Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 13, 2010

News Digest

Fire damages library 'Friends' office, spares books

An early morning fire at Cubberley Community Center damaged the office of "Friends of the Palo Alto Library" Monday, destroying computer equipment and causing major damage to the trailer complex just days before the group's monthly book sale.

The sale will proceed as planned from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday at Cubberley Community Center, 4000 Middlefield Road. The Children's Room and the Bargain Room will open at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The Main Room, which is near the sorting room, will be closed.

Firefighters arrived at the scene shortly after 4:30 a.m. and managed to contain the flames to the sorting room, where the nonprofit group organizes its activities and accepts donations. John Burt, a volunteer with the Friends group, said a homeless man who frequents the Cubberley campus with his dog saw the flames and alerted the Fire Department.

The building was unoccupied and no one was injured, but the fire destroyed two computers, a copy machine and various miscellaneous office supplies, said Jim Schmidt, president of the Friends group, who visited the scene shortly after the fire.

Schmidt said flames were crawling along the ceiling and toward the inventory room, where thousands of books were located. Firefighters put out the fire before it could reach the books, Schmidt said.

Though the cause of the fire is still being investigated, fire officials believe it may be related to a malfunctioning air-conditioning unit, Emergency Services Coordinator Suzan Minshall said.

She said the fire damage was largely limited to walls and the ceiling in the building, as well as the office equipment.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Friends group is asked to e-mail the group's book-sale manager, Jerry Stone, at jpstone@gmail.com.

West Nile on the decline in Santa Clara County

The Bay Area's coolest summer temperatures in 40 years have had at least one fringe benefit: The number of West Nile Virus cases in birds have dropped despite a significant rise early in the season, according to Santa Clara County Vector Control officials.

"The county hasn't found a virus-positive mosquito since July 13," said Russ Parman, acting district manager for Santa Clara County Vector Control District.

The district also recently completed three pesticide-fogging regimens in disease-prone areas within the county, he said.

The disease seemed to be on the rise earlier in the year, when officials found 23 infected birds compared to 14 for all of last year, he said. But surveillance has indicated the cool down has been good for keeping the virus at bay.

Parman warned that August and September are still peak months for people to contract the disease.

Statewide, 12 people have contracted West Nile, compared to five people last year. So far, there are no human cases in Santa Clara County, he said. Persons with diabetes and people older than 50 are most at risk if death if they contract the virus, he said.

Council members get close to Palo Alto baylands

Two City Council members who were recently given a canoe-paddler's eye-view of Palo Alto baylands waterways and sloughs say they would like the city to find ways to share the experience with more people.

Council members Gail Price and Greg Schmid were given paddles and a two-hour guided tour of the waterways by city Public Works and Community Services staff members Wednesday morning, Aug. 4.

While viewing willets, avocets, curlews and other shore birds, the council members were given a historical perspective of the baylands, one of the last remaining undisturbed wildlife habitats in the San Francisco Bay. Staff members outlined successes in reducing pollutants and discussed remaining challenges relating to pesticide and pharmaceutical chemical pollution and invasive species.

The nearby Palo Alto Airport, landfill and regional wastewater treatment plant triggered a discussion of mixed-uses near a sensitive habitat, according to city Communications Manager Linda Clerkson.

Two other council members, Nancy Shepherd and Greg Scharff, joined City Manager James Keene on a similar tour last May 21 — bringing the total to one member shy of a council majority.

Guided canoe trips are available to the public during the summer at 650-617-3156 for a $42 fee, with pre-registration and some basic canoeing experience required.

Clerkson said the city is continuing its baylands restoration and award-winning pollution-prevention programs. Current priorities include reducing pesticide use community-wide, eliminating disposal in sewers of unwanted medicines, restricting polystyrene and plastic-bag use and enacting stricter controls for mercury from dental amalgams used by dentists.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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