Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween and Megan's Law

More Than Little Ghosts and Goblins Out There This Halloween

With Halloween quickly approaching, parents are barraged with many great tips on how to keep their children safe on a night where our neighborhoods are besieged with witches and goblins begging for tricks or treats.  From having adequate lighting to fireproof costumes, everyone from community groups to cops and firefighters are staging campaigns to keep our children safe on our streets and in our neighborhoods.  However, spooks and skeletons are not the only thing scary lurking in your neighborhoods. Rarely discussed in households during this time old tradition is the fact sexual predators do not take Halloween off.  They are still out there living in your neighborhoods and working in your communities, and according to the law, they have every right to be there, but that doesn’t mean you do not have the right to know where they reside, hence Megan’s Law.

Megan’s Law

Megan Kanka

Megan’s Law, a package of seven bills sponsored by Paul Kramer-(R) of New Jersey, passed one month after seven-year old Megan Kanka was murdered by a registered sex offender who was living across the street from the Kanka’s home with four other sex offenders.  I believe Megan’s Law will go down as one of the most important pieces of legislature ever passed for the good and welfare of the public in our countries history. 



A Word of Warning

The information I’m about to share with you is public record.  The material is available to anyone who wishes to access it.  However, citizens have gotten into trouble with the law not because they accessed the information, but because of what they did with the information once they had it.  Keep in mind that it is a crime to use the information disclosed on these sites to commit a misdemeanor or a felony.  It may also be a crime to share this information with anyone other than the person at risk, meaning your child.  However, you may pass on the information here or the website addresses to anyone you wish, so long as those individuals obtain the information for themselves.  Just remember that the information is there for your safety and the safety of your family, so as long as you keep in house, you are within the law. 

Section 290 P.C.

This section requires certain sex offenders to register with local law enforcement responsible for the jurisdiction in which they reside within 5 working days of their birthday, and within 5 working days of a change of address.  For more details, see Section 290 of the California Penal Code.

Megan’s Law and the California State Attorney General’s Office will provide you with information on over 60,000 registered sex offenders in the State of California; home addresses of more than 33,500 offenders are available as well on the site.

San Jose Police Department’s Megan’s Law Unit will provide you with information on registered sex offenders in your neighborhood.  Click on the “Search For Registered Sex Offenders In Your Neighborhood” button and then follow the directions.

You may also reach the unit at (408) 277-4290  (As of this posting, I cannot confirm if the unit is still activated given the budget situation in San Jose but the website is still functioning) 

We at Crosshair Fire Investigations and Safety Consultants wish you and your family a safe and fun Halloween.  Please be responsible for the information and use it as it was intended by the spirit of the law. 

Posted by:
Crosshair Fire Investigations and Safety Consultants
Clayton, Ca.
(925) 693-0161
Ca. PI. Lic.#27409

"Keeping you safe and informed"

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why The Postings Came Down

Recently, I posted two articles in response to a recent story in the San Jose Mercury News regarding female firefighters in San Jose Fire Department.  I was asked by an "anonymous" reader why I took them down.  The reader suggested that if I did so because of political pressure, then my blog would no longer be creditable and he/she would be right.  The truth is however, as soon as I posted those two articles, I received a nasty little virus on my computer and had to run two different scans to get rid of it. 

Now before anyone starts thinking that somehow someone involved in the article may have had something to do with this, hold on because that is most likely untrue.  First, I never received any pressure from anyone to rescind the articles, and secondly, since I have started blogging, I seem to be the target of these things more and more which is why I try and maintain high security on the computer, but as some of you may know, it often times can be a uphill battle.

Fortunately I back up my files on a regular basis and when I have time if anyone really cares anyway, I will repost them on a new post.   In any case, rest assured to the retirees who do read this, I won't hesitate to write what is on my mind and try to keep those (especially those who don't live in the area)informed about what is going on around here.    All I can leave you with at this point is I hope everyone is healthy and living the good life and if you happen to live anywhere but California, consider yourself lucky at the moment. 

Posted by:

Paul Sprague
Class of 83'

Is San Jose the Next Vallejo?

A Moment of Clarity

I have been monitoring the debates taking place on the local blogs and online newspaper articles and have come to the conclusion that our great city is on the verge of bankruptcy and not just financially but morally as well.  Writing that just gave me pause accompanied with extreme sadness.  I would have never though in a million years I would ever say that about my city.  For those of us that have lived in the Bay Area most of our lives, that very thought must surely shake you to your very core, does it not?

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

When you consider the state of the economy, the continued collapse of housing prices in the Bay Area, persistent unemployment, skyrocketing pension and health care costs, and a fiscal emergency being declared by the Mayor of San Jose, and suddenly you find yourself on an express train towards bankruptcy; couple that with an ever growing desire for class warfare and you no longer have a community working and living together for a better society and way of life. 

From Prune and Cherry Orchards to Pensions and Benefits
Santa Clara Valley, Circa 1950

Like it was yesterday, I remember walking to school though the cherry orchards on my way to John Muir, reaching over my grandma’s back fence to pick prunes, watching a matinee at the Garden City, or going with my Dad to the San Jose State v. Fresno State game.  Now those memories seem to be shadowed by the veil of bickering over pension plans and health benefits.  The “have” and the “have not’s” seem to have drawn lines in the sand and it appears that the battle is going to be very bloody. 

Too Depressing to Recommend

I first started to write the above on September 19 of this year in response to a Vanity Fair article I read titled “California and Bust” written by “Moneyball” fame Michael Lewis.  However, the seven page article addressing the current financial turmoil in the State of California and in particular, San Jose, was so disturbing that I decided then wasn’t the time and quite frankly, I just wanted to ignore it.  However, I noticed the article was mentioned again in the San Jose Mercury News and so I decided to read over it one more time and I can attest, it is just as scary now as it was then. 

Michael Lewis is a great writer and the interviews with former California Governor Arnold Swartzenegger, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, and Vallejo Fire Chief Paige Meyer will make your hair stand on end.  I highly recommend that every citizen in the Bay Area and the nation read and discuss this very bleak outlook into the future of what was once the seventh largest economy in the world.  

Posted by:

Crosshair Fire Investigations and Safety Consultants
Clayton, Ca. 
(925) 693-0161

"Keeping you safe and informed" 

Smoking and the Elderly

Antioch, California:

A 73 year old man is in critical condition after being rescued from his burning apartment by Contra Costa County firefighters early this morning.  The fire, reported at 12:37 a.m., was located in an apartment complex in the 200 block of Robert Street in the City of Antioch.  Fire Investigators state the unidentified elderly man discarded a cigarette in a paper waste basket next to the chair he fell asleep in.  The victim has been taken to a local burn unit with life-threatening injuries.

This is a reminder to talk with your elderly parents, relatives or other loved ones about the hazards of smoking, particularly inside the home or while in bed.  If they are ambulatory, try to encourage them to smoke outside and discard the smoking materials in a metal container.  If that is not possible, provide them with metal trash cans with self-closing metal lids inside the home.  

Posted by:
Crosshair Fire Investigations and Safety Consultants
Clayton, Ca.
(925) 693-0161

"Keeping you and your family safe and informed"

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy Oakland, A Hazardous Materials Incident?

Should the tent cities of the "Occupy Wallstreet" movement be declared hazardous materials incidents?  Like many Americans, I have been watching and reading about the "Occupy ___?" movement that has been taking place in cities all over America.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, we have numerous demonstrations taking place daily with reports of demonstrators defecating on police cars and urinating on public property.  In the encampments that were set up in our local cities like Oakland and San Francisco by participants of the movement, were found to have contained hypodermic needles, containers of urine and feces, and soiled baby diapers.  Boxes of uneaten pizza and other rotting food have become a feast for the local rodent population that most of us know carry a variety of diseases that would keep the average American up at night.  Physical confrontations often result in blood borne pathogens being distributed between police and demonstrators with little more than face shields and leather gloves to protect the cops.

Oakland police officers were recently ordered to remove tents with filthy,dirty bedding that no doubt contained bodily fluids of it's tenants.  While the siege of the commune took place, I sat and watched as cops dragged tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, etc., from the encampment with no special proper protection equipment that I could see of other than their normal riot gear.  What about the post decontamination efforts that our officers received after they walked through an area that the City of Oakland felt compelled to decontaminate and fence off after the crowd was controlled ?  My guess is very little if any proper procedures were ever followed through concerning decontamination.

I've encountered conditions like these many times as a first responder.  In San Jose many of these encampments exist, particularly under overpasses, bridges, and along the river banks of the Guadalupe River that runs through the downtown.  Often we would respond to 911 calls of overdoses, assault victims, and even dead bodies within these small tent cities.  The conditions that our police officers currently face in the "Occupy" movement are no different and is a subject that has concerned me for many years in regards to occupational safety and riot or crowd control. 

Taken from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's website at is the national safety and health standards that have been implemented by OSHA in coalition with states such as California to protect first responders such as the Oakland officers charged with dismantling the encampments of "Occupy Wallstreet".  The most prominent of those standards is the 'Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standards of 29 CFR 1910.120(q). 

Scope of 29 CFR 1910.120

There are exceptions to 29 CFR that relieve the employer from some responsibility to completely protect the employee under certain emergency conditions i.e., a combative suspect or accident scene.  However, in situations such as crowd control or sweeps of these encampments, I don't believe those exceptions apply.

Definition of Emergency Responses or Responses to Emergencies:

"A response effort by employees from outside the immediate release area or by other designated responders (i.e., mutual aid groups, local fire departments, etc.) to an occurrence which results, or is likely to result, in an uncontrolled release of a hazardous substances.  Responses to incidental releases of hazardous substances where the substance can be absorbed, neutralized, or otherwise controlled at the time of the release by employees in the immediate release area, or by maintenance personnel are not considered to be emergency responses within the scope of this standard."


I see no reason to expose our first responders to the substances that I described above once the protesters are cleared from the area of the encampment.  I believe that at the time of clean-up, HazWoper qualified personnel should be cleaning up these sites, not unprotected police officers.  Additionally, considering what occurred in Oakland two nights ago leads me to believe that our officers should not be sent into these demonstrations at all as long as they are peaceful.  I realize that there are cries from the citizenry and businesses in the city of rodent infestation and lost revenue, but many times these things place the cops in a "Catch 22" situation were they cannot possibly win and often times get injured and exposed to diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV blood borne pathogens.  If the Mayor of Oakland would have allowed the police to enforce the policy of no camping at city hall from the very first tent pitched, situations like those where an Iraq war veteran was seriously injured could have been avoided altogether.  Two officers instead of 200?  That is what it would have taken to stop the first protester from setting up shop.
Oakland Mayor

As I was finishing up on this article, Mayor Quan did apologize for the carnage of Tuesday night and ultimately said she took responsibility for what had taken place. 

Posted by:
Crosshair Fire Investigations and Safety Consultants
Clayton, Ca.
(925) 693-0161
Ca. PI Lic# 27409

"Dedicated to keeping you safe and informed"

How Steve Jobs Drove Without License Plates

Apparently, it was common knowledge amongst Steve Jobs enthusiasts that for years he drove without ever having license plates for his car.  Instead, what you did find was a very small bar code in place of where the rear plate would normally go.  Mr. Jobs felt that by not having a license plate, it afforded him some extra privacy, but in fact, the practice became somewhat of a trademark for his vehicles.  This of course led to rumors of Job's holding special privileges with the State of California when he continued the practice anyway.

So how did he do it?  By taking advantage of a provision in the law that allows automobile owners in the State of California up to six months grace period before retaining plates on their vehicle and so Mr. Jobs made sure that his leased Mercedes where traded in every six months.

Posted by:
Crosshair Fire Investigations and Safety Consultants
Clayton, Ca.
(925) 693-0161
Ca. PI Lic#27409

"Dedicated to keeping you safe and informed"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

10 Most Stolen Vehicles for 2010

The National Insurance Crime Bureau released it's "Hot Wheels" list of the 10 most stolen vehicles in the United States:

  1. 1994 Honda Accord
  2. 1995 Honda Civic
  3. 1991 Toyota Camry
  4. 1999 Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size)
  5. 1997 Ford F150 Series/Pickup
  6. 2004 Dodge Ram
  7. 2000 Dodge Caravan
  8. 1994 Acura Integra
  9. 2002 Ford Explorer
  10. 1999 Ford Taurus
For the first time in 8 years car thieves preferred domestic makes over foreign models.  It would appear Dodge and Ford are starting to make gains on the foreign market, but as you noticed above, still nobody wants a Chevrolet, even the crooks.
1994 Honda Accord

The good news is according to 2010 FBI statistics, there was a 7% decline in car thefts from 2009, the lowest number since 1967.  Continued advancement in theft warning and deterrent devices appears to be the main reason for decline.  As an example, in 2010 approximately 52,000 Honda Accords were stolen;  44,000 of those were made in the 90's versus only 5,700 stolen that were produced since 2000.

While the news on auto theft is encouraging, having your vehicle stolen can be financially difficult and time consuming.  In order to prevent being the next victim, I recommend taking the NICB's "Layer Approach to Auto Theft Prevention":

  • Lock your car and take the keys with you.  Don't slide them under the seat or on the visor which is where a car thief will look first.
  • Adequate warning devices, both visual and audible are highly recommended if your vehicle is not already equipped with one.  The use of a steering wheel locking device is the visual part that will usually make the thief move on to a better target.
  • Have a "kill switch", fuel cut-off, or smart key that keeps the vehicle from being started.
  • Install a tracking device which uses GPS to track the location of your vehicle if it is stolen and may even warn you as soon as the vehicle moves.
I recommend that you also do the following:

  • Keep your insurance card in your wallet or purse with your vehicle license plate number on it.  How many of you can tell me your license plate number right now if your vehicle was stolen?
  • Never leave your car running, particularly in your driveway or the quick mart. 
  • Do not leave cell phones, DVD cases, or any thing else of value on the car seats; lock them in the trunk.  This invites thieves to break into your vehicle who just may decide to take it for a little spin too.
  • Do not become a victim of a carjacking by making sure your doors are locked whenever you are inside your vehicle.
As I always tell folks, make a choice not to become a victim by being aware of your surroundings at all times.  May you and your family stay safe.

Crosshair Fire Investigations and Safety Consultants
Clayton, California
Ca. PI Lic. #27409
"Keeping the Bay Area Safe and Informed"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Product Recalls From The Consumer Product Safety Commission

Cloud Engines Recalls Pogoplug Video File Sharing Device

Approximately 10,000 Pogoplug Video file sharing devices have been recalled in the U.S. and Canada by Cloud Engines, Inc. of San Francisco, Ca.  after investigators found the device could overheat and catch fire.  The company has received three reports of their units overheating.  One of the devices caught fire, one produced smoke, and the third melted.

The device in question is decribed as a black desktop electronics box, 2.5" inches wide, 7" inches deep, and 5.5" inches high.  The Pogoplug is used to stream and share videos, photos, music and provide remote access to files stored on drives attached to the device.

The Pogoplug was sold at Adorama, B&H, Best Buy,, J&R,, New Egg, and Sony Style from March 2011 through June 2011.  The unit sold for approximately $200.00.

Recommendation: Immediately stop using the device, unplug it, and then contact Cloud Engines, Inc. to receive a refund or replacement.  You can the companies consumer department at (866) 582-6651 between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.  You can also reach them on their website at

Target Recalls Children's Task Lamps Due to Laceration and Fire Hazards

Target recalled approximately 13,000 Circo Children's Task Lamps because they could overheat, causing a glue inside the socket of the lamp to melt into the socket area and stick to the bulb.  When the consumer attempts to remove the bulb, it could break and cause a laceration.  The glue has also been determined to be flammable and may pose a fire hazard.

The Lamps in question come in four styles: Striped, Sports, Dot or Flower Dot and have a label with the UPC number on the bottom.

  • Striped: Navy-colored head with sky blue and white stripes with a blue base.  UPC #490970221923
  • Sports: White head with baseball stitch pattern and blue base. UPC # 490970222685
  • Dot:  White head wth multicolored dots and lavender base.  UPC#490970224047
  • Flower Dot:  Pink head with pattern of white flowers and leaves with a pink base.  UPC #490970221947.

These lamps were sold exclusively at Target stores and at in 2011 for approximately $13.00 each.  You can take the lamp back to target for a full refund or contact Target Guest Relations at (800) 440-0680.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gangs- A Look Back at 20 Years Ago

I have been collecting newspapers of all the major disasters in California and the U.S since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  While looking in the paper of October 21, 1991 for a story about the Oakland Hills Fire Storm, I came across an article that I think most of you will find very interesting.  Here are quotes from an article written by Laura Kurtzman, a staff writer for the Mercury News in 1989, titled "Complaints about gang crime finally spur action".
Mayor Susan Hammer

"I think we are probably at a crossroads" declares San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer, who broke the official silence by mentioning gangs in her state of the city address last January.  Since then, largely in response to community complaints, Hammer has appointed a gang task force and committed $1 million for new anti-drug and anti-gang programs.  We're either going to get a handle on this or we're going to get a real crisis".

"And with the city, county and school budgets all absorbing cutbacks, there is little money to do more."  Staff writer.

"School officials, watching younger and younger children get involved, call for more recreation and after-school activities.  Community leaders talk about a lack of jobs."

"Some of the growth in local gang activity may even be the result of imprisonment; gang members in jail learn new ways of organizing from more sophisticated inmates."  Staff writer.

"Unlike authorities in other counties, who freely give out gang names and information, San Jose police rarely identify gang crimes.  They don't even use the word "gang" to describe their own gang unit.  Instead, it is called "Violent Crimes Team".  Staff writer.

"The less talk about specific gang activity the better, said Lt. Craig Buckhout, who supervises the gang unit. By putting that stuff in the paper, you just pump them up."  (This is in response to then Chief McNamara and the city council's complaint about the paper continuing their series on gangs in San Jose). 
Chief Joseph McNamara

"If we admit we have a gang problem, who would want to come to live in our community?"  Unidentified San Jose officer.

"Faced with growing violence, schools so far have concentrated on trying to keep campuses neutral by banning gang colors."  School Superintendent.

"Some school officials try to negotiate truces between rival groups if tensions rise." School Official.

"Franklin-McKinley School District hopes to start an anti-gang program in January to persuade elementary school children not to join gangs."  School District Official.

"Rehabilitation does not occur" Ron Deloach, San Jose P.D.

"Most law enforcement and community workers agree Santa Clara County is ripe for a far more serious gang problem, particularly if economic conditions worsen."  Editor.

"More and more street gangs are selling drugs and becoming better armed."  Police official.

"Whether or not gangs in San Jose become as influential as L.A., that's all a matter of time"  Ron Deloach, SJPD

I wonder if Officer Deloach knew just how prophetic that statement would become. 


It Doesn't Matter

When I started this blog, it was my intention to address issues concerning public safety.  I wanted to educate the public on a topic that I know a lot about, fire;  And it was my hope to shed light on the dedicated officers that keep our streets safe day and night and give them due for the heroes they are.  Instead I found myself defending the two departments I worked for and believed in (San Jose P.D. and Fire) from the seemingly never ending attacks from the very citizens it has sworn to protect.  I still to this day find myself in disbelieve over this development.  What used to be trust and respect has turned into this vile us versus them confrontation that seems to get nastier as we get, what I believe, closer to the "end of days".  Never in the 50 years that I have lived in the Bay Area have I seen class warfare such as this.  Sure, there have always been the wanna-be's and the jealous about our profession, but those guys everybody shrugged off as such.  But now there seems to be more of them than not these days.  How did all this come about?  How did the heroes of 911 turn into the the greedy pension hungry no good thieves that we have been portrayed today by the news media, our politicians, and sadly to say, many of our citizens. 

I have thought about these questions almost continuously over the last five years but I have only been able to come to one conclusion, it doesn't matter.  I did my duty, I fulfilled my service to God and his people, period.  If they come after my pension, I will endure.  If  there are those that want to spit on me, it wouldn't be the first time.  I spent most of my adult life taking care of other people and sadly, watching them die.  I have seen countless injured and suffering and many others sick and mentally ill.  I have dealt with the blasters and the parents who just lost their two month old to SIDS.  Burned bodies and shooting victims are imprinted on my mind forever, but it doesn't matter.  I have seen my brother police officers and firefighters die in the line of duty and I have been to more funerals than I care to count.  I've pulled little children from the bottom of pools and out of the mangled wrecks of automobiles.  PTSD is often our middle initials and it is growing worse everyday as they "The Bravest" are ridiculed and accused, but it doesn't matter. Here is what matters:

The Fireman's Prayer

When duty calls me, oh Lord,
Wherever flames may rage,
Give me strength to save some life,
Whatever be the age.

Help me embrace a little child,
Before it is to late,
Or save an older person from,
The horror of that fate.

Enable me to be alert,
and oh Lord, guide my every move,
for life is so precious,
please don't let us lose.

I want to fill my calling and,
To give the best in me,
To guard my every neighbor,
And protect their property.

And if according to thy will,
That I must give my life,
Then with thy protecting hand my Lord,
I pray thee, protect my children and my wife.


"The Fireman's Prayer" by author "Unknown"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fire Watch

Child trapped in house fire

Alabama- An eight year old girl died of smoke inhalation after being trapped in their second floor bedroom.  The victim and her nine-year old sister had moved a table lamp on the floor next to their beds and had covered it with a blanket to dim the light.  The hot bulb from the light ignited the blanket and other bed furnishings and trapped the two juveniles in their bedroom.  The mother was able to rescue her nine-year old, but couldn't get to her younger daughter.

I had seen this same event several times during my career.  Fortunately no one was killed, but children do this often, especially those studious ones who want to read after lights out.  Now that this is Fire Prevention Week, make a point to talk with your children about the dangers of this and other actions that could start a fire like playing with matches or lighters.  And of course, impress on them that if there is a fire, alert everyone in the house and get out immediately even if it means you may get in trouble. 

Although it doesn't say in the safety alert I received, I suspect the reason this little girl didn't make it was because of a delay in reporting the fire.  More than likely the two sisters attempted to put out the fire first but became disoriented from the smoke and were unable to even get out of their bedroom.  The report did say the home had working smoke detectors and they did operate on the second floor which sould serve as a reminder that you must get out as soon as you hear the smoke alarm.  Remember, it is more often than not that smoke will kill you in a fire before the flames ever reach you. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The County of Plenty

County Supervisor Shirakawa:  “Johnny, tell our lucky parolees what they have just won by being released back to the County of Plenty.”

Johnny:  “Each parolee released back to the county will receive a place to live, job training, and if that weren’t enough George, free medication for all!  And now back to you George.”

Sounds like a game show doesn’t it?  But it is not citizens, it is reality and it is no game.  The County of Santa Clara, as reported in the San Jose Mercury News today by staff journalist Tracy Kaplan, has decided that this is the time for a new approach now that the Governor’s early prisoner release program is in full swing.  According to the article, the County of Santa Clara is sending out teams that sound more like welcome wagon hosts to interview the more than 1,000 prisoners that will be released back into the county as mandated by the Governor and the Courts.  Assumedly these teams will be assessing the needs of each individual being released with the possibility of providing everything from housing to job training to even medications if necessary. 

In addition to the new welcome home packages, the county plans on altering how these men even think.  “You have to change the way they think” touts Mr. Shirakawa who is apparently spearheading the effort to transform how the county plans on dealing with these newly arriving parolees.   One has to ask the question, however, of just how the County is going to do that?  Perhaps he will authorize waterboarding or shock treatments?  No, I have it, a CIA tested and approved mind altering drug will be the method of choice. 

Alright, perhaps it is none of that stuff, but the program sounds just as intriguing.  According to Probation Chief Sheila Mitchell, “the county will try alternatives such as cognitive behavioral counseling and residential treatment” and at the moment, she and other county officials are pinning their hopes on contracting with a State Licensed drug treatment program called the ‘Jericho Project’ to deliver some of the services as they put it “to certain individuals”.   The only thing I fear with the Jericho Project is that we will land up with a bunch of strung-out Mel Gibsons running around the county mumbling about conspiracy theories; as if we didn’t have enough nuts running around the countryside already. 

Ok, so how is the county planning on paying for all this?  By spending the 15.1 million dollars in State funds it has received, that’s how; and the County Supervisors has assured all of you that this program is not going to be any cake walk either.  Parolees will be supervised by armed county probation officers who will make sure these guys walk a straight line or fear being “rolled up” as the cons would say.  And although Todd Gillam, vice-president of the Parole Agent Association of California gives the program high marks, I’m guessing that if Ms.Kaplan was to walk across the street to the Sheriff’s Office, she would most likely get a differing opinion.  In fact, most if not all police departments and police chiefs in the state strongly oppose the release of these convicts back into our communities, especially during a time of lay-offs and cutbacks.  And speaking of cutbacks, I’m concerned that already short staffed probation offices all over the State of California (take the Jaycee Dugard case for instance) , will not be able to handle the overload and there will be many who will just fall through the cracks. 

And according to the article, just who are some of these guys that could fall through the cracks?  Take the inmate who was highlighted in the article, Ray Correa.  Mr. Correa has a long history of drug abuse and mental illness, not the least of which includes depression, bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia; or how about Edmundo Ruvalcaba, the 36 year old inmate that was doing time for beating his girlfriend who also has a long history of drug abuse and again, mental illness.  When speaking of his meth addiction, Mr. Rubalcaba says “It’s like that drug takes ahold of you and makes you do things you wouldn’t otherwise do.  You lose your mind, you lose everything…”

What are the chances this new approach will be any different than all the others that have been tried?  According to some of the inmates, they don’t give the new program much hope because of the “enormous amounts of hand-holding, tough love and luck they would have to give us.”  Tough love they say.  What are the authorities going to do when these men don’t go by the rules, take the door off their free room?  And if the statements of Mr. Correa and Mr. Rubalcaba are any indication, I don’t hold out much hope for them either.  Both have said they feel drug treatment and counseling is a waste of time and Mr. Correa even indicated that he may wean himself off his medications before he leaves prison because he won’t be able to afford them even though the county has offered to pay for them once he is out.

Look, all of this sounds wonderful and I truly hope that somehow this works.  I have a loved one myself that has dealt with drug addiction all his life and still struggles with it to this day.  I dealt with these folks both as a police officer and a firefighter for 31 years and it is very sad because many of these individuals have serious mental problems and drug abuse is really just a symptom.  However, there are many that are just criminals who will take this opportunity to further advance their careers by continuing to rob, steal, and abuse drugs.  These guys are  particularly the ones to worry about because when they get high, they become even more dangerous and the likely hood of someone getting killed or seriously hurt in the commission of one of their petty crimes goes up substantially.   And if some of you are thinking that most of these parolees with mental issues are pretty much harmless, I would remind the citizens of San Jose of the tragic day in our city’s history when officers Gene Simpson and Gordon Silva were gunned down by a mental ill man in the intersection of 5th and Santa Clara Streets. 

Monday, October 10, 2011


A family member enjoying a relaxing backyard moment in Madison, Alabama was severely burned after a ceramic fuel pot exploded, covering the victim with burning hot gel over 40% of their body. 

What happen:  The victim was using a decorative ceramic fuel pot when the flame died down after consuming the fuel.  When the victim poured more fuel into the hot bowl, the bowl exploded.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has logged to date this year 57 injuries and two deaths involving gel fuel products or containers.  In contrast, the CPSC only received 6 reports of injuries for all of 2010.  Although unsure at this point, the CPSC and the NFPA suspect that the rise in injuries and death may be due to a growing popularity with the item. 

The problem appears to be two-fold: 1) it can be very difficult to tell if the flame is still burning.  This could cause an unexpected flare-up and exposing your clothing or nearby combustibles to ignite.  2) pouring new gel into a hot fuel pot can cause the gel to splash or explode, consequently, sticking to the person's flesh and clothing.  Stop, drop and roll may not extinguish the flames or burning gel, therefore, causing further serious burns. 

What can you do to make your family safe?  Talk to your family about the warning and make sure they understand the hazards involved.  The NFPA recommends the following:

  • Have a dry chemical extinguisher or baking soda nearby in case of exploding gel.
  • Allow the pot to cool for a minimum of 45 minutes before refueling again.
  • Turn your face away from the pot when refueling.

Protect your Family from Fire!

In case you didn't know or just may have forgotten, October 9-15 is Fire Prevention Week and this year's theme is "Protect you Family from Fire!" 

I urge you and your family to sit down at the computer this week and log on to   There you will find many exciting things for the whole family like information on the leading cause of home fires, workbooks and lesson plans for children, and educational materials pointing out the new life saving technologies that can protect your family from the horrible rages of fire.  And don't forget, if you have elderly parents or loved ones, they will benefit from the NFPA's educational materials for our seniors; The elderly are particularly vulnerable to fire.