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YEAR IN REVIEW: Fires burn wild in western foothills
Wildfires scorched the western foothills of Colusa County during the summer of 2012, but no homes were lost and no serious injuries were reported.
The fires burned 59,380 acres, including parts of Lake and Yolo counties. All but the Sixteen Complex Fire was classified as suspicious.
The largest acreage burned in the Mill Fire, which started July 7 near Mill Valley Campground in the Mendocino National Forest and consumed 29,502 acres.
One day later, the Sites Complex Fire ignited, which claimed about 4,000 acres on either side of Sites-Lodoga Road. It was actually five fires managed under a single incident command.
The Sheriff's Department radio tower was threatened, but fire crews stopped the flames just feet from the facility.
The Mill Fire forced evacuations in Fouts Springs, Bonnie View and Board Camp Springs, as well as campgrounds within the Upper Letts Lake area. Dozens of other residents left their homes as part of precautionary evacuations, and reports had the fire within yards of some homes.
Two buildings from the old New Tribes Mission site burned down, the last remnants of that community, which lost 49 missionaries in the Rattlesnake Fire. One federal forest firefighter also died in the blaze, which started July 9, 1953, nearly to the day 59 years earlier.
The Walker Ridge and Wye fires started Aug. 12 as separate incidents about 15 miles apart along Highway 20 near the Lake-Colusa county line. It would later be managed under just the Wye Fire name.
The Walker Ridge Fire spread northeast and came within yards of the Wilbur Spring Resort area in Colusa County.
The Wye Fire did much more damage. Two homes and an outbuilding were lost, two other houses were damaged, all in the Spring Valley area of Lake County.
Then on Sept. 4, the Sixteen Complex Fire, which started near Rumsey in Yolo County, quickly burned into Colusa County and threatened 30 homes in the Cortina Rancheria area, southwest of Williams. In total, 17,944 acres were torched.
Other headlines in 2012:
• Pierce Joint Unified School District said goodbye to Pat Hamilton, who had worked at the district for 41 years, the last seven as superintendent. Ernest Sopp was hired in her place, while Colusa Unified hired Dwayne Newman to replace the retiring Larry Yeghoian as its top administrator. Colusa High named Darren Brown as principal and Nicholas Richter took over the helm at Williams High.
• The Colusa County gross value for agriculture (2011) was reported at $647,025,000, the second highest in county history despite the top two crops — rice and almonds — reporting declines.
• Ross Stark, a 33-year member of the Colusa Police Department, was promoted to full-time chief after serving nearly two years as the acting chief.
• Mickie Wilson of Colusa was selected Miss Colusa County and Melissa Ramirez was named Mini Miss, while the Jr. Livestock Auction set a record for the fourth straight year with $757,298 in sales at the Colusa County Fair.
• Colusa County adopted a general plan that for the first time included agriculture and economic development elements, as well as a new parks and recreation designation.
• Williams adopted a general plan and zoning ordinance that emphasized the character of the town. The city also moved forward on its plan to get direct access from Highway 20 into the Vann business park, an effort city officials believe will determine the financial health of the city's future.
• Colusa County District Attorney John Poyner pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge in March, after his January arrest that raised some concerns because the CHP chose not to book him into the county jail, which kept him from being part of the public record.
• US Bank in Colusa was robbed in August for the second time in 18 months, and again, the suspect in the case had ties to a bank robbery in Tehama County in the same month.
• Christmas Tyme in Colusa moved back to Market Street and was declared a resounding success.
• Bob Dutil of Williams received the Legion of Honor from France, 67 years after his part in taking Obersalzberg on May 4, 1945. Obersalzberg was Adolf Hitler's mountain retreat near Berchtesgaden in Bavaria.
• Arbuckle native Snooks Bouska took over as mayor of Marion, Iowa, and 1964 Colusa High graduate Lani Yoshimura was named Woman of the Year by the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce.