Boat explosions at Lake Havasu highlight crucial role of proper ventilation systems

PHOENIX — The occurrence of two boat explosions two days in a row at Lake Havasu is an important reminder of the crucial role of ventilation systems, which work to remove flammable gases. Properly installed ventilation systems greatly reduce the chance of a life-threatening explosion.

A properly functioning ventilation system circulates air through the engine and fuel tank compartments to remove fuel vapors from the bilge. A best practice to follow is to always open an inboard engine compartment and let it air out before starting an engine — this allows you to smell for gasoline fumes.

Before going out on the water, check your ventilation hoses in the engine compartment. In a passive system the fresh air enters higher in the compartment to force gasoline vapor out through the lower hose. In a powered ventilation system the blower should be on the exhaust hose so any gasoline vapors are drawn away from the engine rather than introducing fresh air to the engine compartment if the blower was on the intake side.

“When considering repairs on your boat remember that marine-rated parts like starters, alternators or generators are designed to limit spark exposure, that’s why they are more expensive than standard automotive parts,” said Tim Baumgarten, boating law administrator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Resist the urge to replace engine parts with automotive parts because they are cheaper.”

According to The Boater’s Guide of Arizona:

  • All gasoline-powered vessels constructed in a way that would entrap fumes must be properly and efficiently vented to remove the fumes. It is recommended that at least one intake duct extend from a point midway to the bilge or below the level of the carburetor air intake, and at least one exhaust duct extend from the open atmosphere to the lower bilge.
  • If your vessel is equipped with a power ventilation system, turn it on for at least four minutes in either of these situations: after fueling and/or before starting the engine.
  • If your vessel is not equipped with a power ventilation system (for example, a personal watercraft), open the engine compartment and sniff for gasoline fumes before starting the engine.
  • Regularly check the ventilation ducts for obstructions, such as birds’ nests. Make sure you can feel air coming out of the cowl when the ventilation system is turned on.

A great resource for information is the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Boating Safety Education program. The department’s free courses include instruction on the basic skills required to safely operate a boat or personal watercraft, trailering your vessel, navigational rules, buoys, anchoring, legal requirements and boating emergencies. Upcoming courses and information can be found online at www.azgfd.com/Education/Boating/.

OHV riders: Protect the habitat and stay safe, don’t go mudding

PHOENIX — It’s tempting to go out riding on off-highway vehicles (OHV) after a rainstorm — the ground is fresh, dust is down and it’s cooler out. But when rainstorms leave roads and trails wet and muddy, riding on them can create long-lasting damage that negatively impacts the habitat and the experience for other outdoor enthusiasts.

When you come upon wet and muddy roads, turn around. When the area is wet, riding can tear up the roads and trails making them impassible for others. In addition, OHVs can do serious damage to meadows, streams and other areas important to wildlife and Arizona’s water supply. Even a lighter-weight OHV with low-pressure tires can do lasting damage.

“A majority of people are staying on roads and being responsible, but riders who disregard the rules can cause a lot of damage to natural areas, some of which may never recover,” said Mark Terrill, OHV law enforcement specialist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “It also creates a bad experience for responsible riders and makes the whole OHV community look bad.”

While the practice of “mudding” — purposefully driving through wet areas, whether it’s a meadow, lakeshore or water tank for wildlife or ranchers’ animals — may be touted as fun on places like social media, it can cause long-lasting damage to the habitat and forest roads. OHV riders can be issued citations and be held liable to fix the damage caused. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair an area and an untold amount of time for a habitat to recover.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, mudding has many negative impacts:

Rips up native plants — when plants are gone soil washes into nearby streams and lakes, and it creates the opportunity for noxious weeds to move in.

Compacts soil — tire tracks create hard soil that keeps water from moving into the ground and they make it difficult for plants to grow.

Harms wildlife — when vehicles tear up meadows and wetlands, it removes nesting and hiding cover, interferes with feeding, and may push animals out into areas where they may not survive.

Smothers fish — many species of fish and amphibians use gravel to build nests and bury their eggs. Driving through streams destroys these gravel areas.

It’s also a safety issue for riders. OHVs handle differently on wet roads than they do on dry ground, so use caution and drive at slower speeds when roads and trails are wet.

If you see someone mudding, call 1-800-VANDALS. It’s helpful if you can get a license plate number and description of both the OHV and the operator as well as a location of the activity so law enforcement personnel can follow up on the information.

Assessor visits Page Community Center

FLAGSTAFF – Assessor Armando J. Ruiz will hold a meeting at the Page Community Center at noon, Monday, August 21 to discuss property tax assistance and exemptions for senior citizens. Assessor Ruiz will present information regarding the Senior Property Valuation Protection Program and other programs that seniors may take advantage of.

“Seniors that meet the eligibility requirement for the program have their property values frozen for three years, meaning the value used to calculate taxes for their home cannot increase whatsoever for three years, which has the effect of reducing the amount of taxes low-income Seniors pay,” said Assessor Ruiz. “This program offers a significant benefit to our constituents who are on a fixed-income and need help with their property tax bill.

Assessor Ruiz is presenting on programs offered by the Assessor’s office while the Page Community Center serves lunch. Staff will be available to assist seniors fill out and process their application starting at noon, Aug. 21, at the Page Community Center, 699 S. Navajo Dr., Page, AZ 86040.

For further questions about property tax assistance, call the Assessor’s office toll free at 877-679-7120 or visit http://www.coconino.az.gov/Assessor.

Kendrick Mountain area to remain closed temporarily for public safety

WILLIAMS – Unstable conditions caused by heavy rains following the Boundary Fire, which was active through much of June, have necessitated continuing the closure of the burned area on and around Kendrick Mountain on both the Kaibab and Coconino National Forests in order to ensure public safety.

Due to approaching opening dates for several big game hunts in northern Arizona, officials with the U.S. Forest Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department are working jointly to alert the public and hunters of the Boundary Fire Closure that remains in effect in a portion of Game Management Unit 7W.

Weakened timber, debris flows and flooding can be a common occurrence in steep terrain after a wildfire event. Above normal monsoonal precipitation has been occurring on the mountain, which could lead to sudden hazards and potential risks to public safety. Roads, hiking trails and sensitive drainages may experience higher than usual volumes of sediment delivery and runoff, potentially making the environment unpredictable and unsafe.

Actions are underway by Forest Service officials to assess and mitigate safety concerns that are identified during this immediate post-fire period. However, it is anticipated that the closure will remain in effect through the monsoons, as the active weather pattern and heavy rains that have been occurring provide the opportunity to surface potential public health and safety hazards.

“We acknowledge the inconvenience this temporary closure of Kendrick Mountain may cause, however limiting exposure at this time is necessary to ensure public safety,” said Kaibab National Forest Supervisor Heather Provencio. “It is our intention to reopen the area as soon as possible. However, we also need to allow time for moisture to dissipate and the environment to begin its natural stabilization. It is our responsibility and obligation to consider life, health and safety first and foremost in these kinds of circumstances, and we appreciate the public’s cooperation and support.”

Hunters and other forest visitors are reminded to always check local conditions when planning a trip into the backcountry or wilderness. Weather can change rapidly and, in the process, dynamically alter ground surfaces in all types of terrain with very little warning.

Visitors can check with any of the following agency offices to get the latest information regarding the closure and current conditions.

Kaibab National Forest Supervisor’s Office: 928-635-8200, www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab
Coconino National Forest Supervisor’s Office: 928-527-3600, www.fs.usda.gov/coconino
Arizona Game and Fish Department: 928-774-5045, www.azgfd.com/hunting/units/flagstaff/7/
View the current Boundary Fire Closure order (PDF) and map (PDF).

ADOT detectives nab 89-year-old accused of using stolen identity for 28 years

PHOENIX – A Mesa resident who allegedly used the identity of his deceased brother to collect nearly $300,000 in Social Security benefits has been charged with forgery and fraud schemes thanks to Arizona Department of Transportation detectives’ use of facial recognition training and technology.

After being alerted by the facial recognition system, ADOT’s Office of Inspector General found that Frank Becht, 89, had for the past 28 years been using the name, date of birth and Social Security number of his brother, Kenneth Becht, who died in 1989.

In September 2009, Becht applied for an Arizona identification card under the stolen name at the Mesa MVD office. In April 2010, Becht applied for a driver license under his real name. He updated each of the credentials in the last couple of years.

ADOT’s facial recognition system found Becht’s photo on his profile and a profile under his brother’s identity. Detectives, who have FBI training in facial recognition, determined that both of the photos were of Becht.

ADOT’s investigation found that the Social Security Administration hadn’t been made aware that Becht’s brother, Kenneth, had died 28 years ago, and therefore had been paying out benefits. ADOT detectives found Kenneth Becht’s death certificate and provided it to federal officials.

The investigation also revealed that Becht had used his brother’s identity on credit cards and state-issued IDs in Maryland, Virginia and Nevada.

ADOT detectives arrested Becht, who was released without being booked. Charges for fraud schemes and forgery have been filed with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

This case is one more example of how facial recognition technology used by ADOT’s Office of Inspector General protects Arizonans’ identities and helps prevent fraud involving state-issued driver licenses and identification cards.

Step by step, ADOT facial recognition process guards against identity fraud

PHOENIX – Since the Arizona Department of Transportation began using facial recognition technology and training in 2015 to protect Arizonans from identity theft, detectives have brought more than 100 cases to court.

It’s a process that begins when a person applies for or renews a driver license or ID card at a Motor Vehicle Division office or Authorized Third Party business, and it is a seamless part of the customer’s visit.

After the customer’s picture is taken, the photo goes through a check against all others in the state driver license database while the customer finishes the application process.

All of the analysis takes place inside a computer, and if the system finds the applicant’s photo likely matches another photo under a different name, it flags the photos, putting a temporary stop on printing the permanent card. The photos are then sent to FBI-trained staff members at ADOT’s Office of Inspector General where they undergo three levels of review to verify that the photos are of the same person.

“This high-tech tool has really enhanced our ability to catch identity thieves,” said Michael Lockhart, chief of the Office of Inspector General. “When we couple this technology with other security measures like central credential issuance, it allows us to stop these criminals and keep Arizona IDs out of their hands.”

The detectives and staff members are trained to look for similarities in facial features and even account for identical twins. If photos are confirmed to be the same person on multiple profiles, ADOT detectives will open an investigation.

If detectives determine that a person is committing fraud, the license or ID card is never printed. The temporary credentials customers receive at MVD offices and Authorized Third Party businesses expire after 30 days.

ADOT’s Office of Inspector General investigates fraud involving driver license and identification card applications; vehicle sales by licensed and unlicensed dealers; and vehicle titles and registration. It also assists state, local and federal law enforcement agencies with investigations.

For more information about applying for an Arizona driver license or ID card, please visit: azdot.gov/driverlicenseinfo.

Cliff Jumping Accident August 14

PAGE – On the afternoon of August 14, 2017, National Park Service Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Dispatch received a report of a cliff jumping accident at Anchovy Point on Lake Powell in Coconino County, Arizona. Anchovy Point is a popular area for swimming and fishing and can be accessed from shore. It is located between the Glen Canyon Dam and the Wahweap Marina.

A 25-year old male reportedly attempted a cliff jump of approximately 30 feet. Two witnesses accompanying the victim stated that after entering the water he resurfaced and attempted to swim but experienced difficulty due to the wind and wave conditions. The victim has been identified as Erick Kallestewa of Hotevilla, Arizona.

Assisting at the scene of the accident were National Park Service personnel and the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office. A private vessel on scene assisted, who had witnessed one of the subjects attempting to rescue the victim. All three subjects were from Hotevilla, Arizona.

Due to the water depth in excess of 170 feet, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was dispatched to the area. Search efforts resumed during daylight hours on August 15. At approximately 10:45 a.m., Kallestewa’s body was recovered by the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Dive Team and ROV specialists.

The incident is currently under investigation by the National Park Service, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Learn shooting sports and other outdoor skills at Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshop

— The Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) workshop on Sept. 8-10 is still accepting registrations. Take aim in rifle marksmanship, and learn the proper way to mount and fire a shotgun. How about handguns? There’s a class on the range, one to learn proper maintenance, and you can get help figuring out what firearm is best for you. You also can earn your field day requirements for the Arizona hunter education certificate.

The workshop introduces women 18 and older to outdoors skills in an enjoyable, non-threatening environment with expert instructors. Classes are held during the day, and the evenings are filled with fun and entertainment like night hikes, fly tying and motivational speakers. Other classes offered include horsemanship, geocaching, wilderness medicine, birding and hiking. There are more than 30 classes for participants to choose from.

To earn the Arizona hunter education certificate, participants need to complete the online course in advance, and the field day requirements and written exam will be completed at the BOW workshop.

Participants stay in rustic cabins, but there are showers and bathrooms in each cabin. One great thing about this camp is that a woman can try a new sport without buying all of the equipment. The only thing the participant needs to bring is her personal stuff, a good attitude and a willingness to learn.

The venue is Friendly Pines Camp located just south of Prescott in the Bradshaw Mountains. The program is sponsored by the Arizona Wildlife Federation with support from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Class materials, food and lodging are included in the $250 registration fee. For more information, a schedule of classes and a registration form visit azwildlife.org. The Arizona Wildlife Federation can be reached at (480) 644-0077 or awf@azwildlife.org.

Historic Fort Tuthill Quad Dedication

FLAGSTAFF – Coconino County Parks & Recreation dedicated the Historic Fort Tuthill Quad Tuesday. The dedication celebrated the renovation of the Historic Quad, a site that served as the summer training facility of the Arizona National Guard from 1929-1948, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Renovation of the Historic Quad began in 2016 and was engineered by Peak Engineering and built by Kinney Construction Services.

“I want to thank voters of Coconino County for making the renovation of this historic site possible,” Chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors Liz Archuleta. “This project shows that as a community, we greatly value our parks and open space. I’m proud that we could renovate this historic place to better represent the people who served our country at Fort Tuthill.”

The Historic Quad renovation upgraded the site’s infrastructure, including water, electricity and communication. Crews constructed several major drainage systems to accommodate water flow in the Quad so historic mess halls would be conserved. The electric was upgraded on-site and features connection points for special events. A public announcement system was also installed.

“The renovation of the Historic Quad at Fort Tuthill Park is a beautiful and historic addition to the other attractions and public private partnerships we have here,” said District 3 Supervisor Matt Ryan. “I really hope people come out to see and enjoy all the park has to offer.”

The main entrance to the Historic Quad features two sections of concrete stamped with “USA WPA”. These are sections from the Works Progress Administration era of the Quad during the 1930s. Two of the historic fence columns that run along the eastern perimeter of Fort Tuthill County Park were moved to the Historic Quad. The 1930s era columns were salvaged from an ADOT roadway construction project and are located between the two buildings housing the Fort Tuthill Military Museum.

This project used funds from Coconino Parks and Open Space (CPOS) sales tax, a 1/8 cent sales tax approved by voters in 2002 that raised $33 million to acquire open space, develop parks, and make improvements to existing parks. As part of the ballot measure, voters approved to “complete restoration of historic portions of Fort Tuthill and continue fairgrounds improvements.” The project budget is $4.7 million.

For more information on Coconino County Parks and Recreation: http://www.coconino.az.gov/parks

Arizona Game and Fish accepting applications for 2017 Heritage Fund grants

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is accepting applications for more than $400,000 in Heritage Fund grants.

The deadline to submit an application is Tuesday, October 31, 2017 to be eligible for grant funding, which will be available through a competitive application process in the following categories: environmental education, outdoor education, schoolyard habitat, urban wildlife/habitat, public access; and Identification, Inventory, Acquisition, Protection and Management (IIAPM).

In addition to government agencies, the department welcomes non-profit organizations to apply for a Heritage Grant as eligible applicants. This eligibility applies to any non-profit group which meets the internal revenue service definition of a 501(c) organization.

The Heritage Fund was created after voters approved an initiative in 1990 and is funded through Arizona Lottery ticket sales. Heritage funding goes toward conservation efforts such as protecting endangered species, educating students and the general public about wildlife and the outdoors, and creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation.

The grant program was established by AZGFD in 1992 as part of the overall Heritage Fund program. The grants were initially developed as a way to promote outreach to enhance important partnerships and generate fresh approaches in support of the department’s mission.

Since the grant program’s inception, the department has awarded more than $16 million and supported more than 800 projects throughout the state.

Applicants for this year’s grants should refer to the documents on our Heritage Grant webpage for guidance on applying. The documents include the Heritage Grant application manual, the grant application form and the various “Heritage Grant Funding Window” documents, which describe eligibility information and provide specific eligibility criteria listed within each grant sub-category.

Potential grant recipients must have a project that is either located in Arizona or involves research in which the wildlife or its habitat is located in the state and meets the requirements in the funding windows.

Proposals and applications for these grants can be submitted either by e-mail to rbeck@azgfd.gov or mailed to Arizona Game and Fish Department, Attn: Wildlife Grant Administrator, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086. No faxed applications will be accepted.

Applicants can submit grant applications up until the application deadline of 5 p.m. (MST)Tuesday, October 31, 2017.