gonna be there. Why don’t you join me?

DB Cooper Music Festival
When: Saturday, Aug 2, 2014 doors open at 11 a.m. until it’s over
Where: Southwest Washington Fairgrounds, 2555 North National Avenue, Chehalis, Wash.
Ticket Price: $25 – $40
Early Bird Tickets $25: – Price good until May 31, 2014
Show Type: Festival
Restrictions: 21 & over, ID required
Parking: $5 per vehicle
For all the details:
Tickets sales online, here

Guest column: An open letter to the residents of Lewis County Fire District 5

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Eric Linn, the fire chief for the department serving Napavine and surrounding area submitted his resignation last night. Lewis County Fire District 5’s Chair of the Board of Commissioners Jamie Guenther says Assistant Chief Jeff Lee resigned yesterday as well. In a prepared statement, Guenther states: “The District wishes both Mr. Linn and Lee well in their future endeavors. The constituents of District 5 are very fortunate to have a dedicated, well trained group of men and women who will continue to selflessly volunteer their time to protect life and property.” Linn was the 15th chief the mostly volunteer district has had in a little more than a decade. – Sharyn Decker

By Eric A. Linn
Former Fire Chief, Lewis County Fire District 5

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the residents of Lewis County Fire District 5. For the past five years I have served as your fire chief with pride. My service to you ends leaving a very well trained and qualified team of firefighters and EMT’s that will continue to serve you.


Eric Linn

I would like to thank the families of the firefighters that have sacrificed their time with their loved ones to allow and encourage them to invest in training and countless hours of duty to insure the safety of the community.

I would like thank my administrative assistant and office manager Linda Wolfe, Deputy Chief Jim Bridges (Retired), Assistant Chief Jeff Lee, Public information Officer Laura Hanson, Medical Services Officer Vikki Bolden, Training Officer Joel Swecker and Assistant MSO Megan Van Egdom for their leadership and support.

I would like to thank the firefighters, those that have been committed to insure the safety of their community. Each of you know how proud I am of you.

I would like to thank Chaplain Grant Kistler and Special Services member Norm Kendig for your never ending support of the membership.

I would like to thank my fire service partners, Chief Jim Walkowski, Assistant Chief Mike Kytta and Assistant Chief Rick Mack from the Riverside Fire Authority for their never ending encouragement.

I would like to thank Chief Russ Larson and Assistant Chief Kevin Anderson from Lewis County Fire District 15 for their partnerships that have led to stronger training and operating opportunities.

I would like to thank Paramedic Supervisor Steve Katenbracher for his leadership and partnership in improving the level of service to those that need our help most.

In closing, I would to thank former fire commissioner’s Rob Snaza, Kevin Hanson and Terry Bartley for their progressive leadership and confidence that allowed the district to grow and meet the needs of those they serve.

Yours in Fire and Life Safety,
Eric A. Linn

Sirens news highlights – and lowlights – from 2013

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

What might the next 12 months bring on the streets, the backroads and in the courtrooms of Lewis County?

Imagine a week with no drug arrests or domestic violence, a month with no thievery or assault and what about a year without any violent deaths? How about no house fires?

While sharing the details from the world of cops, courts and fire departments, I have to confess at least some of my motivation is perhaps so some of us can learn some small something so if we end up in the news, it is for something wondrous and inspiring instead of Sharyn’s Sirens Roundup.

Here is a look back at some of the stories that topped the Sirens news during the year. If any of them bring to mind words of wisdom to share with the rest of us, please offer your thoughts in the comment section.

If any prompt predictions of what 2014 could hold, those would be nice to hear as well.


The year 2013 began with first-degree theft charges filed against the owners of Birdwell Brothers Auto Sales, alleging the couple used various deceptions to avoid paying back the Centralia-based Security State Bank for loans for vehicles, with losses alleged in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Keith A. Birdwell, 47, and Lorrine D. Birdwell, 44, pleaded not guilty.

The Toledo residents who operated the used car business with sites in Centralia and Lacey are awaiting separate trials early in 2014. The “bad checks” issue against Lorrine Birdwell has been dismissed.


The following month, a 24-year-old rural Chehalis resident shot and injured a nighttime intruder inside his house and was highly praised by the sheriff, except for that he didn’t fire more shots, fire sooner and use better ammunition.

Brian L. Creed, 51, who was high on methamphetamine when he encountered the just-awakened young man in the home on Highway 603 subsequently pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary, and read aloud an apology before he was sentenced to just shy of three years in prison.


Almost a year after losing her 2-year-old daughter to torturous sexual abuse of a new live-in boyfriend, Becky M. Heupel of Centralia faced a judge, accused of failing to protect the little girl.

The 31-year-old subsequently pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal mistreatment, agreeing to pay with one year and a day of prison time for not acting on clues something was amiss.

Two-year-old Koralynn Fister died from drowning and head trauma while in the care of James M. Reeder, who was convicted but denied he was responsible.


A school bus carrying the Toledo-Winlock High School soccer team went airborne off Interstate 5 and came to rest wheels down at the bottom of a ravine on the night of April 9, with no serious injuries but conflicting reports as to whether its brakes failed.

Ronnie Withrow, the 53-year-old driver was praised by responders for guiding the 2009 Thomas full-sized yellow bus between a sign and a guard rail at the northbound exit to state Route 505.

An inspector with the Washington State Patrol found no mechanical failures although Withrow said the brakes went out. His ticket for failing to stop at the stop sign was eventually dismissed  replaced by an infraction for moving a defective vehicle.


Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey blasted board members of the Lewis County Historical Museum when he sentenced its former executive director for stealing at least $124,000 during her time at the helm.

Deborah Sue Knapp, 53, was given 14 months after pleading guilty to multiple counts of first-degree theft, apparently having routinely issued herself extra salary through payroll draws and using the museum debit card for personal expenses.

Knapp was arrested at the end of 2011 after revelations the non-profit’s endowment fund of more than $460,000 was drained, attributed mostly to the museum living beyond its means.


Some 25 law enforcement personnel took part in an operation in which numerous individuals in Randle were arrested following a months-long drug investigation.

The so-called Big Bottom Bust netted 10, seven of which were accused of selling mostly small amounts of methamphetamine with plea deals made in light of an unreliable informant with mental health issues.


A 48-year-old Chehalis area mother of two teenage daughters was beaten to death by her boyfriend, who initially told a story of wrecking his truck on a logging road near Morton, as they tried to escape three assailants.

Corey R. Morgan, 32, had been sentenced just two days earlier for a previous incident of domestic violence against Brenda Bail.

After Morgan pleaded guilty, his lawyer told the court both were bi-polar, both taking medication and both decided to go out drinking together. Then a judge sentenced him to just short of 23 years in prison.


A 39-year-old woman died eight days after she suffered burns in a fire in a Vader house fire, which had no electricity or running water.

Jeannette Dunivan-Spain told a deputy she tried to knock down flames from a knocked over candle that woke her up.

The one-time May Day queen from Vader suffered second-degree burns that led to an infection which killed her.


A 59-year-old motorcyclist who was struck by a bolt of lightning managed to pull off Interstate 5 into a Chehalis gas station and then delay his ambulance ride to the hospital while he arranged safekeeping for his bike.

Medics found minor burns on the side of the Tenino resident’s head and inside his helmet.


A huge news story from 1985 resurfaced last year and then dominated the local news scene with the six-week trial regarding the abduction and slayings of an elderly Ethel couple, Ed and Minnie Maurin.

Prosecutors persuaded a jury that former Mossyrock resident Ricky A. Riffe at the very least was an accomplice to their other longtime suspect who was deceased, the defendant’s younger brother John Gregory Riffe.

With no DNA evidence or fingerprints, but with nearly 100 individuals testifying, Riffe was convicted as charged in the case in which the Maurin’s were apparently forced to drive to their Chehalis bank and withdraw a sizable amount of cash before being shot in their backs and dumped on a logging road.


The Riffe trial ran into November and the 55-year-old, through his attorney, continued to deny he was responsible when he was sentenced to 103 years in prison.


Two brothers were charged after a raid of a Chehalis area home on Jackson Highway turned up freezer bags containing about $200,000 worth of methamphetamine, with crystals as long as a Sharpie felt pen.

The arrests of Randall D. Mauel, 42, and Ryan G. Mauel, 37, came out of fast-moving investigation by narcotics detectives in Thurston County within 24 hours of the local arrival of the drugs, which included  two baggies filled with heroin.


Fill in the blank. Please feel free to offer your predictions for what’s possible during the coming calendar year.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013


From Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Guest column: Suspension for arrested deputy explained

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

By Steve Mansfield
Lewis County sheriff

Recently, one of my employees, while off duty, was arrested for driving under the influence. The occurrence has received significant media and public attention.

The circumstances in this event fortunately involved neither property damage nor injury to others.


Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield

Had it involved a common citizen, it likely would have received only minimal media attention if any at all. However, since it involved an off-duty officer who is sworn and empowered to enforce and uphold the laws of this state, including DUI’s, it was considered news-worthy, and a topic of discussion in our community.

This is a legitimate interest which I do not dispute. I even had some inmates I was supervising on a work crew over the weekend inquire about the situation. One even claimed to have been arrested by this employee for DUI.

Many of the comments and inquiries center on whether the employee will face the same penalties and accountability an ordinary citizen arrested for DUI would, or will he be treated differently because of his law enforcement status.

Just to be perfectly clear, the employee will receive no preferential treatment under the law nor any leniency in meeting legal requirements than what would be afforded to any other citizen arrested for DUI.

What may likely be very different from what most citizens would experience in their employment are the administrative sanctions imposed by my office.

Years ago when I first became a deputy, an incident like this would end a career with few questions asked. Today’s labor laws and union contracts afford greater protection to employees by ensuring due process is followed and discipline is only imposed in accordance with the principles of  just cause.

Labor contracts also have grievance provisions that can ultimately take final disciplinary decisions out of the hands of management and put them into the hands of the Civil Service Commission, arbitrators, or superior court judges.

I typically refrain from voluntarily disclosing details of disciplinary action taken within my office, but I feel the circumstances of this case warrant such disclosure.

In looking at the totality of this situation and the employee’s exemplary performance over the past 12 years, the administrative sanctions imposed  included a two week unpaid suspension from duty, removal from his current position as detective and a last chance agreement that ties his continued employment directly to the conditions imposed by the court.

I believe many of the problems we deal with today exist in part, because we have lost so much of the social accountability that we once had in the past. This is not just accountability that emerges from media attention, but more importantly accountability that originates in and is enforced by our families, friends, schools, churches and organizations to which we belong.

Regardless of one’s profession, religion, sex or race, we are all human, and we are all susceptible to making mistakes and bad choices. When alcohol is involved, it seems mistakes and bad choices are all too often the end result.

Despite our intense focus on education and enforcement, DUI still continues to destroy families, careers and compromises safety and security within our communities.

As a society, we hold those who break the law accountable for their actions.

You as citizens naturally and rightly expect and demand those of us who are sworn to protect and enforce the law, to obey those laws and be held just as accountable for our actions.

That social expectation is extremely influential in motivating us to achieve our mission, uphold our oath of office and code of ethics, and to protect and serve you in a manner that fosters trust, is responsible, respectful, fair and caring.

My employee made an extremely poor, unacceptable decision when he chose to drink, get behind the wheel of his vehicle, and drive down the roadway. It is a decision over which he is extremely embarrassed and sincerely regrets.

He is now being held accountable for that mistake.

It is my hope this employee turns the negative of this experience into something positive and constructive that ultimately leads to him being a better employee, a better citizen, and a father his family can look up to.

He has recommitted himself to me that he will fulfill our mission and uphold his oath of office and code of ethics as he carries out his duties and responsibilities in serving you, the citizens of this county.

Not everyone earns, deserves, or is afforded a second chance. It is my expectation, not only as your sheriff, but also as a citizen, that he earns and proves himself worthy of this opportunity.

For background, read “Lewis County sheriff’s deputy pleads not guilty to DUI” from Friday September 13, 2013, here

Guest column: Faces of Lewis County Search and Rescue a welcome sight after night alone in the woods

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

By Lois Bancroft
White Salmon, Wash.

I wish to thank the members of the search and rescue team who found me near Walupt Creek Falls in the forest south of Packwood on Aug. 3.

I had hiked to the falls the day before and achieved my goal of getting some awesome photographs from the base of the waterfalls.


Lois Bancroft

It was supposed to be just a day trip from my home in Klickitat County.

But at some point in walking out, I became lost. I couldn’t find the ribbons my friend had tied to trees just the week before. By 7 p.m. I gave up hope of finding the route back to my car.

I layed down in the trail covered by my space blanket. Then, I thought, why not put on my head lamp and use my flashlight to continue down the trail. I was not aware at the time that I was getting farther and farther away from where I had originally crossed the river.

I also began losing the trail. Then I slipped on something and rolled and somersaulted about 25 feet down a hill.

I was in pain, but clawed my way back up to a point where I could inspect my injuries. I dressed my open wound, figured I had broken some ribs. It turns out three were fractured and I sprained both ankles. My whole chest hurt.

At that point it was dark and I found the most level area I could and spent the next four to five hours shivering, waiting for dawn at 4 a.m.

I then resumed, walking the wrong way down the hill. When I got to the river I layed down on a sandy spot for a rest. Then at 6 p.m., I looked up from my task of finding sticks to point the way to where I planned to camp for the second night and saw some people.

They were the rescue team. I will be forever grateful to them. I only remember two names: Sue on the rescue team and Bat who had the horse that I rode out on.

There were many people looking for me, including Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brady Taylor. I wish I could thank you all personally by name but please know your faces will always be in my memory.

Lois Bancroft
White Salmon, Wash.

Bancroft, 66, often hikes into the backwoods to take pictures of waterfalls.

Her husband Bob Connor said she is a professional photographer; she says she is not, that she only wants to capture photos worthy of a professional.

Conner, a retired volunteer firefighter, couldn’t heap enough praise onto the Lewis County Search and Rescue team, Deputy Taylor and the 911 dispatchers he said were kind, courteous and kept him informed all day long.

Bancroft shared a shot of the falls she brought home from her “day trip”.


Walupt Creek Falls on August 2, 2013 / By Lois Bancroft


Guest column: Right to bear arms begets responsibility

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

By Steve Mansfield
Lewis County sheriff

CHEHALIS –  To the citizens of Lewis County:

As a result of the recent tragic shootings and escalating violence across our nation, we again find ourselves deliberating on the highly volatile topics of gun control and Second Amendment rights which are further fueled by political agendas and high emotions.


Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield

As your sheriff, I have sworn to support the Constitution of the United States and to support the constitution and enforce the laws of the state of Washington. This is my mandate and I will not lose sight of that. I made my position clear on this topic when you, the people of Lewis County, elected me as your sheriff. I have not wavered from such position or the responsibility you bestowed upon me to carry out these duties. Regardless of the path the federal government chooses to pursue, I am first and foremost responsible and accountable to you.

Doing nothing to address the problem of violence and fear is not an option.

Rather, it will only ensure that the violence will continue. Likewise, doing nothing will only empower those who have no interest in protecting rights afforded by the Second Amendment. Unchallenged, they will continue to move forward to a point where it will be too late to undo the damage of ill-conceived and misapplied legislative actions.

I fully support the ability of law abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms. However, every right begets responsibility. That being said, I do feel it is not only important, but imperative that we all be involved in ending this senseless violence that cannot continue to go unchecked.

So yes, I do believe action needs to occur, but not in a knee-jerk fashion. Rather, our actions must be deliberate and any new legislation must be crafted with scrutiny to guard against infringement upon our constitutional rights.

We must be active participants in the process to find answers that address the causes of our social problems, not just the symptoms. We must focus on the areas that make sense and that can have an impact on the root problem. I consider the root problem to be not guns themselves, but guns in the hands of the wrong people.

It is to this end I am continuing to focus efforts to:

• Close background check loopholes that will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

• Aggressively work with our prosecutor to vigorously prosecute those who commit crimes with guns and have been restricted from gun ownership due to their criminal past.

• Work with our schools, businesses and citizens in facilitating successful “all hazard” planning and preparation efforts for critical incidents.

• Educate the public on issues of deadly force and safely carrying a firearm.

• Work with our legislature to ensure the rights of law abiding citizens are not compromised by knee-jerk legislation and politics.

To restate: I will faithfully support the ability of law abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights. I ask you to stay informed and engaged with the issues.

Also, I ask you to be able and willing to make your position known to our state and federal legislators. You can be assured I will uphold my oath of office, continue to do my best in meeting our mission, and protect our constitutional rights.

Steve Mansfield, Sheriff of Lewis County


Others sharing their views in recent days include Yakima County Sheriff Ken Irwin who told a gathering on Friday, according to the Yakima-Herald Republic, he favored “improved background checks, including at gun shows, and better access to mental health care, but not reinstatement of a law that expired in 2004 that banned certain semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines”;

And former Thurston County Sheriff Dan Kimball who wrote a piece yesterday in The Olympian in which he says he does not support the claim the Second Amendment allows citizens to possess assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, and, he says, “Furthermore, no one should be able to purchase any firearm without submitting to a thorough background check, no matter where or how they purchase that weapon.”

Guest column: Gratitude overflows in time of sorrow

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

By Michelle Matchett
Boistfort Valley resident

Hello. My name is Michelle Matchett.

My son Nicholas Matchett drowned in the Chehalis River on May 4th.

I want to thank everyone for helping us during this time of great loss and being here for my daughter Alex and myself.


Michelle Matchett

Thank you for the cards, flowers, letters and donations to help with expenses.

Thank you all for being there to hold me up.

Thank you to the Boistfort school staff and students for the letters and memories they shared to me and the celebration of his life they held for us.

Thank you Pastor Rex and Gayle from the Boistfort Community Church for reaching out to us.

Thank you to Jerred and Melissa Hunt for the most heartfelt beautiful service for Nicholas.

Thank you to Lewis County Search and Rescue, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Ronnie at CPS and all the medical personnel who tried to revive Nicky when they found him.

Thank you Joy, Faye and Tammy for going to the funeral home and helping me plan the services; I would have been completely lost.

Thank you to my entire Home Depot family, store manager James, Desi, Bob, Jim, Ron, Jerry, Emily, Zach, David, Barb, Melissa, Joy, Faye, Duane, Renae … thank you all.

Thank you to my neighbors Starla and Bruce, Cathy and Terry.

Thank you to Jeff at Cattermole Funeral Home for his knowledge and care he gave to helping with the funeral arrangements for Nicky.

Thank you to Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod and his staff for the priceless gift of the last footprints of Nicky on paper; framed with loving care hand delivered to me. Thank you for treating him as a person, thank you for telling me you would never forget him.

I cried the entire time writing this, there is no way that I can mention everyone that has touch us and helped us. It hurts so much losing my father and son in one month and words are hard to come up with.

Thank you all and God bless you and your families.


2012.0507nicholasmatchett.2011-07-13 09.38.48_2 Copying_2

Nicholas Matchett, 2004 - 2012


For background, read:

• “Breaking news: Child drowns in Chehalis River” from Friday May 4, 2012 at 7:38 p.m., here

• “Celebration of life set for 8-year-old Boistfort student who drowned” from Monday May 7, 2012 at 8:09 p.m., here

Notes from behind the news: Want to advertise?

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens

Greetings readers.

I have a really fun story to tell.

However, what follows is an advertisement, not a news story. (Check back in a few minutes to read a mystery about a lawyer and ring)

Want to advertise? Want to reach thousands?

Affordably promote your business, your organization or other enterprise in greater Lewis County.

Advertise on Lewis County Sirens, a popular local news web site with more than 20,000 readers.

That’s huge. It’s a little more than one year old, but that’s twice as many readers as the local daily newspaper has subscribers.

Award-winning Chehalis-based journalist Sharyn Decker writes the news stories folks can read for free at

Lewis County is an independent news provider, focusing on crime, cops, courts, fire and public safety; the topics most everyone wants to keep up with.

Ad pricing is comparatively low,

Our emphasis on publishing the reliable, balanced, fresh and timely news stories readers yearn for has made us the hottest new web site in greater Lewis County.

It’s a well-respected news source that inspires some of the most lively and robust online dialogue among its readers you will find anywhere locally.

Square-ish banner advertisement: (180 x 150 pixels) – $150 month
Shows on the sidebar of the home page and inside pages and may rotate with one other ad.

• Your ad can link to your website if you have a web site.

• Ad design services: no charge for first time advertising. Nominal fee for changes or new design.

• Acceptable formats are .jpg, .gif and .png (.jpg is preferable)

• Ads will be posted after payment received.

Lewis County Sirens tallied more than 200,000 page views in December 2011, (not including traffic generated by robots and other non-humans).

Each ad shows on every page on the site, not just the home page or just an inside page. Readers are people interested in the greater Lewis County area who want to keep current with what’s going on in their community. With a population of more than 70,000 individuals in Lewis County, and only two local news web sites – one of which is closed to non-paying readers – the number of visitors just keeps growing.

Contact: Sharyn Decker


• (360) 748-4981 or (206) 546-3638