Four Marines were killed Wednesday morning during a range maintenance operation at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, said Marine Corps officials. The accident occurred at 11 a.m. Wednesday and is under investigation. The identities of the Marines are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.


Base spokesman Cpl. Michael Iams said “The accident took place in their Zulu impact area designed for artillery and bombs dropped from airplanes.” This is the second time in two months that a Marine has been killed on a Southern California Marine Corps base. On Sept. 16, a Marine died and four others were hurt during a training accident at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms. Cpl. Nicholas Sell, 21, of Eagle Point, Ore. was killed during an Integrated Training Exercise at the base.


The Twentynine Palms man who is suspected of a rape last week was arrested without incident Sunday. According to Sheriff’s Sergeant James Porter, deputies received information that Louis Ontek, 42, was at a residence in the 75000 block of Encanto Drive in Twentynine Palms, where he was arrested without incident. Porter said Ontek was on a work release program out of Riverside County when he allegedly sexually assaulted, beat, and tied up a woman in Landers on November 6. The woman went for help at Hero’s Market in Landers. Deputies located Ontek later the same day in Joshua Tree, but he fled in his vehicle, leading deputies on a short pursuit before losing them in the desert. Porter said Ontek had cut off his ankle monitor. Louis Ontek was arrested for investigation of rape, sodomy, evading a police officer, threatening a crime, false imprisonment, and felony spouse abuse. He was booked into the Morongo Basin Jail with his bail set at $600,000.


Dan Stork broke his report on the meeting of the Twentynine Palms City Council into two parts. Yesterday: The practice of prayer before meetings. Today: Tourism, code enforcement, and environmental consultants…
The November 12 meeting of the Twentynine Palms City Council began early, with a 5 p.m. presentation by a representative of the Civitas consulting firm, which specializes in helping set up Tourism Improvement Districts. This is a type of special district, widely used in California, that allows the diversion of a portion of TOT (the hotel bed tax) to market tourism. A TID can take many forms in its governance, allowing for representation for both large and small innkeepers, and can have a regional basis as well as a municipal one. Some in attendance would like to see the information presented disseminated to all area innkeepers, with an eye toward further development.
During the regular meeting of the Council, Cary Harwin gave a quarterly report for the Desert Regional Tourism Association, in which he stressed efforts to include the interests of Twentynine Palms in the activities of the Welcome Center in Yucca Valley.
Council authorized an abatement lien against a property for which the City has spent over $8,000 in cleanup. Code enforcement staff gave an overview of the abatement process, using the case in question as an illustration of what happens when an owner doesn’t comply.
The Council followed City Manager Joe Guzetta’s recommendation that three specific environmental consulting firms – Terra Nova, ESA, and LSA – be designated for first call when environmental issues are relevant to projects. Terra Nova is local (Palm Desert) and knows Twentynine Palms from past work, while ESA and LSA can provide more specialized technical assistance.


Late yesterday the County Registrar of Voters issued final vote tallies for the Bighorn Desert View Water Agency election for board of directors. Voters were to choose three out of the four names on the ballot and they sent back the three incumbents. Directors Dennis Staley and Terry Burkhart were the top vote getters each with 153 and 151 votes, respectively. Judy Corl-Lorono took third place with 130 votes. Larry Coulombe came in forth with 125 votes, hardly a loss since shortly after filing his candidacy, Director Coulombe was appointed to a board seat that opened up unexpectedly. The Water Agency will meet for a special meeting November 19.


Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County’s Energy, Education and Environmental Services (EEES) program is processing Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) applications for qualifying residents to receive a cord of wood, or up to $600 towards propane. To qualify for this program, wood/propane must be your main source of heating or you must live in rural areas of the county. If you have natural gas, you are not eligible for this program.  However, families in the mountain communities are exempt due to extreme weather conditions and high fuel bills. For more information, call 909-723-1624 or visit Applications for wood/propane are processed by mail only. Send your application request along with the required documentation to: Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County Energy, Education and Environmental Services (EEES) HEAP PROGRAM, 696 S. Tippecanoe Ave., San Bernardino, CA  92408-2607.


Last Friday’s fire in the 5000 block of Mormon Avenue in Yucca Valley differed in one aspect from the usual house fire—a neighbor showed up with his own personal fire truck to help fight the fire. Managing editor Tami Roleff talked with the retired fire captain to find out why he has his own fire truck…
David Bradley did what most people would do if they saw their neighbor’s house on fire—he called 911. Then he did something that almost no one would do. “I dialed 911 first, which is the proper thing to always do. And then I actually got in my truck to go over to support the fire department, because I have 1,200 gallons of water in my fire truck.” Bradley, who retired five years ago as fire captain with CalFire in Riverside County, bought a fire truck, officially known as a water tender, last May, with the intent of contracting out to various fire departments to help fight big wildfires. When he came home Friday evening, he saw flames shooting through the roof of the house behind his. He knew it was too late to save the house. “But usually, when it’s already through the roof, that means the fire’s in the attic and it spreads throughout the whole house and usually you lose the house.” So he went into protection mode, spraying water on a guest house and trees on the property to keep them from going up in flames, and to keep the embers from blowing onto adjoining properties and setting other homes on fire, including his. County Fire Captain Rick Denison was very appreciative of Bradley’s efforts, saying Bradley helped contain the fire and kept it from spreading. But Bradley said he just did what anyone with a fire truck would do. “I was just doing the Good Samaritan thing.”


The opening night gala of Theatre 29’s next production, “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, will be sponsored by Morongo Basin Relay for Life. Opening night is November 15. Doors will open at 6 p.m. The evening will start with heavy hors d’oeuvres and beverages. There will be a silent auction with a variety of items up for bid. All proceeds from ticket sales and the auction will benefit the American Cancer Society. Tickets for opening night only are $25 and can be purchased from Diane Durden, 760-218-4584; Cheryl Gillon, 760-586-2185; or Maxine Perket at the Hare’s End, 760-367-4243. “A Christmas Carol” plays weekends for five weeks through December 14. Directed by Rob Wanless, this Christmas classic tells the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, a miserly old gentleman with a passionate dislike toward Christmas. On Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley. Scrooge is then visited by 3 ghosts that night. The experience transforms Scrooge who then sets about helping the poor, enjoying life, and celebrating Christmas. Tickets for performances other than opening night are $8 to $12 and can be reserved by calling 760-361-4151, or online at


Visitors to Joshua Tree National Park may notice work being done along the Pinto Basin Road. A contractor is working with park staff to return 800 plants back to the Cholla Cactus Garden. Work started late October and could continue through mid-January, 2014. These plants were originally salvaged and transplanted elsewhere in the park to accommodate a road project that ended August, 2013. The park expects a 75 to 85 percent survival rate. Pinto Basin Road is expected to remain open during this transplanting work and only minor delays can be expected.

Most scientists are convinced that large scale effects of climate change are very evident at this point. Joshua Tree National Park is looking for “citizen scientists” to help document effects at the plant-species level. Dan Stork tells you how regular hikers can participate in the program…
The National Park Foundation awarded Joshua Tree a grant to build a program that partners with local communities by encouraging regular hikers to become data gatherers for climate change monitoring projects. Three trails with different levels of difficulty have been designated where hikers can collect vegetation data to assist with climate change research. The park has tagged plants and trees along these trails to monitor how plants respond to environmental cues throughout the seasons. Hikers who wish to participate in gathering data become official “Volunteers in the Park” (VIP) and receive complimentary access to the park for this study. To become a VIP hiker and assist with data collection, or for more information about this guided hike, please contact Josh Hoines at 760-367-5564 or send an email to


Casa de Culturas will host the 2013 Joshua Tree Indigenous Film Festival, three days of films, performances and presentations by local and indigenous artists and elders. This year the Festival will showcase the work of native scholar and elder Alfredo Acosta Figueroa, who will open the festivities with a new presentation ‘Seven Sisters: The Measurement of Time’ about the relationship between the Pleiades star cluster, ancient astronomy and Native American Sacred Sites. The festival runs from Friday, November 15, through Sunday, November 17 at three sites in Joshua Tree. Tickets for the events range from $15 to $25. Special discounts are available to groups of four or more. A ‘Festival Friend Package’ including four passes for all events including walking tour and other extras can be purchased for $125. Camping at Joshua Lakes Campground is available for an additional fee. For more information and tickets, call 760-819-2196, An e-mail address and website links are available in this story at



With the holidays season already nipping at our nose, The Basin Wide Foundation is launching their “Adopt a Child Program”. Reporter Taylor Thacker tells you how to get involved…
It’s that time of year where we start getting ready for Christmas time by buying gifts and setting up decorations! However, there are some kids who end up in foster homes or temporary care during the holidays. The Basin Wide Foundation’s Dreams for Kids Christmas “Adopt A Child” program gives you a chance to be their Santa this Christmas! If you sign up, you will be assigned your “adopted” child or “adopted family,” given their name, age, and any special requests they might have. You will be asked to spend between $35 and $40 per child that you adopt on a gift. Lastly, just drop the gifts off by December 13, to the Basin Wide Foundation office at 56711 29 Palms Hwy., located inside the California Welcome Center. On Christmas morning, you will know that somewhere in the Morongo Basin there is a child with bright little eyes opening up your gift! For more information, or to sign up, call 760-365-7219.


This reminder, Twentynine Palms High School students who want to participate in winter sports must attend a meeting in the high school’s gym at 7 p.m. tonight with their parent or guardian. Students who do not attend with a parent or guardian will not be allowed to participate in winter sports.