Thursday, November 15, 2018

Motorcycle Club assists with Camp Fire Evacuees

Chico, California (November 15, 2018) — The East Avenue Church in Chico on Tuesday was sheltering a few hundred people who lost their homes in the deadly Camp Fire, even though the church isn't on the official shelter list.

But it's played the role many times before, said Robert Warf, a Sunday school teacher who was directing traffic into the surrounding fields.

Members of the Hellbent Motorcycle Club 823 Chapter were handling security for a Camp Fire shelter at the East Avenue Church in Chico on Nov. 13. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

"I think we're extremely organized," Warf said. "We've been doing this every time there's a need."

The need has been overwhelming since last week, when the Camp Fire ravaged the nearby town of Paradise and displaced some 52,000 people.

Volunteers had separated donated clothing, bottled water, toiletries and other essentials in different areas around the church yard.

Warf said they had to start turning down clothing donations — the church received much more than was needed. He had a list of other donations that would be helpful: Visa gift cards of at least $28 so people can set up post office boxes to receive mail, tents in good condition and new sleeping bags.

"We need new shoes," he added. "These people don't have anything, and some of them were running down that hill and don't have shoes. ... They don't have to be fancy shoes."

People wearing medical scrubs and stethoscopes moved among the crowd, and food was available in a large hall inside the building.

A burned bus sits along Skyway Road in Paradise on Nov. 13. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

Members of the 823 chapter of the Hellbent Motorcycle Club were also walking the grounds.

Chapter president Matt Straus said the club showed up Sunday with a bunch of personal hygiene kits to donate.

"I thought that there was only about 50 people here or so, and we made 100 of them," he said. "As soon as we showed up, we noticed that there was a need for a lot more. We barely even put a dent in anything."

He said about a dozen bikers from his club and others have been at the church ever since, handling security.

"We're patrolling all of this area, making sure nobody is breaking into any cars because everybody knows that they've got their stuff in their cars," he said. "That's the last thing anybody needs — to be victimized more than they have already been."

Al Lopez and Penny Spaletta have been staying in a tent behind the church since Thursday, when they fled the fire that would destroy their Paradise home. They'd both noticed fire on a neighboring property early Thursday morning. Lopez said he grabbed a fire extinguisher and tried to put out some smoldering grass in the field across the street.

Al Lopez and Penny Spaletta fled the Camp Fire and took shelter at the East Avenue Church in Chico. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

"A gust of wind picked up and it went about 50 feet up a pine tree," Lopez said. "I mean the flames just attached to that pine tree and it was ablaze in seconds."

His wife, Spaletta, had been trying to douse their own property with a garden hose. Both decided it was time to leave.

But they made a stop, to pick up Spaletta's mother. By the time they were headed down the hill toward Chico, traffic was moving slower than the fire. "We're in this inferno on either side of us, and we can't go anywhere," Lopez said.

Spaletta said she could feel intense heat through the windows of her car. "I honestly didn't think we were going to make it out," she said.

They did make it to Chico by late Thursday afternoon, but had no idea where to turn next. Then a friend called and suggested they head over to the East Avenue Church.

"This church is wonderful," Spaletta said. "They're feeding us very well. They're giving us necessities to live day to day, and it's so wonderful." Lopez said he was able to confirm their home in Paradise was destroyed.

"The only thing standing is the brick for the foundation and the chimney," he said. The couple left three pet cats behind when they fled. Spaletta said she'd held out hope that they could have survived until she learned the house was gone.

"It goes in waves," she said. "I was hoping that three of our pets — that the house had stayed and they were inside. And when he came back and he told me the house was gone, I knew that they had been lost in the fire."

Spaletta and Lopez said they're not sure where they'll go next.

"We've never been through anything like this before," Lopez said. "All we can do is just put one foot in front of the other — you know, build a bond with these people that are going to go back up that mountain."

They said they found a new sense of community at the East Avenue Church. And when they can, both said they'd like to rebuild in Paradise.

"These people here, they're becoming our new family," Spaletta said.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Wapiti Wyoming has a new Biker Memorial

Wapiti, WY (November 5, 2018) — One man’s idea turned into a stirring memorial for hundreds of motorcyclists who have died in Wyoming. Ironically, the motorcycle memorial sits across the highway from a tragic accident that killed three bikers.

Downtown Cody sees plenty of visitors on their way to Yellowstone and Grand Teton every summer, including bikers who tour the Parks, and other scenic areas of Northwest Wyoming.

Unfortunately, some die here

In June, 2016, three German bikers were killed when a pickup truck driver veered into their lane and hit them head on.

The new Biker Memorial in Wapiti Wyoming

“This was a tragedy that still haunts people in the Cody area. These were visitors in the Cody area.” Said Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Cody Beers. Beers remarked too many bikers are dying on Wyoming highways.

“In the last 22 years, there’s been over 360 motorcycle fatalities in Wyoming. 17 last year in Wyoming, and so far 15 in 2018.” He explained.

Michel Degleau is a biker, and he’s lost biker friends on Wyoming Highways

He decided to build a memorial to motorcyclists who have died, and friends offered to let him use their land in Wapiti, directly across from the site of the 2016 triple fatality.

“It’s just pure coincidence that that is there, but that just adds to the nostalgia of the memorial.' Degleau remarked. "That just shows people we got a memorial, and we got three fatalities right across the street.”

Degleau held a fundraiser to buy the materials, and got some help from friends to build it. He put the final touch of a flag two weeks ago. Even while he was building the memorial, Cody businessman Joe Boydston died in a motorcycle accident north of Cody. Deglau turns on flashing lights at the memorial when a biker dies. He heard about Boydston’s and another biker’s death at the same time.

“So, I had the lights flashing for Joe and the other guy. And I put pictures on the Facebook page. I was out here working and I looked up and there was a double rainbow.” He said.

Beers said the memorial may help remind drivers to watch for bikers, and remind bikers to drive safely. WYDOT posted signs near the Memorial to encourage drivers to visit it.


Fifth biker dies in four days of Lone Star Rally

Galveston, Texas (November 4, 2018) -- Two people riding motorcycles without helmets died in separate crashes Friday in Galveston, bringing the death toll to at least four as 250,000 bikers assembled for the annual Lone Star Rally. Both the 54-year-old Rockwall woman and the 65-year-old League City man died after sustaining serious head injuries, Galveston police said.

Photo: Leslie Plaza Johnson, Contributor

Another motorcyclist died late Saturday while speeding in the 4000 block of Texas 3 just before midnight when he lost control and crashed, Texas City police said Sunday. Police could not confirm if he was tied to Galveston's Lone Star Rally. Two other motorcyclists were killed Thursday in Hardin County en route to Galveston, according to the Department of Public Safety. James Horton, 34, and Casey Horton, 35, of Lewisville, were riding a motorcycle behind a Dodge pickup on S.H. 326 in Hardin County when the truck turned into the shoulder, intending to make a U-turn.

While turning, the truck hit their bike, according to DPS. The Hortons, both of whom were wearing helmets, died at the scene, DPS said. According to a Facebook post, James Horton was a mechanic at the Lumberjack Harley-Davidson shop in Nacogdoches. The truck's driver and passenger were not injured, DPS said.

Photo: Leslie Plaza Johnson, Contributor

The rally has seen a series of fatal crashes in recent years. In 2011, three motorcyclists were killed in separate crashes. In 2015, a man was killed when his motorcycle collided with a semitruck. And in 2016, a motorcyclist struck and killed two Katy residents as they walked along the Galveston Seawall. The Friday crash involving the Rockwall woman happened shortly after 6 p.m., when several motorcyclists approached East Beach Drive while heading east along Seawall Boulevard.

 As the man driving the lead motorcycle began braking to make the sharp turn onto East Beach Drive, which leads to Apffel Park at the island's east end, a trailing motorcyclist failed to notice the slowdown and struck the lead motorcycle. The striking motorcycle overturned, dealing "serious head trauma" to the Rockwall woman who was riding as a passenger, officials said. She died shortly after being transported to a nearby hospital with the male driver, who was treated for minor injuries.

Photo: Leslie Plaza Johnson, Contributor

Officials did not suspect alcohol played a role in the crash, officials said, and no charges were filed over the incident. Less than three hours later, a man heading for the Galveston Causeway lost control of his motorcycle as he crested the 61st Street overpass. Witnesses told police the man was traveling "at a high rate of speed" as he left the nearby intersection of 59th Street and Broadway Avenue J. He died shortly after being taken to a nearby hospital.

Photo: Leslie Plaza Johnson, Contributor

The DPS issued a news release Saturday urging drivers to "use extra caution around the estimated 250,000 motorcycles" expected at the Lone Star Rally. The festival ends Sunday. "As we roll into the weekend (police) only expects an increase of visitors and vehicles to the island," said Joshua Schirard, in a release from the Galveston Police Department. "As such, we would like to stress the importance of wearing proper protective equipment when you ride a motorcycle, including a helmet." The Texas Department of Public Safety issued a news release Saturday urging drivers to "use extra caution around the estimated 250,000 motorcycles" expected at the Lone Star Rally.

The festival ends Sunday. "As we roll into the weekend (police) only expects an increase of visitors and vehicles to the island,"said Joshua Schirard, in release from the Galveston PD. "As such, we would like to stress the importance of wearing proper protective equipment when you ride a motorcycle, including a helmet."

News Source: My Plainview