FOUND HUMAN REMAINS CONFIRMED TO BE THOSE OF MISSING CANADIAN HIKER

The family of the Canadian hiker who went missing in Joshua Tree National Park in 2018 has confirmed that the remains found last month are his. Paul Miller, 51, was last seen July 13, 2018, when he told his wife he wanted one more hike before returning to Canada. Authorities quickly found his rental car in the 49 Palms Oasis parking lot, but despite hundreds of searchers spending thousands of hours looking for him, he was not found until December 19, 2019. Miller’s family had hired a private firm to search the oasis and surrounding area with a drone. An analysis of the photos found evidence of human remains in a steep and rocky area located far away from any trails. Sheriff’s deputies and park rangers hiked to the location in December and located and retrieved the remains. The San Bernardino County coroner’s office notified the family that the remains were those of Paul Miller. 

YUCCA VALLEY FIRE DISPLACES 5 RESIDENTS

Firefighters had responded to the same address on Cibola Trail in Yucca Valley in October 2019 for a fire that destroyed several outbuildings and an addition on the back of the house. Capt. Danny Stamps, San Bernardino County Fire photo

Five people were displaced by a fire in Yucca Valley Tuesday morning. Yucca Valley firefighters were called to a structure fire in the 7600 block of Cibola Trail at 7:44 a.m. and arrived to find heavy smoke and flames in the garage. Fire crews from Yucca Valley, Yucca Mesa, and Joshua Tree made an aggressive attack and kept the fire from spreading into the home.

While the fire was contained to the garage, the home is a total loss due to smoke and heat damage, and holes made by firefighters to get to hot spots in the attic and crawl spaces. Capt. Danny Stamps, San Bernardino County Fire photo

The flames were knocked down in about 25 minutes. However, the home suffered major smoke and heat damage, as well as extensive damage to the attic and crawl spaces by firefighters in their efforts to put out the flames.

Firefighters had to open up holes in the roof to get to the attic and crawl spaces. Capt. Danny Stamps, San Bernardino County Fire photo

Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria said this is the second fire at this location in less than three months. On October 29, fire crews responded to the same address for a fire that was burning several outbuildings and an addition at the back of the house.

Firefighters knocked down the blaze in about 25 minutes Tuesday. Capt. Danny Stamps, San Bernardino County Fire photo

An investigator has been called in to determine the cause of the fire. While the cause of Tuesday’s blaze is still unknown, Viloria said it was not due to electrical problems since there was no power going to the building. Red Cross has been called in to assist the residents in finding a new place to live.

Heavy smoke obscures the house on fire in the 7600 block of Cibola Trail in Yucca Valley Tuesday morning. Capt. Danny Stamps, San Bernardino County Fire photo

PROJECT PHOENIX GROUNDBREAKING TOMORROW IN TWENTYNINE PALMS

After 11 long years of stops and starts, Project Phoenix is finally getting underway. Reporter Heather Clisby has the details…

Project Phoenix, the long-held dream of the Twentynine Palms’ city leaders, will finally get its’ day in the sun. The downtown redevelopment project will officially launch with a groundbreaking ceremony tomorrow at 2 p.m. on the corner of Hwy 62 and Yucca Ave. The event is free and open to the public. Project Phoenix covers approximately 10 acres—from Highway 62 south to Cactus Drive, and from Cholla Avenue on the east to Tamarisk Avenue on the west. The plan includes a new community center and the Joshua Tree National Park Cultural and Visitor Center. Yucca Avenue will be redesigned as an event space for festivals, farmers markets, art shows, car shows, and musical events. The plan also calls for additional parking, ornamental lighting, benches and public art.

SUPERVISOR DAWN ROWE IN LEGAL LIMBO

Showing respect for a court decision that ruled that County Supervisors must rescind her appointment to the 3rd District seat on their Board, County Supervisor Dawn Rowe told Z107.7 News that while she is still legally in office, she is no longer acting in an official capacity.

Until the full Board of Supervisors votes to rescind her appointment, she remains in a sort of political limbo, still in office, but not acting in an official capacity. The supervisors are expected to formally rescind the appointment when they meet January 28.

A lawsuit by I.E. United, a political action group whose stated purpose is to get more progressives elected to offices in the Inland Empire, claimed that the Board violated the State’s open meeting laws in the appointment process. The board originally stated it would interview all applicants for the seat of James Ramos, who resigned when he was elected to the State Assembly. However, when 48 residents applied, the supervisors changed the interview process to one in which each supervisor would email his or her top 10 choices to the board clerk, which would compile a list of those who appeared on multiple lists, and those were the applicants who would be interviewed. A judge agreed with I.E. United and ordered Towe’s seat vacated. The County appealed that ruling and asked that Rowe remain in office until the appeal is ruled on.

On January 8, the judge ruled that Rowe cannot stay in office pending appeal and ordered the seat be vacated. The county has appealed to the State Supreme court.

When the Supervisors vote to rescind the appointment, the Governor can then choose to either appoint a supervisor or wait until the upcoming election, leaving the 3rd District unrepresented for up to 10 months.

While the Supervisor’s position is supposedly non-partisan, politics are involved. The Governor is a Democrat, while Rowe is a Republican. Rowe has a lot of support; 11 mayors and some county labor unions have indicated they want the Governor to simply appoint Rowe back into the seat.  

SCHOOL BOARD TABLES ADULT-STUDENT INTERACTION POLICY

The Morongo Unified School District met in open session last night. The Board moved quickly through most agenda items, including reviewing the District’s new online meeting agenda platform and approving a memorandum of understanding with the California School Employees Association. Reporter Andrew Dieleman has the details on the evening’s most prominent topic of appropriate adult-student interactions…

The MUSD Board of Trustees discussing the District policy on maintaining appropriate adult-student interactions. From left to right: Assistant Superintendent Sharon Flores, Assistant Superintendent Mike Ghelber, Trustee Chris Proudfoot, Trustee Karalee Hargrove, Superintendent Tom Baumgarten, President Hillary Slotta, Trustee Kerri Condley (partially concealed), Trustee John Cole, Assistant Superintendent Amy Woods, and District Executive Secretary Linda Hamilton.

At last night’s meeting, the MUSD Board of Trustees discussed a District policy on maintaining appropriate interactions between students and District staff and faculty. The new policy reiterates mandated guidelines for reporting District employees who violate the policy. Some teachers and parents of students in attendance argued for more clearly defined sections on the use of social media by District employees and a review of the terms and overall language of the policy. During open session, the board voted unanimously to table the policy and introduce an amended version at a future meeting.